Day 28: Improving My Marathon/Life Balance

I can personally say that training for and running a marathon has been one of the most fulfilling and satisfying things I have ever done. However–this may sound obvious–it is not easy. And when I say it is not easy, I’m not just talking the physical challenge of four months of training and then that big run at the end. I’m talking about the challenge of balancing marathon training with the rest of life.

I’m still figuring this one out, but I’m hoping that with Marathon #3 I can get closer to getting it right.

First a little background. As it turned out, 2021 was the best year possible for me to train for my first marathon. As the year began, our world was still in shutdown mode due to the Pandemic. I had literally nothing else going on besides piano teaching, and that was mostly on weekday afternoons and evenings. My weekends were basically free. My wife and I stayed home pretty much all the time. Finally, I started the year riding a wave of positive energy around running from a triumphant 2020 running year. All in all, taking on my first marathon was a no-brainer 🙂

The second marathon in the Fall started out with a similar wave of positivity and was equally triumphant. I trained with a group and had a lot of fun socializing with other runners. Nonetheless, some cracks in the armor showed. As I started to get busier with other (music-related) activities, there were a few scary moments where I worried about my ability to juggle marathon training with other priorities.

The first incident was when I went to Berkeley to record my piano album. I had ambitions of recording my sixteen solo piano compositions (to my exacting standards) in one day. I almost did it, too, but I got really tired while we were recording after lunch.* This spooked me, primarily because I put so much pressure on myself to finish the album in one day and suddenly it felt like I wouldn’t be able to. Happily, I scheduled a second recording session six weeks later, where I got the rest of the album recorded to my satisfaction.

The second experience was a Holiday show I did after Thanksgiving. This is a wonderful client who has become a friend of mine. She has had me play for her parties for numerous years, and I always enjoy playing and singing rock n roll tunes with her and her friends. For last year’s gig, I figured it would be okay that I had run “only” 9 miles that day. However, towards the end of that party, I was completely drained, much more than I ever remember happening at a gig. It was uncomfortable to have to tell the host that I needed to get going. I could feel myself having… no… energy… left.

On both of these occasions, things worked out fine. But it bothered me to get tired like I did. I feared losing control, being unable to accomplish what I wanted to accomplish professionally. It was clear that my training schedule had affected my extra energy for other things. Even though nothing bad happened, I was very uncomfortable with these experiences.

On a related note, marathon training is designed to be followed religiously for four to six months. Any deviation from this plan can get complicated. For instance, on the two weekends I went to the recording studio, I scheduled my long runs to be the day after or several days before the session. While this worked out fairly well, it was logistically challenging, requiring me to plan days in advance, hoping for benefit that didn’t completely pan out.

I’m hoping time around that using the Galloway marathon training program will help me balance out running with the rest of my life. Not only does it incorporate walk breaks, which should help ease the process, but also the still-formidable training schedule seems mellower, with more space for rest (and other activities) built in.

The table below compares the weekend long runs of this year’s and last year’s training programs leading up to the California International Marathon (“CIM”):

Weeks until CIMLast Year’s Weekend Long Runs (2021)This Year’s Weekend Long Runs (2022)
178 miles15 miles
1610 miles4 x 1 mile repeats*
1512 miles17 miles
1413 miles6 x 1 mile repeats
1314 miles20 miles
1215 miles8 x 1 mile repeats
1116 miles7 miles (with “Magic Mile”)
1014 miles23 miles
915 miles 10 x 1 mile repeats
815 miles7 miles (with “Magic Mile”)
716 miles26 miles
618 miles (I went 20!)12 x 1 mile repeats
516 miles7 miles (with “Magic Mile”)
420 miles29 miles
316 miles14 x 1 mile repeats
214 miles10 miles
110 miles7 miles

As you can see, last year’s weekend long runs were an unrelenting, multi-month string of double digit weekend runs climbing to 20 miles four weeks before the marathon. In contrast, while this year’s training schedule contains four 20+ mile training runs, notice they are spread out every three weeks. Also, these runs are designed with liberal walking breaks in mind to make them easier (and to make recovery faster).

The mile repeats are basically speed workouts, where I will be training for my intended marathon pace (I’m currently aiming for a 3:45 time). These workouts will grow progressively more challenging as I do more mile repeats each time. However, I will be taking liberal walk breaks between them, and, if need be, I can relax my time goals so I run a bit slower.

As for the Magic Mile runs, that is a unique feature of Galloway’s program I have never done before. It is basically a time trail, where you run about as fast as you can for a mile, and from there, you calculate what your projected marathon time ought to be. What I like about this is that, as you can see, the total run is only 7 miles, which, even with a FAST mile in the middle, is relatively light compared to 15 or 16 miles I ran for a corresponding weekend last year.

While I take nothing for granted about this year’s training program, it feels good to think that I might have a bit more wiggle room on some weekends for other gigs and activities. Last night my wife and I went to a music show with a friend. We got back by 10pm. Tonight we are going to a play. These outings are much more comfortable for me this weekend, when today’s run was only 9 miles, than they would be, say, next weekend, when I will be doing 15.

I’m hoping that this sort of thing will help me improve my marathon/life balance 🙂

*Marathon training was not the one factor in me getting tired at the recording studio. There was also the fact that I hadn’t performed in public in a year and a half, and the fact that I honestly expected to go into the recording studio and single-handedly record an entire album in one day. The deck was somewhat stacked against me going in. Sigh. Live and learn.

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