Marathon Training Update #1

Happy New Year! Hello, 2021, it is nice to meet you at last!

Today I want to give my first update on my plan to train for and run a marathon. I shall write these updates this periodically until the special date (April 18th).

Note: this plan is a work in progress. I may adjust it as I go.

The Plan

Currently, I am aiming to run a Marathon on Sunday, April 18th. As of now, this is not an official race. I will be doing it on my own (unless some other people decide to join in, or cheer me on 😉 ). The plan is to take my familiar route along the America River past Sacramento State and past William Pond Park. That’s 13 miles out, and then I will come back. This is the same route (only longer) I took to do my 20 milers:

The planned route (going there and back)

I read Hal Higdon’s “Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide” and am using it as my marathon training coach. I’ve also started using his app, though it remains to be seen how I will take to it (see comments below).

So far, I’m still adjusting to the idea of a brand new training schedule. Higdon’s programs are eighteen weeks (you can view them here), and he suggests that people who haven’t run a marathon before use one of his Novice level training programs. The Novice 2 level seems pretty good for me, though I have a few reservations:

What I like about the Novice 2 level:

  • The Saturday long runs slowly progress up to 20 miles, three weeks before the marathon. This is similar to how I worked up to my first 20-miler last year.
  • The weekly and monthly total mileage ends up being comparable to what I’m used to (about 35 miles/week).
  • Overall, the program seems like a logical next step in my running development. The program is not overly challenging, and that’s ok especially since the goal right now is to finish the marathon and feel good about the process. I can work on faster times etc later. For now, I’m satisfied to take on a more conservative approach that feels good.

What I don’t like about the Novice 2 level:

  • It is based around only 4 days a week of running. This is one day fewer than the 5 days per week I have been doing the past few months for my own mental well-being during this Pandemic-era stay-at-home lifestyle! I am supposed at how emotional I feel about this: I am reluctant to take an extra day off, as I rely on my runs to help me stay in good spirits.
  • Using the app at least, I have been a bit irritated that it admonishes me for running to long or too fast.* “Slow down!” it says, since all the suggested times and distances are built around it being a novice program and me saying that I wish to run the marathon at conservative 9:04 min/mile (I averaged 8:45 min/mile across 1350 miles in 2020).
  • Overall, I’m feeling a bit of consternation around changing my running routine after doing my own thing for so long.

In conclusion:

I am currently sticking with the Novice 2 Level program**. But I am thinking about adding an optional extra running day, perhaps only a few miles, especially earlier on in the program when the weekly miles are low.

I’m committed to doing my training right and having a great experience. Yet I feel a need to make some sensible adjustments to this program so I can be satisfied, since after all, the program was probably designed for less accomplished runners than I. Not to mention, it was written before the Pandemic. We runners gotta stay sane (as well as train smart)!

Overall, I’m optimistic that this process will work out all around. I will write another update sometime soon.

*The app even gave me a “D+” for exceeding the suggested run length and distances for this week! It’s surprising me how badly I am reacting to this. But then again, ever the perfectionist I am, worrying about getting good grades 🙁 (Hopefully I will be laughing about this one day).

**The Intermediate I marathon program is much harder and doesn’t feel right for me yet. It includes weekend runs on both Saturday and Sunday and much more mileage. I’ll save that for another time!

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