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First Marathon Training Reflections

Thank you all so much for the kind words on the recap from my first full marathon in Richmond on Saturday! The girls and I are still riding the runner’s high, and are now surprisingly kind of sad it’s all over. :)

richmond marathon finish

I’ve gotten some questions about the marathon and my training, so I wanted to share some reflections. Obviously doing one marathon does not make me an expert on training for them, but if you do have any other questions on what I personally did, happy to answer them! Also, just a note that of course while this is what worked for me, it might not be what’s best for you. Listen to your body. :)

Would you change anything about your training?

No. When I first signed up for the marathon (remember that whole “Never Say Never” post?), I asked all of you whether it would be doable to run a marathon only running 3 days a week for training, and a lot of you said yes, referencing the “Run Less, Run Faster” book & approach from Runner’s World. I’d been doing 3 days a week of running and 3 days a week of cross training for years and it was what worked for me, in terms of not getting burned out or injured, so I decided to stick with it. My running coach Mary came up with a plan for me that had me doing the following:


Marathon Training Plan

3 days a week of running:

  • 1 long run
  • 1 speed/tempo workout
  • 1 mid distance run (usually hilly)

3 days a week of cross training:

  • 2 days of higher intensity workouts – either CrossFit or kickboxing/bootcamp
  • 1 day of lower intensity – either yoga or swimming

1 rest day

The tempo workouts were nothing too crazy – no track workouts or anything, just basically just doing a faster run once a week. I wasn’t super intense about these and just made sure I ran with faster friends on those days. More deliberate speed work would of course mean a faster race, but that wasn’t my overall goal for the first marathon. My tempo run pace was about 45 seconds faster than my race goal pace – between 8 and 8:30ish minute miles, but with a short warm up and cool down at a slower pace. My long runs were done about 30 seconds slower than my goal pace, so between a 9:15 or 9:30 minute mile on average.

IMG_4720

In terms of mileage, I was supposed to do two 20 milers and one 22 miler, but I ended up skipping one of the 20 milers because my foot was bothering me (the issue ended up resolving itself – I think it was a bruise from a really long/hilly bike ride). I think this actually ended up being a good thing because I didn’t ever feel burned out on training since I had some down time/dialed it back right around the peak mileage weeks. My biggest mileage week was 33 miles three weeks before the marathon, but most of the weeks totaled between 20 and 30 miles. I realize this is pretty low mileage for many people training for a marathon, but again, it’s what worked for me. One thing I think was really key for me, though, was doing a 22 miler before the race instead of just topping out at 20 miles. At first I was nervous when I saw that on the plan, but Mary wanted to make sure I felt prepared for the distance, and having a 22 miler under my belt helped BIG time in terms of confidence and feeling prepared. I’d really recommend it to fellow first timers.

22 mile run

Another thing that helped me was to schedule a few races within my training schedule so that I’d be forced to run faster – I did the Parks Half Marathon and the Beach to Beacon 10k as fast training runs which were great to incorporate. The only thing I wouldn’t recommend that I did was the Tough Mudder a month before the marathon. By the time I decided to do the marathon, I was already signed up for the Mudder and had gotten friends on board, too, so I couldn’t bail. It ended up being a blast and no one got hurt, but it could have easily led to some really twisted ankles, which would have been a waste after all that training.

I logged all my training runs into DailyMile so that I could look back on my training. Here’s a graph of my week-by-week mileage. Just a note that the jump from 22 miles to 29 miles in weeks 35 and 36 wasn’t really accurate because one of my shorter runs was done on Monday for the previous week, and it grouped it into the week after. As you can see, the week where I only did 10 miles was when I skipped my long run, and I dialed it back a little the weeks after, too, until I made sure my foot was okay. Week #46, the last week, includes the marathon! :)

marathon_training

In terms of cross-training, I stuck with the CrossFit/kickboxing/boot camp plan until my foot started bugging me, when I switched to doing only swimming and yoga as cross training until after the race. I usually went swimming the day after long runs and I think it really helped with successful recovery. Great way to stretch out my legs without impact and the water pressure felt good on my sore muscles, too. My rest day was usually the day before a long run.

Other things I did that were important were a lot of foam rolling – before and after long runs and also after shorter weekday runs, too, plus anytime I felt like I needed it. (Here’s a nerdy video I made a couple years ago on how to use a foam roller – you can also use it by holding yourself on sore spots to release them, but I usually just roll around slowly like a massage.)

foam roller

I also iced my knees, ankles, feet, and calves constantly – usually a couple times a week, plus after long runs (I use Paradice Packs and they rock). I also started doing ice baths once I reached about 16 mile+ runs, and that really helped. In addition, I took one low dose ibuprofen before long runs and usually one during them, too, and another after, to keep inflammation down. Again – this is what worked for me and I’m not an expert. :)

I also wore compression sleeves during my long runs and compression socks around for the days before/after long runs, and occasionally during the week when I felt like I needed them. This also really helped with recovery! Fun fact: I was totally wearing compression socks under my jeans in the photo below at the marathon expo. ;)

richmond marathon expo

Did you gain or lose weight while training?

I’ve gotten this question a lot, and the answer is: I don’t think so! I don’t own a scale and never weigh myself – I just go by how I feel and how my clothes fit. My clothes still fit fine and I feel good, so I’m going to go with no, I didn’t gain weight. That said, I think I probably lost some upper body and core strength from doing less CrossFit/kickboxing/boot camp type workouts the past couple months, so I’m looking forward to incorporating those again now that I’m done training. I’m also really excited to go back to OutRun! It will be really nice to be more flexible with workouts again since I don’t have to worry about saving myself for long runs or being too sore after them.

wallballs

What did you eat during/before long runs?

After some experimentation I found what worked for me and I stuck with it: a combination of one mocha Clif Shot Gel with caffeine in it, some Margarita Shot Bloks (delicious and salty), and a low fiber/low fat granola bar near the end of the really really long runs when I wanted real food. Before long runs, I usually ate toast with almond butter and sliced banana. I also always had a water hydration vest with me on long runs – on the longest runs, I drank up to 2 liters of water. I didn’t do any sports drinks since the food I took in was enough. After long runs, I usually had something immediately (chocolate milk rocks after long runs), and then once I showered I had a normal meal.

IMG_4715

How did your overall appetite/diet change while training?

I didn’t really change the composition of what I was eating much, but I definitely ate more food, especially on long run days and the day after long run days, where I found myself to be really hungry. I follow an intuitive eating approach to eating (which is what I work with my AnneTheRD clients on as well), so I just made sure to eat when I was hungry, even if I felt like I was eating a lot. I found myself craving carbs as well as meat and protein a lot more than usual, too, which makes sense since my body needed it.

IMG_0705

I definitely indulged some on long run days, but overall I tried to stick with what makes me feel my best – whole, nutritious food, with the occasional treat thrown in there when I really wanted it.

What’s next?!

It’s crazy how addictive long distance running is. A few years ago, I decided to do a half marathon “just once,” to say I’d done it. I did the Annapolis Half Marathon back in 2010 as my first half, always saying I’d never do a full, and that I’d only maybe do another half. Well, 8 half marathons and a few years later, and we know how that ended. ;) So I’m sure it should come as no surprise to you all that I definitely want to do another full marathon!

As of now, I’m thinking my plan is to do a bunch of spring half marathons and shorter races, working on getting back some of my speed. And then I’d like to train for another full marathon next fall! I’m thinking the Marine Corps Marathon this time, because you guys keep raving about it and I’d love to do a DC marathon. :)

IMG_0100

And now, for some accolades, just for fun:

  • Most awesome run: our 20 mile training run. Felt great and seeing a mileage number that started with 2 on my watch was so cool.
  • Hardest run: a 16 miler with Kathleen back in August. It was hot, and this was the first time that we really felt like we were training for a full marathon, not a half. It wasn’t a terrible run, but it was really challenging, and we both finished totally spent. Runner up: a total strugglefest 13 miler, also back in August. Weather makes all the difference for me – it’s interesting to look back and remember how hard those early long runs were, because our more recent even longer runs felt fine, surprisingly. Must remember that next time I run in hot weather and convince myself I’m a terrible runner or that I hate running. ;)
  • Most thoughtful post: The Beauty of an Early Morning Run.
  • Most beautiful running sunrise: this early a.m. 7 miler back in September.

Training for this marathon has been such a journey… it’s so fun to look back on all the training, but I can’t believe it’s over! I’m glad it’s done and I can relax a little, but I’m definitely experiencing some post-marathon blues. It will be good to get some new goals on the calendar. Onward and upward!

IMG_0119

One final thought: another thing that was huge for me while training and running this race was the power of positive thinking. Repeating mantras in my head, reminding myself I can do this, and thinking about how far I’ve come with my running go a long way in terms of keeping my legs moving. There are a ton of articles and research studies out about how much the power of positive thinking really impacts your endurance, and I’ve found it to be true, big time. Stay positive out there and have fun – you really can do this, you just have to believe it; the second you start thinking that it sucks, it will. Another thing I was thinking about while out there running the marathon on Saturday was how I really love the simplicity of running. Life is complicated, so there’s something really beautiful in the fact that with running, all you have to do is keep moving your legs, and you will get to where you want to be. Nothing less, nothing more. It might not always be easy to keep going, but as long as you don’t give up, you WILL get there. And that’s pretty amazing.

So now, a question for you guys: when can I run again?! :) My legs are starting to feel normal again today (Sunday and Monday especially I was SO SORE). On Monday morning, I did a low key swim and some walking later in the day. Yesterday I did some light elliptical and walking. Today I’m doing a not too intense yoga class. Tomorrow, maybe another yoga class? Friday morning, I was thinking of doing a light, easy run (3, maybe 4 miles) with a friend. Too soon?

Want to read all my previous marathon training long run recaps? Click here: marathon training – that will pull up all the posts I tagged as marathon training related. And in the future, you can find that link on my right blog sidebar in my “categories” drop down menu.

Comments

  1. 1

    yayy congrats again! I’m hoping to do my first full next fall (definitely Marine Corps of Baltimore)…but I’m leaning towards MCM because I’ve heard such amazing things about it! :)

  2. 2

    So impressive! You go girl!

  3. 3

    I’d listen to your body! Today wouldn’t hurt to get in a slowww 1-2 miles. Just take it easy. If your body feels okay, take tomorrow as an RD, then go out for another 1-2 miles on Friday. Just ease back into running. Congrats again on the finish!!

  4. 6

    Wow I really enjoyed reading your marathon reflections. I’ve only done a couple of half marathons myself, and have told myself I’ll never do a full, but I can’t promise that will be true haha. I’ve been running consistently for 14 years, and have only started to incorporate distance during the past couple of years. It was really interesting seeing your perspective as a first-time marathon runner. Congrats! You accomplished something some of us are still dreaming about.

    PS—I live in Texas and I always convince myself I’m a horrible runner during the summer months because it’s just so difficult. Glad to know I’m not alone! :)

  5. 8

    I was extremely sore for two days after my first marathon, too, but I took long walks every morning to speed up recovery. I waited about a week before trying to run. It felt like a long wait and I couldn’t wait to get back to running! Even when the soreness goes away, your legs still get fatigued more easily, so definitely take it easy for at least two weeks!

  6. 9

    As I am training for my 1st Full currently I came across this post and I am so glad I did.
    I am emailing it to myself for days when my motivation is low so I can see what I have to look forward too. 73 days and counting 2-2-14 RockNRoll New Orleans! My 1st Full!

    Congrats to you!

  7. 11

    Ok, this is my most favorite post of yours, because I resemble and use so many of the training attitudes and processes you do (icing, foam roller-ing, saying ‘never’ to a full :) , need a rest day before a long run, and ONLY wanting to do 3 runs/week in training for a full!) Of course, after doing my 1st half last month, I now have my sights set on a full in 10/14! And that is in part being inspired by you, because we are capable (I’m learning) of SO much more than we think we are!

    Love your philosophy of eating, too, and I tried to do that intuitive method all the way through my 1/2 training – and maintaining, not losing weight was fine by me! I will most definitely be saving this post to inspire, motivate, and keep me focused as I begin my own marathon journey in March or so! Also daunted by “heat-running” as I call it – I’m in St Louis, and we get muggy, humid, HOT summers, and then we vaca to FL where it’s just as bad if not worse, so I completely agree with not getting down on yourself on those long, hot runs in terms of pace.

    As to your question, as I’ve been researching, I have heard at least a week of NO running after a marathon and I know for me, as a 45 yr old runner and more injury prone, I’m sure I’ll do at least that much time off afterwards. I’ve read that even when you “feel” perfect and good to go, your body is still recovering! :)

    All the best ,
    Tricia

    • 12

      I love that you said we are capable of so much more than we think we are – SO true! My mom was reminding me when I used to say I “couldn’t” do 5 miles. How things change! It’s amazing how far a couple years, some training, and a lot of believing in yourself will get you. That’s great you want to do your first full in 2014 – good luck! :)

      • 13

        Absolutely! when I was doing the C25K program a couple years ago, I couldn’t even conceive of a long run of 10 miles, or even 6, for that matter! :) I even told a friend I would ‘never’ do a 10K, and then fast-forward a couple of years, and I completed a half marathon! ha! So I think I have finally learned not to limit myself…………

  8. 14

    Hi Anne,

    Congratulations! I bet you are still on a high from finishing the marathon. I completed my first marathon back in June this year. I remember feeling quite deflated for a few days after it was over so that’s normal I’d say! In terms of when to run again, there is so much advice out there. Some say take a rest day for every mile you ran (so, 26) I took a week off from everything then went back in with a gentle 2 mile run. I think it really depends on the individual, I’d say go with how you feel and if it feels okay then run (but I wouldn’t go far this week). I used a Hal Higdon training plan (it was excellent) and here’s a link to his suggested recovery program http://www.halhigdon.com/training/51152/Post-Marathon-Zero-Week-Training-Program
    Congrats again – awesome job!

    Abi

  9. 16

    Nice post! The fact that you trained for your marathon while only running 3 days a week makes me hopeful that I might be able to do the same someday. I find that too many days of running a week makes me prone to injury so my weekly workout schedule is pretty similar to yours

  10. 17

    Congrats on your first full and welcome to the club! I HIGHLY recommend the MCM, but be aware that for 2014, they are doing a lottery system so have a plan b in the works – like Chitown! Also in terms of recovery, after the MCM I was great by Tuesday and took it suppeerr easy with the elliptical and some short runs. I actually googled a bajillion different articles because without a training plan to follow, I felt so lost! There are so many different theories from taking off a day for every mile you did, to getting in an easy run the day after. Just listen to your body. I will say, I tried to get back to my Body Pump class (amazing class which you should check out at some point) on the following Thursday (so about a week and a half post marathon) because I was feeling so great. Doing lunges was insanely tough. And not tough in the good way muscle building way, more like in the “oh yeah, you DID just run a marathon and your quads are still in pieces” kind of way. So my advice would be to simply respect the distance you covered… and then wait another week before getting back at it. :)

    • 18

      Oh I forgot they were doing a lottery next year! Hmmm… if I do it I was thinking I’d like to run it for a charity – does that entail the lottery system, too? Thanks for the tips! :)

      • 19

        Charity is a great way to do MCM – and a LOT easier (even when it wasn’t lottery style). Usually charities are confirmed around March. Fundraising levels run the gamut, but the way the MCM manages the charities and their tents pre/post race is great! I highly recommend it (and not just because I ran the ACS event for MCM! :)

      • 21

        Anne, I read on the MCM site that if you sign up (apparently a limited registration in February) for the 17.75k (random distance) the MCM organization puts on in April, finishers get auto entry into the marathon in October.

        I’m considering doing that myself.

        • 22

          That is an extremely random distance, ha! Thanks for the heads up! I still think I might go the charity route – I don’t think you have to do the lottery then.

  11. 23

    Oh! Forgot to ask one question above in my post- how long was your ‘mid distance’ run, typically?

    • 24

      It varied depending on the week, but usually between 4 and 10. For more specifics, you can see all my runs logged over at DailyMile.com!

  12. 25

    Very helpful thanks :) I’m trying to practice an intuitive approach too, hardest part is giving up the fear of food and the guilt but I’m getting there :)

  13. 27

    Way to go, girl!!! Long distance running is addicting and I feel the same way, the weather makes a huge difference on how I feel on a long run.

  14. 28

    Hey Anne! I’ve never run a marathon, but I saw this “zero week” training program on Hal Higdon’s website. He says you can run the Thursday after a marathon, so I bet you’ll be good! http://www.halhigdon.com/training/51152/Post-Marathon-Zero-Week-Training-Program

  15. 30

    Love this recap! I can’t walk until Wednesday following a marathon. I say this weekend would be fine to do a short, slow run if you want.

  16. 31

    I love this post! I love that you followed what worked for you and how you listened to your body. I’m also one who said I was just running 1 half marathon and never a full – now 9 halfs later I’m thinking a lot about doing a full :) Congrats again!!

  17. 33

    Woohoo! This will be cool to look back on in the future so you can remember all of your training. I’m definitely a low-mileage runner too. Even while running my fastest time!

    The year I qualified for boston (3:35 marathon) I was running 25-35 miles/week and when I did my fastest half (1:35) I was sticking around 20 miles/week. We seem to be very similar in that way!

    • 34

      Wow – I didn’t know that! That’s awesome. I feel like so many other people do WAY more mileage… we have to remember that what’s important is what works for us, not others! :)

    • 35

      That is very encouraging, because I tend to get injured when I add too many miles/week – it’s nice to know that it’s not a ‘given’ that you have to do mega-miles in a week to succeed! :)

  18. 36

    Great post! I like your point about the 22 miler. I didn’t do one for my first (only 2 20 milers), and at the time I thought it was enough, I feel like I could have benefited mentally from having those extra 2 miles under my belt. Also, when I ran my first, I waited until the Saturday after the race (my race was on a Sunday) to run , and that was after several days of total rest since I was pretty beat up after the race. If you feel up to a short, easy, slow run tomorrow or Friday, I’d say go for it!

  19. 37

    Great post!!! Wouldn’t even of thought of taking the ibuprofen. How long would you ice for at a time?

  20. 38

    Ughhh…reading this post and all of the comments is the opposite of what I needed right now. I already had a little voice inside my head suggesting I do a full, and now I have to read this and see how awesome it was for you and for others! ;) Two years ago I couldn’t even run a mile which was really embarrassing for me so I decided to do the ‘Couch to 5k’ plan. The whole time I thought doing anything more than a 5k warranted a one-way ticket to crazy town. After running two 5ks, I kind of caught the bug and thought I’d do a 10k and that anything more than a 10k was crazy. I don’t know how in the world it happened, but I somehow let myself be roped into doing a half last fall. I did my 2nd half this year. I feel like I need a new challenge, and while I can’t say for sure it will be a full, I also can’t say ‘never,’ as I said until I was blue in the face that I’d NEVER do more than a 5k. We are definitely capable of doing more than we imagine. :) (including writing a novel of a comment)

  21. 41

    When I run my first full, I want to follow a similar training plan. Thanks for the insights. Really enjoyed reading about your experience.

  22. 42

    I just signed up for my first full marathon (literally about 30 minutes ago) then read this post. Thanks for sharing your journey! I’m super nervous & excited at the same time for my adventure into full marathon training.

  23. 44
    Laura @ Sneakers and Spatulas says:

    I think an easy run on Friday would be a nice way to start running after the marathon. Just take it nice and slow!!

    Are you doing the Nike half marathon again this year? I see the price jumped up to $175 so I decided not to sign up this year. I signed up for the Tar Heel 10 Miler in Chapel Hill instead for the same weekend for just $38. Big savings!! I’m a little bummed to miss the Nike half but it was just too much for me to justify this year.

  24. 46

    Congratulations on your marathon.

    And Thanks for bringing us along!

  25. 47

    Great post! I’ve never considered myself to be a huge fan of long distances, but you make it sound super tempting. I may have to sign up for a half!

  26. 48
    Roadrunner says:

    Awesome post, Anne. Thanks. Really well done -

  27. 49

    This is such a great post. 1st of all congrats on your first marathon, you did awesome! Second I love that you really stayed true to yourself and what worked/didn’t work for you. Running (especially your first marathon) it’s hard not to get caught up in what you THINK you need to do based on what others are doing. You succeeded because you trained and worked out the way you know works for you, and because you ran your own race without worry about everything else…that my friend, makes you an awesome and smart runner!

  28. 51

    Congrats again!! Where do you do your swims? Is it a part of a gym or this there a free on in Arlington? I have a pool at my building but it’s only open in the summer!

    • 52

      I go to Washington & Lee pool – not free, but not too pricey!

      • 53

        Thanks! I might have to check their pool out! I’m thinking about signing up for my second half in April and would really like to swim some in addition to the training runs. I hate the elliptical and don’t love the bike. I think that might help with the “upper body strength” situation too like you mentioned. I lost like all upper body strength when I trained for my last one and am still paying for it every time I weight train now nearly 3 months later!

  29. 55

    WOW! What a really great reflection of your journey! Thanks for sharing such detailed info about your plan. I actually always train for marathons running just 3 and maybe 4 times a week (sometimes the 4th run is just a 3 mile easy run the day after my long run) but I’m TERRIBLE about getting my cross training in.
    I think your thoughts of a few easy miles by weeks end sounds quite reasonable.
    Congrats again on such a wonderful first marathon. You rocked it!

  30. 56

    You are SO right about the power of positive thinking! It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you put your mind to it, in running and beyond! :) Repeating those “you can do it” mantras pushed me to the finish line of my first marathon in NYC earlier this month! Congrats on your accomplishment and happy running! :)

  31. 58

    Congratulations on your first marathon! Thanks for sharing your journey – it has been very inspirational. I broke my ankle while training for MCM this fall — it would have been my first full marathon. I’ve done a few half marathons and 10 milers so I was pretty excited to run my first fulI. It has been 3 months since my surgery and I’ve been cleared to start jogging. I’m a bit nervous but I know I have to set aside my fear and get out there. I’ve targeted a 10 miler race in April as a goal and then finally I will tackle MCM in October! I’m sure I will be go back to your marathon blogs for tips and motivation during my journey. Also…I love your protein pancake recipe….it’s one of my favs!!

    • 59

      I’m so sorry to hear about your ankle! Good luck getting back into it and have fun – I’m sure it will be hard at first but you’ll be back at it in no time. :)

  32. 60

    As someone three weeks out from my first marathon I came across your wonderful site in the course of my research on what to expect. Congratulations on your achievement! It was great to read through all your preparations and then see how the big day went. I can certainly relate to a lot of what you have written, myself having progressed from not being able to run three minutes, to 6k runs, to being bullied into my first half marathon two years ago. I loved it of course, but swore I would never attempt a full. :) So glad I am though, and I genuinely can’t wait for race day!

    Thanks again for all your experiences, and keep on running!

  33. 62

    I’m so glad I stumbled upon your blog. I’ve just decided I’d like to do a full marathon this fall and the race I’m aiming for is Richmond!!
    I’ll definitely check out more of your posts about your training bc I’m a 3 runs per week gal too and love the Run Less, Run Faster book.
    What did you think about the course as a first-time marathoner? I know the race is labeled as the “America’s friendliest marathon,” so I’m hoping it’s a good one to tackle for my first. Any big hills or surprises to look out for?

    • 63

      I loved it as a first timer and hope you will too! Nice course and great support. My only advice is to stay in a hotel walking distance to the start line. That made race morning so easy!!

  34. 64

    I have long followed your blog, and am training for my first full in October – I have saved/bookmarked this to read over a few times, as I am in that ‘tough’ spot now of longer, hotter runs in the 80′s with high humidity, and need that kick to remind myself I can do this, and that this heat will make me stronger in the fall! I also bought the same Nathan vest you have and LOVE it – people in my area do shorter runs so I do get some looks, but I just knocked out a 17 mile run (e-coaching w/ Jeff Galloway so the runs are longer earlier) and NEEDED that water- 82 and 80% humidity – !! thanks again for all your shared, as I find our training (3-4 days/week max) and fueling (margarita shot blocks/granola bar at the very end) are super similar! :)

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