what i learned from marathon training

In 3 short weeks, I will be at the starting line of the Chicago Marathon. This past Saturday (prior to enjoying my wonderful pumpkin pie concrete from Doozle’s), I ran my final 20 mile training run. Not going to lie… it went AMAZINGLY! I couldn’t possibly be happier with how my training has gone the past 15 weeks. After training for + running my first marathon 2.5 years ago, I swore up + down that I would never do another one. My long runs were tortuously long, I trained through the very cold + snowy St. Louis winter season, I overtrained myself by teaching fitness classes in addition to my training runs, and a month prior to the race, I was diagnosed with Morton’s neuromas in my feet that really made training even harder.

After that experience, I was determined to make this training better and, if possible, injury free. Here are the things I have done differently/learned from training for the Chicago Marathon:

1. LISTEN to your body! This has always been so hard for me. I am addicted to working out, whether it is running, weight lifting, or yoga. I just love it + it makes me feel good. But, your body NEEDS rest. I dedicated Fridays before long runs “off” days… I only did 20 minutes of yoga in the morning and that was it for the day. It gave my muscles a good stretch and gave my legs a much needed rest leading up to a long run. My body was much appreciative of the needed rest.

2. Yoga. I think I am officially becoming a yogi. I have fallen in love with it! The stretching + strengthening it provides is great for runners, and it just gives me a feeling of peace for the rest of the day. I have only been doing 20 Minute Yoga Sessions on my own, but it is the perfect amount of time and is still challenging.

3. Recovery Runs. Now, this might not be for everyone, but I have found it really works for me. The day after my long run, I would do a very easy long-ish run (5-8 miles). For most of these, I would run 8 minutes and walk 2 minutes for the entire distance. This really helped get the blood flow in my alread sore muscles, and I think it really helped take away some of the added soreness. Weird and counter intuitive, I know, but I really think it helped.

4. Proper Fuel. Not gonna lie, I count calories. I’m not proud of it, but it works for me and keeps me accountable. (Oh yeah, that running addiction might have something to do with the food addiction too.) And it honestly doesn’t bother me to do it. I’m pretty relaxed about it and don’t get upset if I “go over” my calories, since there are definitely days I don’t get enough calories in me. Along these lines, I always try to make sure I have close to the number of calories I need to fuel my runs. Food = fuel. This includes “overeating” the day before a long run in attempt to keep my glycogen stores up. I also have gotten a lot better about fueling during my runs, bringing Gatorade + pitted dates along with me on my long runs. It really worked for me… plus, eating a very healthy, plant-based diet has really improved my running.

5. Speed Work. Confession: I don’t like running marathons. Shocking, I know. I am a 5K + 10K runner in reality. I love running fast. I hate being passed + I love to chase people down. Marathons definitely are not something you can do this with. So, I decided to add some 400m + 800m repeats and tempo runs on Wednesdays instead of doing another long-ish, steady-state run. If you follow my training on Daily Mile, you will notice my times have dropped on my long runs, including my 2nd 20 miler. This has totally increased my confidence that I can achieve a Boston qualifying time in Chicago.

I truly believe in my training and I feel completely prepared to tackle Chicago in October. Although I really believe these things worked for me, they might not be for you. But, it never hurts to change things up a bit!

In addition, here are some other running blogs that keep me inspired to reach my goals while maintaining a healthy diet. (Another confession: I am totally addicted to food/running blogs. If you have any interest, check these out!)

The Front Burner – 5 time marathon finisher and vegetarian chef
No Meat Athlete – ultrarunner fueling on vegetarian + vegan food
Healthy Tipping Point – runner + creator of Operation Beautiful
Meals and Miles – runner training for Chicago
Beneath It All – another runner training for Chicago

  • James G. from Saint Charles

    Thank you for your advise, it is greatly needed and appreciated.