Marathon Training: The good, the bad, the ugly.

I have followed different training plans for each one of my marathons. For the first three marathons that I have run I have done some sort of hybrid of multiple plans or I have adjusted the plans according to my progress. I suffered some sort of injury for my first three marathons.

Knock on wood… this time around I have stuck to ONE plan. Not a hybrid. I’ve made some adjustments, but nothing major. A mile or two more here, a mile or two less there. I still haven’t quite gotten the nutrition thing down (funny that I struggle with that since it is what I do for a living, but sports nutrition is not my area of expertise). I still struggle with sticking to some sort of cross training. But I must say, I am pretty darn proud of how well I have done with this training cycle for Detroit 2018. And today I ran my best 20 mile run of any marathon training cycle!

For those who are curious (and for my own self to compare and learn), here are the different training plans that I have followed and a look back on my actual training logs to see how I did with them.

  • For my first marathon in 2016, I didn’t really stick to any one plan. I think I started with the Hal Higdon Novice plan, but then switched to the Marathon Rookie training plan when I decided to run the Detroit Free Press Marathon with my friend Staci instead of the Grand Rapids Marathon with my friend Paula. That meant bumping up my training a week. And bump it up I did – looking back on my running log from that summer, I did some really weird training. I jumped from a longest run of 13 miles to an 18 mile run and then a 20 mile run. The next week I did a half marathon and pulled my hamstring, sidelining me for a while. I didn’t quit though – I kept running as much as I could, thankful to have physical therapy to pull me through. I finished the race, which was my goal, although I wonder if I had done better with training and not gotten injured if I would have done better. That’s what gets you hooked on the marathon!

    It may say 19.81 miles, but this was my 20 mile run for my first marathon.
  •  For my second marathon (Detroit Free Press again in 2017) I did some sort of a mash-up of plans similar to the year before. I think I was a little closer to Hal Higdon’s Novice 1 plan, but honestly I can’t remember. I was also training for my first (and only) triathlon. My training started off great with cross training and I was in the best shape of my life. When I look at my marathon training after the triathlon, it just looks crazy. There were so many weeks when I would do 4 days in a row of running – no wonder I felt some burnout! 2017 was a tough training schedule… and my 20 mile run was absolutely awful. It was one of the hottest weekends of the year – in fact, the high of 95 degrees was a record for that day! When I started just before 6am it was 70 degrees with 90% humidity and climbed to about 85 degrees with 55% humidity by the time I was finished. The fact that I managed to do as well as I did is absolutely beyond me!

    My 2017 20 miler. 
  • Earlier in 2018, I trained for my third marathon. I had said after Detroit 2017 that I was taking a break from marathons… probably because of how hot and dreadful the end of training had been for me, and how hot and dreadful the actual race had been. It wasn’t long until I was looking for a spring marathon to run. I wanted to run a marathon without having anyone else’s expectations to worry about. Although I had planned on running my third marathon alone, when my friend Christine told me she wanted to run with me, I wasn’t going to say no. It was great to have a friend to train with and we helped each other out – I helped her to slow down and not get injured, and she helped me to push myself. Once again I believe I did a hybrid of the Marathon Rookie plan and Hal Higdon’s Novice 1 plan. I honestly did not realize until writing this post just how terrible I was at sticking to training plans before this cycle! I once again suffered an injury (tendinitis on the top of my foot) but I suffered through it to complete my 20 mile run. For this long run it was somewhere between 28-35 degrees!!!

    What a difference it makes having cooler weather! I can’t believe I ran this pace despite being in so much pain from the tendinitis on top of my foot.
  • And last but not least, this training cycle. I either started my plan early or I started with a different plan – I honestly can’t remember – but since July I have followed the Hal Higdon Novice 2 training plan. This time around I have followed the plan closer than ever before. I am so thankful to my running friends who have done late night runs with me so that I can have cooler weather to endure the mid-week long runs, and who have suffered through long runs with me even when they didn’t have anything to train for. The yucky, muggy, super hot runs have prepared me for running in pretty much perfect conditions like what we experienced today. This time around I did two 20 mile runs, and I am really glad that I did (technically the plan called for a 19 and 20 mile run, but I’m weird about odd numbers, and who can run 19 and not just run 20!?). The difference between the two runs is pretty incredible!
    My first 20 mile run for this training cycle, which was also the slowest 20 mile run I have ever done. Not necessarily a bad thing because my long runs are supposed to be slow, but such a huge contrast from this to my second one…
    Today’s 20 miler. Thanks to the beautiful weather and some awesome running friends, it was the best 20 miler I have done!

    At the end of the day, the biggest lesson I have learned from all of this is to stick to and trust the training plan. Be flexible because life happens, but the more you stick to it, the better the results. I am feeling very confident going into my taper weeks. I have no control over what the weather conditions will be like on race day, and those can definitely alter everything, but I am in control of my training and I feel like I have done a darn good job.


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