Marathon Training After a Six Year Break (Part 2): 10 miles to 22 miles

As I neared the end of the 10 weeks to 10 miles training plan, I considered training for half marathon (the thought of training for a full marathon was still too daunting). I decided to use Hal Higdon’s Marathon Training: Novice 2 plan to see if I could use the first nine weeks to get me to the half marathon distance and if all was going well I could continue on to the full distance.

I started the training plan in October and here is a summary of how the 18-week training plan:

Week 1-5: Training weeks went pretty smooth. Week 5 ended with a 12-mile long run. For the long run, I opted to run a 3-mile loop through the neighborhood multiple times. This kept me close to home.

Week 6-7: Week 6 was a recovery week and Thanksgiving, so I did not get all my training runs in but did complete the long run. Week 7’s long run was a 14-mile run and I could not find the time in my schedule for it, so I broke it up into two runs, a 4-mile run in the early morning, followed by a 10-mile run closer to lunch. I was only able to get 9 miles in during the second run, making my long run 13 miles.

Week 8: The 15-mile long run. It took me three weeks get through this training week comfortably. These three weeks happened leading up to Christmas with my long run completed on Christmas Eve morning. I thoroughly enjoyed the early morning run and seeing the holiday lights.

At this point, I made the decision to keep training for a full marathon. I picked three marathons in Georgia, each a weekend or two apart. I told myself if I was ready I would run the earliest one, and if I had to repeat training weeks I could run one of the later marathons.

Week 9: The training plan recommended ending this week with a half marathon race. Try as I might, there were no half marathon races that fit into my schedule and I had to keep moving forward.

Week 10: The 17-mile long run. For some reason I decided to abandon my better judgement on this day and did an out-and-back run, thinking if I pushed myself 8.5 miles out then I would have to run the 8.5 miles back. I decided to run to a local state park, where I would then run a loop around the lake (6-mile trail run) and then home. Sounded like a scenic adventure in my head. I did complete the run, had the slowest pace of all my long runs, and the trail run portion caught up to me in the last few miles as I trudged home ever so slowly. I did not even think about the fact I was wearing high stability road shoes and not trail running shoes.

Week 11: The 18-mile long run. It took me two weeks to get through this week. For the long run, I stayed close to home with a 4-mile neighborhood loop. Overall, the run was more pleasant than the 17-miler.

Week 12-13: Week 12 was a recovery week. Week 13’s long run was 19 miles. Due to scheduling challenges I had to break the long run up over two sessions: a 4-mile early morning run, followed by a 15-mile out-and-back run. On the 15-mile run I averages 12:30/mile and this was the first run I felt like the training weeks were really catching up to me and there was no room left to push the pace at all.

Week 14-15: Week 14 was a recovery week with week 15 calling for a 20-mile run. It was pouring rain the day of the 20-miler and I had to log the miles on a treadmill. I HATE TREADMILLS! Took me four hours to complete the distance. I ended up including walking intervals during the last four miles. Thank goodness for Netflix and wi-fi for helping me push through the hours on the treadmill.

At this point the training plan began tapering, but I was still five weeks out. I decided to repeat weeks 14 and 15 and was able to log a 22-miler outdoors. I ran a 3-mile loop through the neighborhood and averaged 12:45/mile. Miles 16-19 were the toughest as I kept losing focus on form and would result to shuffling with a short stride and hunching over a bit. At mile 20 I realized I was on my last loop and something about knowing I was on the last two miles helped me see the light at the end of the tunnel. On the last mile my body was hurting and I was so slow and the little uphill stretches felt like mountains, but I also felt like I could get through 4 more miles if I had to. It was a confidence boost knowing the marathon was four weeks away.

Week 16: Just a few days after the 22-miler, I rolled my left ankle on a 5-mile run. It was bad enough it swelled up and took me out the rest of the week and my confidence was thwarted.

Week 17: Tapering. 14-mile long run. I decided to attempt the long run to see if my ankle would not get angry with me. I ended up completing at 14-miler with a 11:42/mile pace with my ankle not hurting.

Week 18: Taper. Taper. Taper. I stuck to the tapering plan and logged three short runs before race day. I honestly could not believe I was about to run my first race in nearly six years.

It took me 34 weeks of training to be ready for marathon race day: 14 weeks to build to 10 miles, and then 20 weeks on the Novice 2 training plan.

Pros/what went well during this training period:

  • Patient with myself,
  • Trained with Gatorade and Go Go Squeeze during long runs (easy on my GI system),
  • Used Ultimate Direction hydration pack on long runs (paid off because I wore it during my marathon),
  • Read The Runner’s Devotional once a week to supplement training and helped me maintain a positive mindset, and
  • I enjoyed training through the colder months of the year (September – March).

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

  • I was long overdue to replace running bras but did not do so (for which I suffered the consequences on race day),
  • I did not develop a day before the long run routine, which left me at a bit of a loss on marathon race day,
  • I gained a few pounds back and kept the weight on,
  • Did not do much stretching or cross training/strength training (very much need to do now),
  • I kept telling myself that after the marathon, when I was a real runner again, I would invest in new running gear and prioritize nutrition, and
  • I forgot how much the heavy weeks of training (weeks 10-15) take out of you (I forgot about being tired and not having energy for all the other things in life and to respect my body and the training).

Next up: Flowerfest Marathon recap.

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