Monday Marathon Training
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Monday Marathon Training

Jessica Wagner

I’ve previously mentioned that two of my friends in California, Lydia and Andy, will be running the Big Sur Marathon in 2016.  Lydia ran the 2011 Steamboat Marathon in Colorado, and has done several triathlons over the past few years, but hasn’t ran a full marathon since Steamboat.  Andy did his first full marathon this summer in San Diego, but agreed that he wasn’t as prepared as he could have been.  In preparation for Big Sur, they had a few questions about what’s worked for me and how to best train for a marathon.  These are the questions that they asked me.  Hopefully, they'll help you, too!

(Lydia finishing her first marathon in 2011)

Question (Lydia): The training plan I used for the 2011 Steamboat Marathon is "4 Months to a 4 Hour Marathon" by Runner's World contributing editor Dave Kuehls. It's a day-by-day training schedule based on one long run per week, maxing out at (I believe) 23 miles. It includes a couple paced runs, a track workout, and cardio and strength cross-training every week. I liked it because it was enough variety to keep me from getting bored. But I also did it with a friend which was a HUGE factor for getting me through it.

What types of training plans have you done in the past? Self-created, from another training guide, or a combination?

Answer: I’ve only used a strict training plan once.  I actually prefer to make my own training plan as long as I’m getting the long miles in.  I found that when I used someone else’s plan, I’d get discouraged if I had to move the schedule around or if I wasn’t making the time intervals.  Making a plan catered to my own strengths and preferences worked better since I didn't get discouraged by not following the plan exactly.  My “mental training” is just as important as my physical training and choosing the right plan plays a part in that.  I’d recommend finding a plan close to your goal time, then making it your own.  Just don’t get discouraged if you’re missing time intervals or if you have to swap workouts once in a while.

Q: What are a few things that you think has really helped you run your best marathon (based on time or how you felt)?

A: Here are five tips that I’ve learned about marathon training:

1. Do regular strength training, especially core workouts.  During one of my marathons, my lower back started hurting for the last eight or so miles, partially due to not having a strong core.  A strong core will improve your running posture and keep your lower back from getting too tight over the long runs.  I can’t emphasize that enough!  This core workout is quick and doesn’t require any weights.  You’ll be able to feel the difference within a few days.
2. Don’t slack on the speed work.  Even if you make your own plan, doing speed work is what will give you a faster time.  Try to do at least one speed workout per week.  Yasso 800s are a great way to get in your speed work and predict your marathon time.
3. Run your hills! When I ran the San Diego marathon (which I warned Andy about), there were huge hills in the last 5-6 miles.  I imagine Big Sur will have a lot of elevation changes, so it’s important to get your hills in!  Running around Signal Hill in Long Beach will give you some tough hill training.
4. Don’t overtrain and get plenty of rest before the race.  This has been my biggest mistake when marathon training.  Even though I hadn’t properly trained for my last marathon, this was the first time I didn’t do a 20-mile run a week or two weeks before the race.  In the past, I’ve tired my legs out even before I hit the starting line by doing that.  Taper and give yourself plenty of time (around three weeks) to recover from your last long run.
5. Be positive!  I ran my best marathon with the least training, but I was excited about the race and mentally I was ready for “the wall”.  I looked forward to getting to miles 17-18 when I’d be able to test myself.  Having that perspective made a huge difference.

(After our first triathlon together in California - this was Lydia's first triathlon ever!)

Q: What are some strategies you've found for getting through long runs? I think I remember you saying you listen to podcasts.

A: Last winter, I did a lot of long miles on the treadmill.  That was pretty rough and I wouldn’t recommend it, but I would watch long movies during those runs.  (I think that hurt me when it came to running the actual race anyway.  It wasn’t the same as training outside.)

When you’re on the road, running podcasts, books on tape (I recommend the Mindy Kaling books if you haven't already read them…I’m listening to Bossypants by Tina Fey right now), or a good music playlist will all help get you through those long runs.  For race day, I made a new playlist that corresponded with the emotions I knew I’d be feeling at certain mile markers, and it made a huge difference in how I felt during the race.

Try to get your long runs in during the early morning and out of the way.  There were times when I planned on running in the afternoon then the day got away from me and my 15 mile run turned into a 3 mile run.

Running with friends is also a great way to train, even if they only do a few miles with you during each long run.

Q: What do you use to track your mileage and plan your route for your long runs? (Type A Runners Problems...) I'm thinking about getting a Garmin but it seems there are a lot of running apps that can perform the same (using data or GPS of course).

A: I use two things to track mileage: 1) my Nike watch or 2) the Nike running app on my phone. I would recommend getting a Garmin.  My Nike watch is inaccurate a lot of the times, but if you ever want to run without your phone, it’s nice to have a watch.  Garmins seem to be more accurate and popular among the pros.

As far as planning my routes, I’ve used Map My Run to find routes that other runners have made or Google maps when I’m making my own.  If I’m feeling adventurous, I’ll just start running without a route, but I’ve found that I’m more likely to turn around early when I don’t have a set route.

We’re spoiled with our smartphones now.  I remember being in high school and writing directions on a sticky note that I carried with me.  One of the roads wasn’t labeled so I got lost and ended up doing a couple extra miles.

Q (Andy): Is a 3 day music festival the weekend before the marathon an acceptable alternative for a 4 day music festival? Provided, of course, I drink excessively for the 4th and 5th days before the festival to accommodate the variance in schedule.

(Andy after his first full marathon this year...this picture gives you a glimpse of his personality. ;)

A:  This is an inside joke, since Andy spent the weekend before his marathon at a four-day music festival in Washington.  Funny enough, I went to a music festival the weekend before my last marathon and it didn’t seem to bother me.  In fact, I think it actually helped me take my mind off the race and kept me from running too much that weekend.  Although I wouldn’t recommend making that a pre-marathon ritual, doing something fun the weekend before your race won’t completely sabotage your goal.  Just be sure to hydrate for the rest of the week. ;)

Q: What do you usually do the week before the marathon? Continued exercise lightly, a lot, or not at all to let muscles and joints heal? I've heard both sides.

A: As I previously stated, resting is really important before your race.  If you want to go for short, easy runs the week before the race, that is okay.  More than anything, I recommend a lot of stretching.  Towards the end of the marathon, your muscles will tighten and you’ll be tempted to stop to rest/stretch.  If you’ve been stretching all week and you feel loose, you’re less likely to cramp up near the end.

What I don’t recommend doing is pushing yourself during the last week of training.  I always feel like I need to get that one last tough run in so I feel more secure about my training, but like I said, that’s what will ruin your legs for the race.


(Picture from our trip to Joshua Tree in 2013...Lydia and Andy are both avid hikers, which definitely helps when it comes to marathon training.)

Q: What's the best women's tank to wear during said marathon race?

The Run Life Co. tanks are comfortable and perfect for both training and the actual marathon.  We will also have new designs and at least one men’s top by then! ;)

(At Los Angeles' Made in America in 2014)

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What are your marathon training tips?

When is your next marathon?  Which one is it?

Ever done the Big Sur Marathon before?

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