Training for My First Marathon

marathon winnerBack in April, about 3 months after my daughter Aryn was born (which happened to coincide with about 3 months of not enough sleep, little exercise, and way too much coffee and junk food to get me through each day) I decided it was time to get my butt off the couch and reinstill some good health habits.  I decided that for the next 40 days I would cut out just about all carbs, limit myself to 2 cups of coffee a day, force myself to go bed at a reasonable hour, and exercise 4 days a week.

At end of the 40 days I had dropped 10 pounds, had a lot more energy, and felt great.  But instead of slacking off at that point, I continued to gradually increase my exercise.  Meanwhile a friend of mine told me she had signed up to run a marathon.  Each week she would tell me how her training was going.  I just couldn’t get the idea of running a marathon out of my mind.  It’s just one of those things I would put on my “life list” (if I had one) – one of those things I’d like to do once in my life.  At 36 years old I know that each year I wait it will only get that much harder to do.  So, finally I could no longer resist the idea, and I signed up to run the Disney Marathon on January 13, 2008.

I figure it would be interesting to blog about the experience.

I hate running, but…
Life is short. Running makes it seem longer.Well, hate may be too strong a word, but I don’t really care much for running.  I find it boring, tedious, and monotonous.  When it comes to exercise, I much prefer playing a sport like soccer or football or biking.  But I love a challenge and that’s what I find compelling about running a marathon.

The second thing I really enjoy about this challenge is figuring out my own training strategy.

  • When I started training I was on a low carb diet, but the marathon training websites I visited recommended a diet of 70% carbohydrates.  Should I totally change my diet right away?
  • I was playing soccer once a week.  Can continue doing that or not?
  • How do I fit a marathon training into an already full schedule of work, family, church, and volunteer work?

Those are just some of the questions I had to figure out.

Training Strategy
When I first started running but before signing up to run the marathon I tried running after work and let me tell you… running at 5 PM in Florida in the Summer is horrible.  At that time of day it’s still almost 90 degrees in the shade.  So, after a few days of that I decided I had to run in the morning.  Since none of the streets immediately outside my neighborhood have streetlights, the best time to run seems to be first light which is a little after 6.

All the training guides I read recommended doing one long run and 3 shorter runs each week, starting small and gradually adding distance to both the long and short runs.  I really didn’t want to give up playing soccer Sunday evenings, so I tried to work my training schedule around it.  I also had a family vacation planned for mid July, so while I was doing general conditioning, I didn’t actually start training for the marathon until I got back from vacation.

Training Log

Here’s a snapshot of my training so far:

Late April through Mid July -General condition. 

Wed July 25 –  Planned to do the long run for the week of 6 miles.  After the first 3-mile loop I felt like I was dying and called it a day.

Fri July 27 – Again attempted to run 6 miles.  I made it 3 miles without stopping, took a water break then alternated running and walking the next 3 miles.  I hard a hard time concentrating at work that day and realized doing the long run on a work day was a bad idea.

Sun July 29 – Played soccer.

Tues July 31 – Decided I would try doing short runs on Tuesday and Thursday with the long run Saturday and soccer Sunday.  Ran 4 miles in 38 about minutes.  (FWIW, I don’t own a watch, just my cell phone that doesn’t show seconds.)

Thurs Aug 2 – Ran 4 miles in about 36 minutes.

Sat Aug 4 – I ran the first 4 miles in 36 miles, took an 8 minute walk/water break, and then started on a 3 minute loop giving myself permission to walk when necessary.  But I found a way to make it all 3 miles without stopping in 30 minutes, for a total of 7 miles in 74 minutes.

Sun Aug 5 – played soccer

Tues Aug 7 – Decided to increase my short runs this week by a half mile and the long run by 1 mile.  Ran 4.5 miles in 39 minutes.

Thurs Aug 9 – Ran 4.5 miles in 38 minutes.

Sat Aug 11 – Ran the first 4.5 miles in 39 minutes, took a 6 minute walk/water break, then ran another 3.5 miles in 35 minutes for a total of 8 miles in 80 minutes.

Tues Aug 13 – Decided to keep my short runs at 4.5 miles this week and increase my long run to 9 miles Saturday.  Ran 4.5 miles in 40 minutes.  Made two dumb mistakes in my training this morning.  First, I stayed up late reading and only got 4.5 hrs sleep.  Second, I couldn’t resist the urge to try to beat my last 4.5 mile time, so I went out too fast, was just dying the last mile, and ended up with a slower time.

Stay tuned for updates throughout the training.  I’ll try to make a short post after each run and continue to talk about other training strategy issues.

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