Friday, February 13, 2009

how not to train for a marathon

the 2009 myrtle beach marathon weekend is here, and once again i find myself reminiscing about my own mbm experience. myrtle beach was my first marathon back in 2006, and i was a cocky little college senior at the ripe old age of 21. i was nervous as heck in the days leading up to the race but i continued to tell myself i would bq, no problem.

start of the '06 mb marathon. i'm in the gray shirt by the barricade.

to cut the suspense - i, of course, did not bq. i ran a 4:03:26 (9:18 avg pace). i did run the first half in 1:46:40 though (an 8:08 pace), and clearly died somewhere around mile 16.

how did i get to myrtle beach?
good question! i still ask myself this and i still don't have a really good answer, but i don't regret it at all. i ran cross country my sophomore and junior years of high school, ran periodically through college, and then some time in march of 2005 i began logging my runs (mileage and time). some time after that i decided to run a local 10k, the midnight flight. i ran a crappy time, somehow won my age group, and a few days later decided to run a marathon. yeah, you know, run some 5k's in high school, run a (slow) 10k, what else is the reasonable 'next step'? right, a marathon. on top of that, instead of just aiming to finish and have fun in my first marathon, i wanted a bq.

did i research training plans online? probably, i'm assuming so anyway.

did i follow a training plan? judging by my running log i'm gonna go with not really at all.

so... then what did i do? well, lets assume i went with a typical "18-week" schedule, and managed to turn it into pretty inappropriate marathon training. here's a glimpse at how those 18 weeks went:

week 1: 25.1 miles in 4 days, longest run 6.2 miles, avg pace 8:02

week 2: 32 miles in 5 days, longest run 12 miles, avg pace 8:38
(prior to this 12-miler the longest i had ever run was 9 miles, about 2 months earlier)

week 3: 26.2 miles in 6 days, longest run 6.5 miles, avg pace 9:00

week 4: 26.15 miles in 4 days, longest run 10.2 miles, avg pace 10:05
(i have a feeling some of these "runs" were walks with friends...)

week 5: 11 miles in 2 days, longest run 6 miles, avg pace 8:28
(i was due for a cutback week, right? and cutback means don't run, right?)

week 6: 28.7 miles in 5 days, longest run 6 miles, avg pace 8:19

week 7: 25 miles in 4 days, longest run 10 miles, avg pace 7:52
(apparently i was a much faster runner back then)

week 8: 21.15 miles in 3 days, longest run 8 miles, avg pace 8:02

week 9: 21.5 miles in 4 days, longest run 7 miles, avg pace 8:11
(i must not have gotten the memo about increasing weekly mileage)

week 10: 13.8 miles in 3 days, longest run 6 miles, avg pace 9:01

week 11
: 10.05 miles in 3 days, longest run 6 miles, avg pace 12:14
(fairly certain, or at least hopeful, that the other 2 days were walks and not runs)

week 12
: 14.75 miles in 4 days, longest run 5.25 miles, avg pace 9:16
(what, you didn't know 5.25 miles was a long run in marathon training?)

week 13
: 26.9 miles in 5 days, longest run 7.5 miles, avg pace 9:48

week 14
: 31.75 miles in 5 days, longest run 12 miles, avg pace 9:21

week 15
: 33.3 miles in 5 days, longest run 13 miles, avg pace 8:53
(whoa! two "long" runs in the past two weeks!)

week 16
: 7.1 miles in 2 days, longest run 4 miles, avg pace 9:00
(...i spoke too soon week 15, thanks. yeah this was an impressive week of training. we could call it tapering?)

week 17
: 28.75 miles in 5 days, longest run 6.5 miles, avg pace 8:56

week 18
: 52.51 miles in 7 days, longest run 26.2 miles, avg pace 8:56
(because who doesn't run everyday of the week leading up to marathon day, especially after barely running for the past 18 weeks?)

you're impressed, i know.
as we all know, long runs are the key to marathon training. clearly i failed in this department with 2-12 milers and 1-13 miler. i still remember that 13 miler too, it was fairly warm out and i walked a good bit. but did that stop me from feeling confident in my ability to bq? of course not. i am still pretty impressed that i managed a 4:03 with very little training and very little base. (hey, i have to give myself some kind of credit here.)

(mb '06) recognize these lovely folks?
'cause here we are 3 years later...

jess and her dad ran the myrtle beach half, saw me suffering after the full,
and still decided to sign up to run baltimore with me later that year.
i've been dragging them along on all my great marathoning ideas ever since. :o)

obviously, the marathon did not go so well. i did fine for the first 7 miles, which makes perfect sense as that was about my typical "long" run. i remember talking to an old man early on and telling him i wanted to bq. he said i looked strong and would do great. i'm sure i looked strong at that point, but i still had about 20 or so miles to go. i had this brilliant idea to wear cotton spandex shorts because they'd look cute. major chafage and being unable to shower for the next 3 days was probably not so cute. did i ever run in these shorts before? of course not. i was a huge marathon newbie.

just chuggin' along, trying to not collapse.
quitting was never an option.

i think i died around mile 16 or so. my parents had come down for the race and my dad was telling me all about how i was hitting "the wall" and to just push through it. he said he felt so bad for me because i looked awful (aw, thanks pops), and even ran to a nearby atlanta bread co. to get a bottle of water for me in case i needed some in between the water stations. i remember my whole body ached as i was running, with my lower back screaming the loudest. i walked a lot. when i got to mile 20, everyone around me talked about the whole "only a 10k to go". the relay teams had an exchange point there and it was really disheartening to see fresh legs passing you.

finishing fairly strong, i still had a kick in me.
and yes, i beat green shorts man.

this honduran man commented to me on my chafage during the race.
notice the man behind me as well...
what are you lookin' at pal?

in pain. but i made it.

in spirit of this year's myrtle beach marathon (and half marathon, 5k, and multiple bike rides), i thought i should enlighten everyone on how not to train for the marathon. as you hopefully realize, i have gotten a little bit better at actually training, although it still took a few more attempts at the marathon before i finally admitted to myself that long runs are kind of important. i wish i had done a little more research back then and trained better, but at the same time, i'm kind of proud of my pathetic first marathon. it makes for a good story, and you never forget your first.

good luck to amanda and her hubs (who have both been dedicated to their training) this weekend in the myrtle beach half!


  1. Oh my God! HILARIOUS!

    Even though I could have Paula Radcliffe as my coach, a jet pack, and a system full of crack cocaine and could NEVER get a 4:03 finish, I thoroughly enjoyed your cautionary tale.

    Very cool to see your marathon beginnings and to see how far you have come!

    I have not forgotten about the tag! I will get it done! :o)

  2. great post and an awesome reminder to respect the distance! maybe one day i'll get there (not to bq, but just to take a crack at a full...) Have a great weekend!

  3. WOW!!! lol those training weeks had me giggling :) yikes!

    but seriously wow a 4:03 with no training?!!? that is AMAZING!!

    great story :) thank you for sharing!

  4. 1. I thoroughly enjoyed that - educational and entertaining all at the same time.

    2. I am seriously impressed that you ran your first marathon in 4:03 after that "training" :)

    3. YOU WORE COTTON SPANDEX?!????????

    We all have to learn from our mistakes...

  5. Well, you still beat my first (and only) marathon by over an hour. I did actually use a plan, but wound up injured. I also "carb loaded" for days, and found myself quite constipated. That particular condition went away round about mile 9.

  6. Reminds me of my first marathon plan...let's say I had even less of a plan. My mileage was all tracked on "i bet that was about 10 miles." I think I'll definitely be better off for this one.

    By the way, how does the "pace" mode work. That sounds intriguing.

    and I'm glad you liked the cd

  7. LMAO! That training schedule was, um, interesting.

    And yet, you STILL got a 4:03 finish :)

  8. Wow, great first marathon on so little training. I would love to run Myrtle Beach sometime. THanks for sharing pics!

  9. What a GREAT story. I love it. Life really does have no limits when we're young, does it. :o)

  10. Oh wow, this is pretty funny. TY for sharing! and thanks to Brain for sharing his carbo loading secret technique...wast hat carbo loading or colon loading??

  11. I haven't been able to get a 4:03 even with extensive training, so you are awesome! And while you didn't have a solid distance training for the marathon, you did have a good foundation in running. My first marathon was 7 months after I had started running. And that was at the age of 28! You impress and inspire me!

    But I love that you can see the humor in your training and share it with everyone. That's awesome!

  12. Too funny! Your decision to run the marathon back then was kind of like my decision to do a half-iron. I know I can swim and run. Why not? ha... Loved the training plan too!

  13. i think your time was more than respectable considering! I agree..we need to respect the distance and I often kick myself for "adjusting" the training schedule.

  14. and you still beat my time for a first marathon! i cannot even imagine the chaffage, i'm kind of scared to think about it actually.

    very funny post!

  15. Fun reflective post. While I now train much better for marathons now than I did for my first, I am still learning!

  16. Nice post. It's a feat that you ran a 4:03 with such short distance runs in training. It's a good thing to look back on previous races.

  17. Oh my, that was quite a funny post!I can't believe you never ran longer than 13 miles! I can't imagine the pain you must have been in the last 10 miles. Well others have said it too, but had to add, that 4:03 is still an awesome time. Gosh I trained 2x as hard and only got about 5 min faster. You are a natural runner girl!

  18. LOL at your training and your clothing choices. Thanks for the shout out, we had a great weekend. Are you running any races close to SC in the near future?

  19. thanks everyone, i'm glad you found the humor in my painful first marathon, and i really have come a long way / learned a ton (obviously!).

    @brian - not sure i want to take any nutritional advice from you now...

    @alissa - thanks for reading and for the nice comments! i try to tell myself i have potential looking back on this (and other) less-than spectacular races if i just put in the work, so let's hope we're both on to something. :)

    @amanda - i actually live in the upstate! i may be running the earth day half around here but i'm not sure. i've thought about doing cooper river bridge again but the never-ending crowd kind of deters me from that. i don't really know what/when/where i'll next race - i'm being lazy about making up my mind on even the local ones.

  20. dang, by looking at your workout chart, couldnt tell if you were training for a marathon or a 10k! Yeah, you were crazy back then, and probably crazier now - just crazy smart i guess. my first marathon (in 2005 when I was 37) i averaged maybe 30 miles a week. i did have two 20-milers and an 18-miler, but i still cramped bad for a 4:41 finish. Yikes.

  21. This is really funny! At least you finished.

  22. WOW!! Love the story and the pictures. Amazing what you did without the best training, you are one tough chick..

    FYI I like to post comments on OLD blogs.. HEEHE

  23. So glad you pointed us over to this! LMAO!!! I mean not at how much it killed you but you know what I mean... you've come a long way girl!