Do the miles. Finish healthy.

Earlier this year, when I registered for a half marathon in June, a 6-day, 400-mile bike ride in August, and a full marathon in October, that combination of events seemed obviously doable. I’d focus on running (with a bit of bike riding) in the spring, switch to intense cycling training (while continuing to run 2-3 times a week) through early August, and then ramp up the running in the latter part of the summer. I’d only have about 9 weeks of serious marathon training, but I’d have a solid baseline of running and cardiovascular fitness that would allow me to quickly work up to a 20+ mile long run.

That was the plan.

The reality was this: After the half marathon in June, I traveled to California for two weeks, where I spent time in air conditioned rooms in the close company of a few thousand other people. I came home with a heavy cold, and couldn’t get excited about either running or cycling until well into July. I then realized that I wouldn’t have time to get properly prepared for the bike ride while also running 2-3 days a week. I had to let go of the running. As of the end of July, therefore, I had run a mere 28 miles since the half marathon.

We did the bike ride, and had a wonderful time. CFL and I were among the slowest riders, but mattered was that we had trained well enough to finish the ride.

When we got home from that, I was fairly exhausted, but there was no time to lose. Let the marathon training begin!

Google “marathon training plan” and you’ll see that there are a lot of them out there. Most of them assume a duration of 16-18 weeks, although you can find 12-week plans.

I had eight and a half weeks.

The only 8-week plans I found assume you are ready to do a 16-mile long run in week 1. In other words, it’s a 16-week schedule with the first half cut off.

Clearly, I’d have to design my own plan. I’d have to focus on quality versus quantity. What’s the least number of miles I can run and still be somewhat ready on race day? And I’d have to center my training on the long runs, working everything else around them.

I developed two simple principles:

  1. Do the miles.
  2. Finish healthy.

I would run 3 times a week. The long runs would follow a simple progression: 12, 14, 16, 18, 16.3 (the psychologically important 26.2 kilometer race simulation run), and 21 miles, followed by a 2-week taper. The mid-week runs would rotate between steady-pace, fast-finish, and rolling-hill runs. There would be no procrastination, no postponements. I’d do whatever it takes to get through the long runs — rest stops, walk breaks, whatever — but I’d always do the miles. And I’d finish each run healthy, with enough in reserve to know that I’d be ready to do the next one.

When I went out for my first serious run on August 12, I’d done so little recent running that I’d actually lost the calluses on my feet. My soles were sore after only five miles. I realized that it would not be enough just to do the running miles. I’d also need to spend easy miles on my feet, walking or hiking, on the non-running days. So I sadly turned away from my bike and committed to doing the miles.

I’m now at the end of week 3. I’ve done the 12-miler and the 14-miler. I’ve done all of my planned shorter mid-week runs so far. On nearly all of the non-running days, I’ve walked — typically 4-6 miles. Today I’ll go out and run 16 miles.

Do the miles. Finish healthy.

Honestly, come race day, the same principles will apply. Do the miles. Finish healthy. If I have a good day, I’ll be a few minutes faster than I was two years ago when I ran my first full marathon. If I’m slower, I’ll still have run a full marathon at age 60 — a feat I couldn’t have imagined at age 50. Either way, I can’t lose!

All I need to do?

Do the miles. Finish healthy.

One step at a time!

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Posted on August 30, 2015, in Running and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. Great post! Check out mine if you could 🙂

  2. Thanks for sharing this! I should take note! I’m sure you’ll do well on this marathon, lots of runners who take up cycling say it improves their running 😊

    • Kerrie, I’d say the cycling has definitely improved my running, at least with respect to endurance. Unlike last year when I had to stop running for seven weeks after breaking my arm, and I lost almost ALL of my endurance during that time, this year the heart and lungs are fine. If I can ride my bike for 9 hours, then running for 4+ should not be all that big of a deal, right?

      My feet aren’t yet in agreement, but I figure if I can just do the miles, the feet will come around.

  3. To maintain such rigorous training and accomplish something so focused and impressive at 60 years of age, when, as you remind, you hadn’t even considered it at 50, is really fabulous, Lori. Your goal to do the miles. Finish healthy! is inspirational, too! I’m sorry you got sick and it disrupted your schedule, but you make very wise adaptations, and cheers for just continuing on! 🙂

  4. I really admire your determination to see this through, I’d have been tempted to ditch the marathon and find another one 8 weeks later so that I could do a 16 week plan! But like you say, you are cardiovascularly fit, it’s just getting the feet trained up! Good luck, from someone who has never run 16 miles ever!😀

    • Hi Mawil1,
      A December marathon in my part of the world would not be any fun… or in yours either, I would think. I did think — for a few seconds — about downgrading to the half, but it really makes sense to just go for it. After all, I know I won’t be competitive, but neither will I get another chance to run a marathon so close to my 60th birthday. I don’t have to be fast, I only have to do the miles!

      • Good luck I’m sure that you can do it! It’s quite mild where I live so I forget that for other people weather is a major issue! But even here I think I’d be hard pressed to find a marathon between November and February! I’m hoping to do my first marathon in time for being 50 next year, so I know how you feel about beating that milestone!

      • Yes, there is something irresistible about doing a big thing like a marathon in a year when your age ends in 0 or 5, isn’t there?

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