Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Learning from my first marathon.

I ran my first and only marathon waaaaay back in 2004. Things were different then and I know more about running and how to train well now than I did then. Since I've gotten some questions recently about marathoning and some of my friends are training for their first marathons, I thought I'd share some thoughts about my first marathon, what I've learned, and what I'm doing differently this time around.

My First Marathon -- 2004 Mohawk Hudson River Marathon


When I trained for my first marathon, I did not have much of a running base. I was an on-and-off runner up until that point and, prior to beginning training, my longest run ever was a 15K race (9.3 miles). That's it! I had run that distance in November 2003, then taken much of the winter off, and was maybe running 12 miles a week before starting the marathon training.

Weekly Runs

My training maxed-out at 33 miles, with most of my weekly mileage hovering around 20-23 miles (holy cow!!). I ran 3-4 times a week, a long run on the weekend and mostly 3-5 milers during the week. My longest run of the training cycle was 20.3 miles (which I ran once) and I ran that 3 weeks before the marathon.

Every run during my marathon training was a solo run. I never ran with others. I just didn't know many runners back then!


Yup, I got injured. Two weeks before the marathon, I went out for a long run in (what was I thinking?) new running shoes. Something went wrong 8 miles in to the run and I hobbled for 2 miles back to my car. My foot felt like it was broken. I had to take most of the following week off and my remaining runs before the marathon were only short, very easy runs.

You can be sure I will never make the new shoes mistake again!



The Marathon

I ran the Mohawk-Hudson River Marathon in Albany, NY. My goal was to finish in 4:20, which would have been 10-minute miles. I finished in 4:12 and felt like a rock star. The last 5 miles or so were as tough as anything I'd ever done and I seriously felt like walking off the course. But I didn't. I finished.

And was proud.

My Upcoming Marathon -- 2012 New Jersey Marathon


In the past 10 months, I've run 3 half-marathons, so I started with a much stronger base this time. I'd kept my mileage up even when not training for a race so I've been able to quickly ramp-up my mileage to around 35 miles a week (it was 37 last week) at this point.

Weekly Runs

This time, I'm running 5 times a week. I have a long run on the weekend, followed by a recovery run the next day. I also do some sort of speed work each week (some races, some pick-ups, some tempo runs, some mile repeats), at least one hilly run, and one or two easy runs. My training plan has me running mostly 35-40 miles a week, with 4 weeks above 40 miles (maxing out at 45). My longest training run will be 20 miles and I will run that distance twice.

My long runs have almost all been with others, including some of these lovely ladies:

From the 2011 13.1 NYC


Prior to starting this training cycle, I messed up my left leg -- my whole hamstring/knee/calf area. I took a little time off in December and I did some at-home rehab. It is mostly healed but I do feel it every now and then so  I try to be careful with that leg and I've been keeping up with the rehab. Other than that . . . so far, so good!


Yup! At least once a week I do some sort of cross-training -- I've been on a kettlebells kick recently and I love it.

The Marathon

I'm running the New Jersey Marathon in May. Stay tuned to see how I do!

*     *     *

I learned a lot from my first marathon and from all of the running I've done in the years since then. I've also read a ton about running, training, and racing.

I believe that the quality of the miles I run is important so I'm making sure to run hills and run speed so my form and economy will be better. I also know more about properly fueling for the run. As I've written about before, I'm trying to eat better, more wholesome foods. That makes a difference. But, I'm sticking mostly to gels on the run because that's about all my body can handle. I can't chew on the run so anything that requires doing so is out.

I'm also very good about rest. When my plan calls for it, that's what I do. I do not want to get injured so I will do everything in my power to make sure I don't.

Will my race go better than last time? We'll see. I had a great first marathon. I crossed the line faster than I expected -- who can complain about that? But, when I look back at my training . . . sheesh . . . what was I thinking? You could file that cycle under "How to run as little as possible and still finish a marathon" and it would not be out of place.

It will be interesting to see how the differences in my training this time around affect my marathon experience and my finish time. I have big goals for this marathon so my hope is that my running smarts will help me to achieve them!

Do you have any lessons learned 
from your first marathon, first race, 
or from when you first started running? 
Hit us up!

~ Felice


JC said...

I'm filing this post under "keepers"! I'm running Hudson Mohawk this year as my first marathon, I'm super nervous!

Base I've got, and will continue to have. I'll have completed 3 halfs this year by then, 5 ever. Still, yikes.

Unknown said...

I've never run a marathon, but I sure have learned A LOT after my first race. Mostly about training (different purposes for different training runs) and learning to trust my training. Also not to try ANYTHING different on race day. ;-)

Julie D said...

So awesome that you ran a marathon in '04!

Well, based on your injury lesson, I will not attempt to make up for training two weeks before my upcoming race!

Evolving Through Running said...

Biggest thing I learned from my first training cycle was the importance of sleep during training. I'm an early morning runner, and wasn't getting to bed early enough so I was a zombie by the time I got to the race. Rest is important in terms of days off, but also in terms of adequate sleep to let your body and mind fully recover between runs.

Good luck in the marathon. You'll definitely be well-prepared.

Angela Doiron said...

Great post. Thanks.

Tina @ Best Body Fitness said...

It's comforting to know that through others I have learned some of these thigns so have been able to apply them to my own training for my first. Hope it works! I'm sure you'll do GREAT on yours! :)

Ericka @ The Sweet Life said...

YES! Nice post. I learned so much from my first marathon. I was so ignorant that I trained without carrying water or food -- yeah, ridiculous! The second+ times around I trained much more smartly with a running plan and proper fuel. However, each time I train, I learn new, helpful things. Can't wait to read about marathon #2!

Tami mommy of Ten said...

You did a great 1st marathon! You will totally rock your second! My first was just sort of a wing it sort of thing. I was a newbie when it came to distances required in the training. I did no cross training and ran 3-4 times a week. I did fine in my marathon and can't complain except I had a lot of energy to kick in the end and feel I could have gone faster. However being my first the goal was to finish. I met really great friends during my first training and am thankful to know them. Amanda certainly was there for me the entire time.
This time around I am trying to fuel better, read more, learn more, train better and cross train as well. The result so far is I feel stonger. It is working. Hopefully no injuries will come. I want to thank you for all the help you have given me along the way.

Marlene said...

I definitely do things waaay differently now that I did when training for my first. I didn't have a schedule AT ALL. I ran a long run most weekends... kind of all over the place with distance. A few short runs during the week, but I would almost always take Monday & Tuesday off after a long run. My how things change!

Unknown said...

I love reading your blog you are am inspiration! Reading your blog while i am on THE cross trainer because of a knee injury! I will take my rest next time and listen to my body ...Good luck with your marathon!

Felice Devine said...

Ness -- Thank you so much! Good luck with your injury!

Angela said...

I really enjoy reading your posts. I'm going to run my first marathon in a few weeks. (the LA Marathon) and I feel like I'm somewhere between the description of your first training cycle and your second. I'm going for about the same pace 4:20 would be a great time to shoot for. I can only dream of doing that well. One question, I've been upping my mileage the last few long runs (15) and at the end of my runs, about the last 2 miles, my legs feel like they are getting really sore. My breathing is fine, but my legs just hurt. Is that normal?

Felice Devine said...

Thanks, Angela!

Some soreness is normal, but you might want to do some strengthening exercises to build them up, if you don't already. Squats, lunges, calf raises -- those will all help you for the marathon and they aren't going to cause too much weight-lifting soreness. Good luck!

Unknown said...

I just found your blog! I'm glad I did. I recently ran three half marathons and decided I want to do a full marathon. My first one will be March, Little Rock, Arkansas Marathon. Their finisher medals are like the size of a salad plate! Anyways, I am serious about training for it even though I didn't train a lof of long runs, but did good with a best of 1:50 for my half. Not sure what time I will finish with. I'm a little competetive and want to go under 4 hrs. So far this week I've put in the most miles ever...31 miles. I'm anxious to hear about your second marathon!

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