A Rookie Trains For a Marathon

Hello hello!

Hope your week has been going well! I for one can’t believe it’s already almost Thursday. Blame it on the post-marathon high.

Oh weird – a marathon picture? I apologize in advance, but there will be an abundance for the next few days. (Regular celebrity fodder will resume shortly.)

First off – thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for all of the support, the good-luck and congratulatory tweets, Facebook comments, emails, gchats, texts and calls. They all meant so, so much to me! I’m truly surrounded by wonderful family and friends.

After not being able to move for the better part of Monday (a slooow 3-mile walk, and purchasing a Muscle Stick at Fleet Feet helped), and getting the world’s best Sports Massage at Equinox on Tuesday, I felt a million times better today. Still a little sore, but almost back to my old self. So what else was I to do but march myself up to my Pilates studio for an 55 minute reformer class? I had my doubts, but I had little to no soreness, and I feel great after getting in a solid toning workout.

I honestly think that the reason I had an injury-free training cycle, a pain-free marathon, and was able to finish as strong as I did was all due to my training plan.

I followed Hal Higdon’s Intermediate 1 plan religiously. I was married to that thing. And let me tell you, nothing made me happier than crossing off each run as it came and went.

Some days I couldn’t wait to run, and some days I dreaded it the entire time (like the 18-mile dehydrated from wine tasting all day the day before run).

Changes I made to the plan?

  • Twice a week I added a 55 minute Pilates Reformer class for strength training. (I’ve tried and failed to do weights on my own – I end up doing 15 crunches and calling it a day), and I can’t sing the praises of Pilates enough. The core, leg, booty and arm strength and toning it gave me was invaluable during the later miles of the marathon. I completely credit being able to keep good form in the later miles to these classes. It’s a great form of cross-training if it’s available to you.
  • I did a Half-Marathon at the end of Week 4 and also at the end of Week 14 rather than Week 9 because it’s what my schedule permitted. I think it worked out for the better because for the Week 4 Half, I was able to see where I was at the start of training (a 1:58 PR) and by by Week 14 I was almost to the peak of my training (a 1:55 PR!) and was able to race like it was the real thing.
Half Marathon #1 with Aron and Courtney:
Half-Marathon #2 with Lauren (who ROCKED CIM and ran a 3:51!)
  • Rather than two 20-mile runs I did a 20 and a 21 with Lexi because we thought it was really important to get within 5 miles of the Marathon distance. I think it helped a lot mentally too because I didn’t hit that “oh my god is it over yet, please kill me” feeling until around Mile 23.
  • Even though I was dedicated to my training plan I varied and rest days and switched runs around a bit based on plans that I had. I also had a beer (or 2) before each long run, because quite frankly life’s too short to not enjoy yourself on your weekends after you work hard all week. But I’m being completely honest when I say I didn’t miss a single training run. Not a one.
While that may seem a bit weird (and to me unfathomable a year ago), I had committed to running this marathon, and by doing so I had committed to giving it everything I had. I wanted to have no regrets, and on marathon day I wanted to go out there feeling like there was absolutely nothing else I could have done to prepare myself. And that meant (for once!) actually following the training plan to a T.
And let me tell you – training plans are there for a reason. They absolutely work. There is no possible way I could have ran a 3:57 in my first marathon had I not diligently followed the plans, and run them as they were supposed to be run: some fast, some slow, some in-between.
The three must-haves for me while training for this marathon?
  1. Cross-train (Pilates)
  2. Stick to the training plan 100%
  3. If I wanted to run faster, I had to train faster. It was simple. When I trained at 9:30, I ran at 9:30. Once I started training in the 8’s, I started running in the 8’s. It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t comfortable, but it definitely works.
To give you a little perspective, in October 2010 I ran the Nike Women’s Half-Marathon. It was my 3rd Half Marathon (SF in 2008 and Santa Cruz in 2009) and I completely half-assed the Training Plan and followed it for maybe half of the time it recommended (I think I did two long runs). Then about a month before the race I decided that doing whatever workouts I wanted (elliptical, bike, basically anything but running) would suffice just fine to run 13.1 miles.
Fast forward to the race – I finished, but I was miserable by the time I got there (in 2:12, a PR at the time, and something I was damn happy about considering my previous PR was a 2:32 from the SF 1/2) and hated it so much that I told myself I’d never run a half-marathon again. (An actual Marathon wasn’t even in my vocabulary at that point.)
You can see the relief and sheer exhaustion on my face:
It’s amazing the difference a year, and a solid training plan (and actually sticking to it!) can make!
That was the face of someone extremely undertrained and unprepared.
This is the face of someone who can’t wait to race again.
Evidently I need to work on switching up my “finisher’s pose”.

15 thoughts on “A Rookie Trains For a Marathon

  1. Lots of good info to know. You ran a very impressive race so thank you for sharing your secrets! I loved, “If I wanted to run faster, I had to train faster. It was simple. When I trained at 9:30, I ran at 9:30. Once I started training in the 8′s, I started running in the 8′s. It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t comfortable, but it definitely works.” <——–SUCH GOOD ADVICE!

    • Thank you! (PS- I want an I Heart Sweat shirt once Ali gets more in!) Training at the faster pace was terrible at first, but after a couple of weeks I definitely felt a difference in how much easier it was to hold the faster pace!

  2. “When I trained at 9:30, I ran at 9:30. Once I started training in the 8′s, I started running in the 8′s.”

    a) Awesome!
    b) Question: What pace did you do your long runs, and was it close to your marathon pace? I go back and forth on the whole “long-runs-should-be-slower” thing, because of exactly what you just said above — if I run slower, won’t I … run slower? As I’m starting to think through my first full, I’m wondering what worked for you.

    • Thank you! So for my long runs I did keep it slow – I tried to never run faster than a 9:30-9:50, and let myself take hills very, very slowly. I always tried to keep in the back of my mind that the long runs were to get my legs used to running for 90-180 minutes at a time and to do them at a very comfortable pace.

      My training plan recommended that if I wanted to run faster (@ marathon pace) to do so during the week on the 5-8 mile runs, but to keep the longer ones slow. So a couple times a week I would crank the treadmill to a pace in the 8’s and hold on as long as I could. After a couple weeks I could definitely feel that faster pace becoming easier!

  3. im starting a hal higdon program on monday yay! its such a great feeling finishing a marathon isnt it? quite an accomplishment…congrats again!!

  4. This is perfect, Kristine, and also so true. I definitely wouldn’t have run a 3:35 if I wasn’t running long and hard in training. Training plans are there for a reason — so good on you for figuring that out from the beginning and doing this the right way! (Also, I am totally getting the sense that this WASN’T a “one & done” thing for you like you said! PLEASE! What is next!!??!

    • Why is it that even after a great race you still want to do it again and get faster?! I’m signed up for like 5 halves already in 2012… and IF I got in, I’d run NYCM for sure! I’ll go eat my words now. 🙂 How did you know?!

  5. Hi, I just found your blog through Hungry Runner Girl and I love all of your advise about training! I’m wanting to do my first half in February, scary! Do you have a recommendation for a good training schedule for a half? I feel a little outta my league here but I’m excited 🙂

    • Hi! 🙂 Thanks so much for stopping by! I can’t say enough about Hal Higdon’s plans – I thought the Marathon one I followed wasn’t too much, and it prepared me perfectly. He has several Half-Marathon plans based on what your level of running is and I would definitely check those out! Good luck! You’re going to do so well! (And you’ll enjoy it wayyy more if you stick to your training!)

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