I’ve worked hard before each of my major races, but there are levels of effort, and I’m getting into new territory with Pittsburgh. This will be my fifth marathon, and it will be the one I am best prepared for. Obviously, that presupposes I don’t get hit by a bus and miss the final weeks of my training!
First, some history. As a rookie runner (before running Boston), I had three really big effort weeks. I was off work the last week of 2013, and I ran 44 miles that week. Six weeks before the race, I logged a 34.5 mile week, and two weeks after that I managed a 32.7 mile week. For a rookie, I was crushing it, even pacing 9:40 that final big week.
The second half of 2014 I grabbed my second marathon, the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington D.C. and Virginia. I managed 11 weeks of 30 miles or more in the four months leading up to the race. I remain convinced that if I hadn’t gotten sick just before the race, I would have had significantly faster results. Still, the extra miles paid off, and I shaved 25 seconds per mile off my time.
Preparing for Chicago, I managed to hit the 30 miles or more threshold nine weeks. It was a come-back tour after taking a hiatus from running when my father died from esophageal cancer. My training pace was definitely slower than it was for my prior marathons, but I didn’t get sick right before the race, and I showed up rested and ready for the race. As a result, I cut a whopping 35 seconds per mile off my time. I was jubilant with this result. At 4:35:00, I didn’t hit my goal (sub 4:30), but still, it was a major jump in performance between the two races, especially given the amount of time I spent away from the sport.
…and as a side note, now that I’ve mentioned Dad, I am currently raising funds to fight esophageal cancer as part of the NEXT marathon effort. I’m running New York in November, and between now and then, looking for any help you can give to support funding cancer researchers who are looking for a cure. Please click here if you can offer any support.
Back to my marathon history. Manchester was an anomaly… Coming three weeks after Chicago, I really just had time to recover from Chicago. I ran about 37.5 miles in the three weeks between the two races, and had zero expectations coming from a race with a mere 145 feet of climb to a race with over 1,000 feet of hills. Set to that backdrop of low expectations, I hit the wall hard at mile 20, stopped for a rest to drink Gatorade and eat, then found myself chugging a beer on the course at mile 21. Oh, and still shaved over seven minutes off my time, or 17 seconds a mile, achieving the elusive sub 4:30 marathon (4:27:42).
This is the point when I started thinking that maybe someday I could qualify for the Boston Marathon. Assuming I would not ever see a 35 second per mile decrease ever again, and that my improvements would get smaller over time, I created a five year plan. Pittsburgh is the first of ten marathons in that plan, and to stay on target I need to cross the finish line in 4:17:27 (yes, the plan is to the second specific). That will be 23 seconds per mile faster than Manchester, meaning I am looking for a total improvement of 40 seconds per mile (since Chicago) in a 7 month period.
All this leads me to the title of this blog post. Baker’s dozen. I just finished the 13th week in a row in which I have run a minimum of 30 miles; and I’m not done yet. I still have four more weeks of training, and they’ll all be 30 or more miles. Then the week of the marathon will be my 18th week in a row of running at least 30 miles.
Pace wise, I am not running the fastest I’ve ever run… I’m averaging just under 9:30 per mile during these 13 weeks. Still, I feel pretty good with where I’m at and how far I’m running. I am challenged by my workouts, but not to the point of being incapacitated by them. The exception to that rule is the 20+ mile run, but even there I’ve bumped it up. Sunday’s run was 24 miles, representing the 3rd time I’ve gone 20 or more in one setting during this marathon’s training cycle. I’ve never run 24 miles as part of my training before. It’s hard to force yourself to go that long when there’s no finish line to motivate you, and I can’t help but think that I will perform better in Pittsburgh because of that effort.
Anyhow, that’s a long-winded update on my training is going. In 13 weeks I’ve run over 485 miles. I’m in work mode. For me, this is heavy mileage (with a little bit of speed work thrown in for good measure). I need to start cross training on the bike more, so I’ll have to find time to work that in, too, but with 33 days left until the Pittsburgh Marathon, I like where I’m at. We’ll see how it goes on 5/1.