It’s time for Marathon Training Diaries!
I’m excited to share my training experience with you as I prepare for my very first full marathon. Last spring, I shared weekly updates in a Half Marathon Training Diaries series while training for my goal half marathon and received a very positive response from it.
As I share my experience, I will share my struggles, triumphs, and lessons learned. The goal is not to paint a rose-colored picture in the marathon training diaries, but to be real about the challenges and connect with a few of you who are going through the same challenges and can relate.
Why I Decided to Run a Marathon
At this point, I’ve already run 6 half marathons. The half marathon distance is great, but after I got my time down to 2 hours last Fall, I felt like it’s time for me to bump it up a notch. After all, running a marathon at least once is something every runner should do, right? Plus, it’s a good motivation for me to train my body for increased weekly mileage and longer long runs.
As a blogger in the running space, I’ll be honest that I felt a little out of place in the fact that I haven’t run a full marathon yet. I feel like I have a great grasp on the half marathon, but the full will be a new challenge for me.
Have you seen the movie, “Brittany Runs a Marathon”? Yes, I related to that movie on so many levels. And it made me very emotional. It also convinced me that a marathon is the next logical step on my running journey.
Spring Training and Race Goals
Oh, I have many goals. Obviously, the biggest one is to cross the finish line of my first full marathon. My “A” race this spring is the Ogden Full Marathon on May 16, 2020. Leading up to that, I have many sub-goal races to check my progress and hopefully set some new PR’s in the shorter distance races.
Striders Winter Racing Circuit
First up, I’m registered for the Striders Winter Racing Circuit, which is known as the official training series of the Ogden Marathon.
The race distances and dates line up logically with my training plan and goal date of running the Ogden Marathon in May. It also adds some extra prizes for runners who complete all of the races in the circuit, based on cumulative time. I checked out the cumulative results from last year and…I just might have a shot of placing in my age group. Which would be very fun!
The following races are part of the Winter Race Circuit:
- 5k – February 8th
- 10k – February 29th
- 10 Miler – March 21st
- Half Marathon – April 4th
There is also a 30k fully supported training run that I will participate in as part of the circuit, but it is not professionally timed and not included in the cumulative circuit results. However, it should give me a great feel for how prepared I am to run the full marathon.
Plus, since I’m an Ogden Marathon Ambassador, I’ll be volunteering to help with packet pick-up the day prior to the first two races in the circuit. The Winter Race Circuit will be a great chance to stay motivated early in training and hang out with other runners in my area!
Salt Lake City Half Marathon
So….I wasn’t going to run the Salt Lake City Half Marathon this year because I’m already signed up for the Winter Race Circuit and figured that would be too many races…BUT once I saw the medal reveal, it was so beautiful I registered! My training schedule had me doing a 12 mile long run anyways (April 18th), so that’s pretty close to 13.1 miles. My plan for this race is to just take it easy and enjoy the race. No PRs or pushing hard. Just enjoying a long run around Salt Lake City and taking home a beautiful medal to show for it.
PR My Annual Physical Fitness Test (Again)
Last year, my goal was to break 12:30 for my 1.5-mile physical fitness test and I finished in 12:29! This year, I REALLY want to get under 12:00. Based on how my training has progressed this winter, I’m pretty sure I will be able to blow that out of the water and run a time in the ballpark of 11:45.
Every year of my career thus far, I’ve set a *lofty* goal at the beginning of the year to run my PT test in less than 12 minutes, but I haven’t hit that goal yet. This year just might be the year it happens! I’ll take my PT test at the beginning of May, the week leading up to the Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon.
Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon
I signed up for this half marathon nearly a year ahead of time. It’s in California, and I convinced my mom to sign up and run it with me on May 9th.
It will be her first half marathon and it’s also the weekend right before the Ogden Full Marathon. Because it’s a fun girls trip and her first half marathon, I’m planning on running her pace and sticking with her for the race, so this should keep me well within my easy run zone.
Then…we get to drink California wine at the finish line! (In case you don’t know this about me…I love wine).
The BIG race! 26.2 freaking miles.
Despite all the training I have planned, 26.2 miles is still quite a bit farther than 20 miles. I’ll be honest…I’m nervous. I’m nervous about my body’s ability to handle the training and stay healthy, about my mental ability to tough it out on race day, about whether I will be able to put one foot in front of the other on race day. But that’s part of the challenge and fun of running a marathon, right?
I’m also excited for the challenge, the experience, and the lessons I will learn both about running and about myself along the way.
Training Base and Preparation
2019 was a pretty consistent running year for me. I ran 5 half marathons, 2 10k’s, and several 5k’s with new personal records in each distance. Weekly, I was running about 20-28 miles per week in the fall and worked up to a 32-mile week just prior to starting my Ogden Marathon training plan in January.
I feel like I have a solid base and I’m ready to push my body into new fitness territory. Strength training, specifically leg day, became a staple in my weekly routine in the summer of 2019 and helped me make huge progress towards those PR’s while staying injury-free and strong.
I typically run 4-5 days per week with 1 day reserved for upper body strength training, and another day is always a complete rest day. Sometimes I work in an additional rest day if I feel my body needs it, or if I’m tapering for a race. I plan to maintain the same basic schedule with my marathon training plan, although I’ll run 5 days per week nearly every week for marathon training.
Marathon Training Diaries: The Training Plan
Here is where I say, training plans are not a one-size fits all approach.
I find training plans for free as a template, usually from Hal Higdon. Then, I change the plan to incorporate what I know works for me while obeying the basic rules such as following each hard work out with one easy workout or a rest day. I also know that it takes my muscles longer to recover from my leg strength workouts, so I try to put 2 easy days after leg day when I can.
This is what my training plan looks like from the start, subject to change as I progress through the plan.
If you like the format of this plan and want to get the template to plug your training plans into, enter your email in the form below and I’ll send it to you!
Sprint or speed work, plus leg strength. I always complete the speed work first, so my legs have plenty of juice to hit my desired pace or time goals. The speed work is usually conducted on the track. After my track workout, I’ll head into the gym for heavy squats, deadlifts, lunges, calf raises, hip raises, and sometimes planks. This set-up works well for me, because my track and gym are located in the same area. Plus, I can get both a speed workout and leg strength in without compromising my performance on either and avoid compromising other workouts in my week.
Always an easy run. Typically at a snail pace. My legs are usually pretty sore/stiff the day after strength training, so the point of this run is to just get the blood flowing through my muscles and put some more miles in the bank.
You might be wondering what 1×3’s are. Since I’m in the military, I’m required to take an annual physical fitness test which includes pushups and sit-ups. 1×3’s are a quick workout I can tack on to the beginning of a run to keep my pushups and sit-ups ready for my test.
Here’s how to do it:
Take the maximum number of pushups you can do in 1 minute, divide by 2. Same with sit-ups. (Then I usually round up to the nearest 5 to make it easy to remember.)
Example: If I can do 50 pushups in a minute, I will do 25 pushups for each set in this exercise.
Start a stopwatch, and immediately do the push-ups. Once you finish your reps, rest for the remainder of that minute. As soon as the next minute begins, start your sit-ups. After you complete your sit-ups, rest for the remainder of the minute. When the next minute begins, you’re back to push-ups.
Repeat for 3 times each exercise.
Minute 1: 25 pushups, rest 30ish seconds until next minute starts
Minute 2: 25 sit-ups, rest 30ish seconds until next minute starts
Minute 3: 25 pushups, rest 30ish seconds until next minute starts
Minute 4: 25 sit-ups, rest 30ish seconds until next minute starts
Minute 5: 25 pushups, rest 30ish seconds until next minute starts
Minute 6: 25 sit-ups, rest 30ish seconds until next minute starts
If you finish your reps quickly, you will have more time to rest. The entire exercise only takes 6 minutes.
Usually a rest day for me, although my schedule changes part-way through to accommodate a rest day before the longer races. I may end up changing this plan to do another easy run on Wednesday instead of a pace run if my body can’t handle working hard that soon after leg strength.
Typically, a “pace” run or tempo run, which effectively turn out to be the same thing. In a pace run, I warm up for a mile, then run at my goal half or full marathon pace for the middle miles and cool down at a slow pace for the final mile. In a tempo run, I start off easy for the first mile, slowly and gradually increase my pace until I peak at around 10k pace 2/3 of the way into my run, hold it for 5-10 minutes, then gradually ease back down to a slow pace for the final mile to cool-down.
Usually an easy run, with another 1×3’s workout before I head out the door. If I race on Saturday, I’ll rest on Friday.
Race or long run. All of my races fall on a Saturday, so either I do a long run that week or a race.
Upper body strength training or rest. Sunday is my lazy day, so I get to sleep in. Then my husband and I usually hit the gym while it’s quiet on Sunday morning for an upper body strength workout. Or….if I’m feeling like I could use an extra rest day, Sunday is the day to take off.
After that, I’m refreshed and ready to jump into the next week!
Marathon Training Philosophy and Injury Prevention
Thus far in my running career, I’ve managed to stay injury-free.
This can be credited to strength training and a VERY conservative approach when increasing weekly mileage. I recognize that the increase mileage that comes with training for a marathon will increase my risk of injury, which is why I need to be extra vigilant on my injury prevention tactics.
The primary training philosophy I follow that works best for injury prevention while increasing mileage is the 80/20 Running principle. A TON of research exists that shows you have the greatest chance of improving your running fitness while allowing your body time to recovery between the runs with a more strenuous pace.
During this training plan, I will adhere to the 80/20 Running principle and listen to my body to stay in tune with recovery. If I feel especially gassed and need to take a hard run easy or rest an extra day, I will.
Marathon Training Diaries Recap
If you want to keep up with my training in real time, I’m documenting everything on my Instagram page. Head over there and follow me for regular updates!
The first 5 weeks of my training have gone by pretty smoothly. My mileage dropped back the first week from what I was previously running in base training (up to 32 miles in a week).
Weeks 1 and 2
Weeks 1 and 2 went exactly as planned, with the exception that my 9-mile long run moved to Sunday instead of Saturday in week 2.
In week 3, I had to skip my 5-mile pace run due to a medical procedure on my arm that was supposed to be Wednesday but got moved to Thursday. I thought I would be able to run with it, but the pain during the first day of healing after an incision told me otherwise. I moved my pace run to Friday and skipped the 3-mile easy run, which made my 11-mile long run feel much tougher running on tired legs.
Week 4 was all over the place.
Thankfully, it was supposed to be an easier week due to my 5k race on Saturday, but my husband and I ended up travelling to Minnesota for a funeral that week. I did the runs I could and stayed active, but the harsh MN winter temperatures meant I wasn’t about to run outside. I was able to do a 2.5-mile easy run Monday night on the treadmill, followed by an indoor track workout Tuesday morning.
We did hot yoga on Wednesday, which was incredible. I’m definitely considering adding hot yoga into my training plan for recovery on Tuesday or Wednesday.
Winter Racing Circuit 5k
Week 4 ended with the first race of the Winter Racing Circuit, a 5k. I did make it back from Minnesota in time to race, and I finished in a time of 26:13 with 4th place in my age group. I was hoping to hit a new 5k PR of well than 25:30, but a monster uphill in the middle of the course proved otherwise for me. The Garmin only tracked 2.85 miles, which is why I have 2.85 miles in my tracker rather than 3.1 miles.
The Winter Race Circuit is a series of 4 races leading up to the Ogden Marathon. Times are cumulative and are added together for overall and age group awards across the 5k, 10k, 10-Miler, and half marathon. Runners can also run the races individually, but those do not count towards cumulative times.
Week 5 went mostly according to plan.
Monday’s workout was frustrating. I went to the track planning to do my 400m repeats, and it was under ice. Frustrated and frozen, I added a programmed interval workout to cue me by distance. When I started running on the trail, my legs just weren’t responding so it turned into an easy run. After I got a couple miles in, I headed inside for leg day. My legs were still had a lag to them on my first few reps, so I decided to can the workout and try again on Tuesday. In all reality, I’m sure my body needed an extra recovery day from the tough hills at the 5k.
By Tuesday, I was ready to go and had an awesome 7 x 400m repeat workout with 400m recovery jogs between, then did my leg strength. Oddly enough, I wasn’t even that sore on Wednesday, when I did a 6-mile easy run.
On Friday morning, I got a Metabolic Test done at Body Smart Utah. Much to my pleasure, I found out that my body composition, resting metabolic rate, and VO2 Max were much better than expected. My fat burn percentage results were a-typical, so I’m going to re-test in a couple weeks after they get a newly calibrated machine. This technology is pretty sweet and I’m planning to do a full review after my next test, so stay tuned!
What’s the Point?
The point of my documenting my training in the form of a Marathon Training Diaries series carries a few benefits. First, it allows me to share my journey with you. If anything, I hope I can inspire you and share in your struggles.
Further, I want you to realize that no training cycle goes exactly as planned. As you can see, I’ve had to adjust, move, or cancel some workouts. And that’s OKAY! A training plan is meant to be just that: a plan to guide you through the training process. Listen to your body and adjust as needed. In my experience, listening to your body is one of the most important ways to prevent injury.
If you follow most of the plan to the best of your ability, you will still be ready to run on race day.
In my next weeks, I have a 10k race, along with long runs of increasing distance. The next Marathon Training Diaries update will be released in early March.
Follow me on Instagram to keep up with my spring marathon training and share your training with me!
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About Me: I’m Alexis, Founder of RunningMyBestLife! I am an avid recreational runner, half marathoner, wife, dog mom, busy professional, downhill skier in Northern Utah. My mission is to help new enthusiasts fall in love with the sport of running. I believe that running is a catalyst to taking control of your life and living your best life by design. Learn More –>