Well, Marathon The Sequel is in the books! I really enjoyed the Towpath Marathon experience. From the small expo the day before to making new friends at the starting line and the beautiful and serene course, everything was spot on. My time was a personal best for me. I was able to cut 30 minutes off my first marathon time. When I crossed the finish line there was Ebie with one of our dogs waiting for me. Such as different experience than 2015 Chicago Marathon where it seemed like I walked forever through Grant Park to see her and Thomas.
In reflecting on my training, I think that there were a few key moments that really shaped my training this time. I knew in April that I needed to jumpstart my running again. My weight had increased since the first training in 2015. A fall marathon seemed the right choice so that I could give myself the time to build up a good base before starting a training program.
Most of it is in the details but not all
As my running began anew, I really tried to focus on everything that I enjoyed about running instead of sweating every little training detail or the misdiagnosing every little pain that I felt. Those types of concerns shrouded a lot of my training in 2015 and probably drove my wife, my son, my brothers (both marathon finishers) and my doctor a little crazy. I weathered the good training days and the bad never expecting to be perfect.
If it ain’t broke
After a few weeks of 3 mile runs a few days a week, I decided to start a training plan. I had used Hal Higdon’s Novice Plan in 2015 but for some reason, I wanted to see what else was out there. Thinking about it now, it was probably driven more by technology than common sense. Many programs come with great apps to help with the training process. I was not a fan of the Higdon app so I tried the Runners World (RW) plan.
I was able to stick the RW plan for about a month before I realized that it just was not a good fit for me. It had me running 4 or 5 days a week and the mileage increase was pretty quick. So I went back to Higdon and modified it a bit — I recalled that toward the end of my training in 2015, I had reduced the midweek runs from 3 to 2. Due to some scheduling challenges, I had ended up running 6 out of 8 days in July. I could feel the fatigue setting in.
It was then that I concluded the most important thing for my race was being able to master the long weekend runs. I understand that there are good reasons for building up all of that mileage over the 18-week plans or any plans for that matter. Having finished my first marathon pretty injury free, I also knew that what I most wanted was to finish again that way. Pace became a secondary goal.
In 2015, I discovered the Galloway method of run walk run. I can honestly say without Higdon’s plan and Galloway’s approach, I would not have even lined up to start the Chicago Marathon. The run walk run approach helped me stretch out the number of miles and amount of time my body could endure. At first, it is a little ego deflating but once you move beyond that, you realize that it is just a different way to look at interval training. Two years ago, I had settled into a 2 minute running to 1-minute walking ratio. It seemed to work well for my body and produced around a 12-minute mile for me.
As my miles built up this summer, I experimented with a few different ratios. Each attempt was to address my pace a little. Ultimately, I came back to the 2 to 1. It is my comfort zone. My race day strategy would be to try and keep that pace for the first 4 hours or 20 miles. In Chicago, I moved to a 1 to 1 pace around mile 18. The same thing happened during my 20-mile training run in September this year.
During the race this past Sunday, I was able to stretch the 2 to 1 ratio until mile 22. I think this is mostly due to my willing myself to not think about miles or pace but just to compartmentalize each hour into segments that I could easily handle mentally.
All of these decisions played such a significant role in my success on Sunday. Most importantly, I was able to really enjoy this 5 hours and 11 minutes of my life. I must thank my wife, son, doggies and everyone else who supported me in any which way. It is impossible to accomplish these adventures without strong arms around me.