Reflections on training for my first marathon

Yesterday marked the final training run in my 18 week marathon cycle. A chilly 4 mile tempo run. 2 miles at 7.14 min/male pace sandwiched with a downhill warm-up mile and an uphill recovery mile (7.41 min/mile average). I have a two mile shakeout run scheduled for Saturday and then M-Day – the Twin Cities marathon – my first ever 26.2 miles.

J has agreed to run this race with me (he has already qualified for and been accepted into the Boston marathon and this one is just for fun), and last night he asked me what pace I was planning on running. For me, as a first-time marathoner, this is a surprisingly difficult question to answer. I’ve trained hard over the last 18 weeks and want to show that in my time. Personally, it’s not enough just to finish. I need to do “well” but I’m not exactly sure what that means. On the other hand my major freak is hitting the all – and especially hitting it early by going out too fast. I had the pleasure (!) of experiencing this on my first 20 miler and do not want this to happen with another 6ish miles to go.

I started to look back over my training schedule. I followed Hal Higdon’s Intermediate plan (Hal has gotten me through my first 3 half marathons).

Monday: Rest or strength training day

Tuesday: Slow, recovery run. These varied from 3-5.25 miles and generally ranged in pace 8.50-9.20 min/miles.

Wednesday: For the first couple of weeks I took these easy. I ran a half marathon on the second weekend and was coming back from injury. But from week 6 onwards this became a steady state run. Ranging from 5.5-9.3 miles with paces averaging 7.50 min/miles.

Thursday: For 10/18 weeks this was a morning trail run that was super fun mainly because I had a running buddy which definitely makes the time go by so much faster.

Friday: Rest day

Saturday: I ran four races during this time, all of which fell on Saturdays;

Utah Valley Half Marathon 01.40.35

Park City Trail Series 5K 00.23.33

Park City Trail Series 10K 00.54.01

Park City Trail Series 15K 01.19.41

There had to be a couple of switching things around to make room for awesome vacations to Great Basin National Park and white water rafting. And of course the Hood to Coast relay which I realized I have yet to do a recap on. Oops. Six of the other Saturdays were also fast (for me). Ranging from 5-8 miles around 7.45-8.05 min/mile pace.

One of the things I wanted to practice during my training was to get used to running long runs on tired legs. So the Park City Trail races and my Saturday fast runs were followed by Sunday long runs. I peaked with two 20 milers but also had 15, 15, 17, and 18 mile runs in too. The average pace was around 8.55 min/mile. Peak week hit 45 miles but over the 18 weeks I was averaging 35ish miles for a total of 550ish miles total. Can you tell I’m a data nerd?

I feel pretty prepared. I made all of my scheduled long runs. I only missed one run due to injury (way back in week 3). And I think I’m as ready as I can be. But I’m still running a new distance for the first time and am a little totally nervous about it. On the plus side – I’ll be running a pretty flat course at sea level on fully rested legs. I have friends who have run this race multiple times and tell me the crowd support is amazing so I’m hoping for a race day adrenaline boost. And it looks like it’ll be pretty cool temperatures.

Using a race time predictor with my half marathon times (all around 1.40 -/+ a couple of minutes), it suggest that I should be able to run 3.30. I feel that this is way too ambitious for a first marathon, so I’m thinking around 3.45 (8.35 min/mile pace) if everything goes perfectly. I’m pretty confident that a sub-4 is on the cards but who knows – the marathon is a crazy beast.

I knew going into training that it would be tough, time-consuming and I would have to sacrifice some of my other hobbies (hello dusty yoga mat). But overall I’ve enjoyed it. Sure I’ve had some bad runs and a lot of mornings where I have not wanted to get up and run 8 or 9 miles before work. I guess what I’ve learned is that I really enjoy running. And following a schedule really works for me. It helps me get focused – I leave my house knowing exactly what workout I’ll be doing that day – distance, pace, hills etc. I like knowing I’m getting better even if those improvements are small and almost unnoticeable from day to day. I’ve read before that the actual race is just the victory lap for all those 6 AM starts and 3 hour long runs. I guess I’ll find out on Sunday!

Any last minute marathon/pacing advice to share?


18 thoughts on “Reflections on training for my first marathon

  1. charissarunning says:

    You have had a great training cycle and I think you are very capable of running a 3:45. What I would suggest though is to really take note of how you feel race morning and definitely start off conservatively. As you get through the first couple miles, test out how it feels to gradually get a little faster and go from there. And, if you do hit the wall, don’t panic! Just keep going at whatever pace you can and be happy in your major accomplishment 🙂 Good luck!!

  2. You have done such a great job with your training. Now just try to relax and have fun. Make sure that you celebrate yourself and your training as you finish up those last few miles of the race. Great work!

  3. WalkToRio says:

    You’ve done your homework, now is time to have fun.
    We all freakout before races, but you are prepared to run the marathon, just listen to your body and have fun.
    No doubt you’ll do great and have good time!

  4. HEY!! I definitely think you are capable of running 3:45! I know you’re going to have a super run, so don’t worry about that!! Your body knows what it’s capable of so trust it and have a fab run!! XOXO!! Have fun!! 🙂 🙂 I’ll be thinking about ya during my half!

  5. You’ve got this! I definitely agree with the other advice-conserve your energy in the beginning. This is true for most long distance races, but especially for the marathon. When you hit mile 22, you will thank yourself for not charging out the starting gate, as many people who did will be walking by this point. I can’t wait to hear how it goes! Best of luck to you!

  6. Congratulations on completing all of your training! My advice would just be to follow your race plan. Don’t do anything crazy. Adrenaline will be there, but don’t run a race/pace you didn’t train for. I just read something this week, and I won’t say it right, but it was something like this, “In a marathon, don’t be an idiot in the first half, and don’t be a wimp in the second half.” Good luck and I cannot wait to hear about it!!!

  7. Good luck!!!! You’re going to do great. My best piece of advice would just be to relax and enjoy it. Don’t set too many expectations and just enjoy the journey. A marathon is a big deal and you’re gonna kill it! 🙂

  8. FLRunnerBoy says:

    I really don’t have a pacing strategies to offer except have a time goal in mind but also be prepared to let go of it if necessary. One thing I learned from my debut marathon is that even a solid training cycle doesn’t prepare you for the real deal 26.2 so have at least three goals in mind with the third goal being to just finish and enjoy the experience. The training is the journey and the marathon is the celebration. no matter what happens I sure you’ll do fantastic!!! Run FAST!!! … Run FREE!!! 🙂

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