Marathon Training Begins Again
A new season is under way for me. It's marathon training time again. This is going to be my second marathon and as we all do, I learned a lot from my first experience of both the training and the race itself. I have a new training journal for the sixteen weeks ahead of me and it's an open book. I have a paperback book. You get the contents, with photos, right here.
I ran my first marathon in January and absolutely loved the training. I threw myself into it, heart and soul, with complete dedication. Admittedly, some of that dedication came from a healthy dose of apprehension about the distance, but that's not a bad thing. It kept me focused and I can truly say I had fun taking on the challenge. I also kept a marathon training journal over the course of the sixteen weeks of preparation, albeit a collection of loose notes and papers. I had to try and organize them to make sense of them later on.
The race experience was something to hold onto as well and it is something that is hard to describe to anyone who has not yet endured the pleasure and pain of 26.2 miles. And it always turns out to be a bit longer because you just can't cut the tangents as well as the bike that measures the course!
For those of you who don't know me too well, you'll quickly discover that there are areas where I have a pretty loose approach to training. I hate being a slave to my watch or my app. I like to run by feel. Obviously there is a time for both, but the initial weeks always throw a bit of a mental reset challenge at me when it comes to tuning into pacing.
Preparing for Marathon Training
Until my experience pushes me in a different direction, I still love training more than an actual race and there are several reasons for this. The one that stands out the most is related to the length of the marathon training cycle. My training phase is 16 weeks long, which is fairly standard. Some are even longer than this. It's amazing what you learn about yourself over a relatively lengthy, but focused period of time.
That is a big chunk out of a year to commit to one event and when you are so focused on a working toward specific goals and a few hours on a single given day, it can start to take over your life in a way that could be seen as a bit imbalanced.
It's the training, not the race, that will highlight your greatest weaknesses and the best of your strengths. Some of these show up and surprise you. There are traits about myself that I discovered that I had no idea were in me.
To say there is joy in the journey would be very cliche. But there is a lot of truth in that statement. It also comes with it's fair share of pain, self doubt and a lot of worrying about the unknown. I thought I would worry less about this one seeing as I've run a marathon before so I know what to expect.
Adjusting the Mindset for Marathon Training
The truth is simple. It's impossible to be sure what to expect. Four months of training is a long time. A 26.2 mile course is a long way. A lot can happen during either or both and sometimes it is completely outside of your control. You have to be prepared for the predicted, for the best case scenario and for the unknown.
How do you really prepare for the unknown? I don't have a magic formula for that. Perhaps if I did, the appeal of the whole journey would be diminished. So it might be a blessing in disguise.
My approach is pretty basic: Be realistic. Accept that not everything that goes wrong is your fault, but every experience is your opportunity to gain something. Easier said than done, but I try to keep myself in check on that one throughout, even when I'm not preparing for a race. There will be days when I struggle with something and wonder if I'm going to be able to make it.
Doubts will show up. They always do. It's what I do with them that makes the difference.
This time around I want to be more orderly in the way I keep my marathon training journal. I picked countless gems on a big learning curve out of the last one. If only I had taken more detailed notes …!
I have a few targets in mind for this training cycle.
- The first one is to enjoy my training and stay healthy throughout. That means taking good care of my body, especially as the demands on it steadily start to increase. I am paying careful attention to recovery (recovery and rest are not necessarily the same thing) and maintenance work There is much more to running than …. well, than just running.I have struggled with digestive issues and taking in fuel on long runs from the outset. Troubleshooting this is still a work in progress.I am paying very careful attention to my nutrition this time around and recently implemented some simple, but much needed changes in my diet. What you do and don't eat really does affect your recovery. And if your recovery is compromised, it will affect your performance.I eat a lot of fresh, raw food and my diet is almost entirely plant based. But I still need protein and that's an area I'm working on very carefully to fill in the blanks.
- Next goal is to have fun on the course. I chose this marathon with purpose. Not just for the sake of running another marathon, but because I want to run that particular one. One of my most important objectives in any race is to meet people while I'm there. It can be at the start line, ideally also on the course and it's nice to get to chat to some other runners after the race and see how it went for them too. It's a social thing for me.Why spend months of your life training hard and then have to be miserable running all out for the entire race? I'm not saying it's wrong, but for me, the race is the celebration of the months of training. I want to soak it in and enjoy it and it is possible to do a bit of both.
- Finally, although it is last on this list: I'd like to beat my time from my previous marathon. That means I have to train smarter. Part of that includes being wise, tuning in to my body and being willing to adjust my goals if necessary.
My Training Plan
People often ask me what training plan I use, if any. Yes, I do use a training program. Putting all the pieces of the training puzzle together takes some skill, insight, knowledge and experience. This is not something I want to patch together and hope for the best. As I said, preparing for this marathon is taking a lot of time and commitment. Leaving things to my own devices and hoping for the best is not something I am willing to do.
I train with The Run Experience and I'm really proud to be part of this awesome, well rounded and complete training approach. If you are curious, I highly recommend checking out the page.
I've been using various programs from The Run Experience for a little over a year now and I have so much faith in the plans, because they have proven themselves over and over. It's probably not hard to figure out that I am using the Marathon Plan. I used it for my last marathon and loved the variety and learning how all the elements of training fit together so that I had enough understanding of the philosophy to be able to switch things around and modify when needed.
I trust my training plan. You have to have a plan you can trust if you want to trust your training. And we've all heard it said just before a big race: Trust your training. I do.
I'm also thrilled with the addition of an advanced option within the plan. This lets me keep my higher mileage base. It's hard work, but the rewards are great. And of course, the support from the coaches and other members in the community is so valuable. It's a perfect fit for me.
Why Keep a Marathon Training Journal?
I like to keep track of what I'm doing, but more valuable to me is how I feel during the training. Patterns emerge and this can hold a wealth of information that can be used to overcome what may seem like mysterious challenges during training. I kept a marathon training journal last time and it really helps me to have that reference if I need to check anything months later.
There is so much more that goes into training than just miles and this is what knocks off the rough edges and builds a blend of humility and confidence.
When days and weeks roll into months of hard work, they start to blend together in a blur and it's harder to pick out single segments where I feel a certain way or had a great or rough week of workouts. I like to log and track my story. And sometimes I need a reminder of how quickly the memory of that tough run that feels so hard fades and is replaced with a celebration of crushing a long run or speed session. My marathon training journal reminds me not to forget the bigger picture.
Thank you for visiting and reading about my running plans and dreams for my marathon this season. I would love it if you follow along.
I know there are going to be a lot of updates over the months for one training cycle and I get that we are all busy so if you just have time to hand pick an occasional training journal update to read when you have some time, that is totally fine with me.
Let's get this show on the road!