Marathon Training After a Six Year Break (Part 1): Building to 10 Miles

Almost six years. It has been almost six years since I laced up a pair of running shoes, put on a race bib, and stepped up to a starting line. During this time, I have grieved my father’s passing, given birth to baby #3 (Baby G), stepped away from a career, stepped down from pursuing a PhD, started a business, and attempted to get my running groove back several times. I also never stopped thinking about the next marathon I would race, though that dream often felt like it would never happen again.

Baby G was born in February 2020, just before the pandemic and lockdown. When she was three months old, I tried to ease back into running, but my body was not ready. I was nursing an exclusively breast-fed baby and the stress of being older, work, homeschooling two older kiddos, all took a toll on my milk supply. I spent the next several months prioritizing efforts to maintain my milk supply while occasionally getting out for a 20-minute walk. When Baby G turned a year old, I started trying to ease back into a running schedule. Over the next year, I would build a few weeks of running, logging runs three or four days a week (totaling 6-8 miles), then something would happen… a minor injury/ache, a sick kid, which meant a sick mommy, tummy troubles, weird fatigue issues, or simply a lack of time and running not feeling good. The perpetual pattern of not being able to stay consistent and being 30 pounds heavier since my last race made me feel like a failure, like I would never find my stride again, like I was too old to do it anymore.

Then, a few months into 2022, without any hope of being a runner again, I decided to just run a couple of miles whenever I could. A few weeks led to a few months and before I know it I was running 3 miles a few times a week and started to pick up the pace. Mind you, I am slow runner and picking up the pace meant moving from an 11:45/mile to an 11:30/mile, and eventually a consistent 11:00/mile. By summer I had lost a few pounds and thought that I might be able to build to 10 miles. I had never used a 10-mile training plan but turned to one of my favorites, Hal Higdon, for guidance. I used the 10 Mile Training: Intermediate plan and gave myself plenty of wiggle room -if life threw me curve balls, I would either repeat a week of training, or take a week off and then repeat the last training week that I had actually completed and go from there.

I began the 10 weeks to 10 miles training plan in June and here is how it played out:

Week 1-4: No weeks repeated. A few training runs missed, but never a long run. Looked for a 5k to incorporate with training plan but couldn’t find one and it was July in Florida.

Week 5: Took 3 weeks to complete. I developed shin splints in my left shin from attempting intervals and sprints. Decided to give my legs some rest and the opt for distance runs instead of intervals or sprints.

Week 6: Good week. Only had to run this week once.

Week 7: Took 3 weeks to complete. Could not find time to run due to family stuff and then kiddos started a new school year. Training plan recommended finding a 10k race but had no luck finding one close by that worked with ym schedule.

Week 8-10: No repeating and was shocked to build the miles back up and complete my first 10 mile run in years.

The 10 week training plan actually took me 14 weeks to complete, starting in June and completed in late September. I remember the morning I completed the 10-miler. There was a beautiful sunrise as I was finishing the last few miles. The sky was red and purple. The run was not easy and the in the last miles my legs felt heavy, and my body kept telling me to stop and walk. I was a bit emotional when I hit the 10-mile mark because I felt like I had to work harder than I had ever worked to get to 10 miles and yet I was so grateful and overjoyed.

Sunrise during 10-mile run

During the last couple weeks of the training plan, I started to feel like I might be able to run a half marathon but was still hesitant to look or invest my efforts in a full marathon.

Pros/what went well during this training period:

  • Had no set time frame and allowed myself to repeat training weeks as necessary,
  • Invested in new running shoes (Saucony Hurricane 23),
  • Frequently ran back-to-back days even if I could not get the mileage in, and
  • I lost about 5 lbs.

Cons/what did not go well during this training period:

  • Couldn’t find any local races to integrate into my training schedule,
  • Did not do any cross-training, and
  • Dealt with blisters on right foot (before replacing my trail running shoes).

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