Day 14: Walk-Running My Way to Marathon #3

This morning at 6am, I stood outside our flat, donned in the same gear I wore on many a weekend morning last year: light moisture-wicking t-shirt, baseball cap, shorts, running socks and shoes, and a “bladder” pack containing a liter of water strapped around my back. I was suited up for this morning’s eleven-mile run, as I am (once again) in the middle of training for a marathon.

The marathon in question is still four and a half months away. Yet I am in week 7 of training. That’s because I’m in a six-month marathon training program. I admit, prior to today’s run, the program was a bit mellow for my tastes, prescribing about twenty miles of running a week, when I was averaging nearly thirty miles per week before (I compromised by doing twenty-five miles a week). Now however, the program is heating up. Today eleven miles. Next week a thirteen-miler. Two weeks after that, fifteen. Two weeks after that, seventeen. And then the real fun starts: the first of four (count ’em: four!) twenty-plus mile training runs: a twenty-miler, a twenty-three-miler, a twenty-six-miler (that’s right: a whole marathon!), and finally, for good measure, a twenty-nine(!) miler four weeks before the BIG DAY!

I’m starting to feel the excitement 🙂

This is my third time in marathon training. Third marathon, and third running coach. This time, I’m following Jeff Galloway’s marathon training program.

My wife got me Jeff Galloway’s “Marathon: You Can Do It!” for Christmas last year. His approach instantly fascinated me.I decided to go with it for these reasons:

  • I like the idea of the longer, six-month training time table. Last year’s marathon programs, Hal Higdon’s and the Fleet Feet training program, were each eighteen weeks. This time around I want to see what it will be like spreading out the training over more time.
  • I like the idea of the longer training runs. Last year’s programs each culminated in one twenty miler (though I ended up running two of them in the Fall program). I am very curious what it will be like to run a twenty-miler, a twenty-three-miler, a twenty-six-miler (!), and a twenty-nine miler(!!) .
  • Believe it or not, Galloway’s program seems gentler and less intense than the programs I did last year. For one thing, the long runs are generally two or three weeks apart, though some of the runs in between those still will be intense. Last year’s programs featured long runs every weekend for three months in a row. I loved it, but now I’m looking forward to a little more rest between long runs.
  • At the center of Galloway’s program is the walk-run, that is, running interspersed with walking breaks. I have been using this method for the past few months and I’m enjoying it. I’m also curious to see how it will go taking the walking breaks AND aiming to improve upon my last marathon time.
  • It’s possible that the Galloway program, with the walking breaks as its center piece, will allow a quicker recovery after the marathon. The training schedule suggests a long run of up to twenty miles a mere three weeks after the Big Day. In contrast, I followed a five-week recovery program after my marathons last year, and honestly recovery took a bit longer than that. Can taking walk breaks really be so powerful as to allow me to run a twenty-miler three weeks after? Again, let’s find out!
  • The Galloway program calls for four days a week of running. For the past year, I had been running five days a week. The four-day routine works in a little more rest, which is consistent with the gentle approach that appeals to me right now.
  • I think the gentler program will help me balance out running with the rest of my life, especially music-related activities. I love marathon training and wish to make it something I can do again and again going forward.
  • As much as I loved the training group–and I definitely would consider going back to it–I am enjoying training on my own again. There’s a freedom, flexibility, and independence that I really enjoy.

A little more about walk-running. It took me awhile to absorb the notion of taking regular walk breaks during the runs. At first I wasn’t sold on the idea. For me, running was about… running. Not walking. Also, when I first tried the walk breaks out, it seemed physically uncomfortable going from running to walking and back. But my body and mind were still recuperating from the California International Marathon (CIM) at that point, so everything was a bit uncomfortable.

Soon enough, the walk break idea took root. It represents a complete shift in attitude towards marathon training and running a marathon. In fact, it really does fit my slow and steady philosophy! My running has been transforming since my first marathon training, in which I started to slow down so I could run longer. Each phase of marathon training, I am getting a chance to refine my process, and I’m glad to be in this stage of discovery.

So onward into marathon training we go!

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