February and March are two of the toughest months you’ll face during marathon training. For those of you running in Boston, Big Sur, Vermont or the Flying Pig in Cincinnati, these winter months are filled with punishing high mileage weeks. If you can survive marathon training, race day will be a walk in the park. Well, not really. But, it could be worse. Here are some basic survival tips for marathon training.
Mix it Up
Lots of runners lose their mojo about 8 weeks into their marathon training plan. Endurance Dysfunction. The successive long runs begin to take a toll on the spirit as well as the body. To avoid this common trap, mix up your training by throwing in some intervals on the track, or some fartlek on the roads. A little speed can break up the monotony and also liven up the legs. You might even consider taking a cut-back week every month where you reduce the mileage and just run by feel. Sometimes losing the watch and running free for a few days is enough to rekindle the fire.
Another great way to forget about the training plan, is to schedule a run with a friend. If you don’t have any running friends, run with your dog. If you don’t have a dog, well that’s just sad.
My house should be tented and labelled as a quarantine zone. Both my children are suffering from winter colds and congestion. I hope they feel better soon, really soon. I can’t afford to miss a workout and disrupt my training plan. I know it sounds selfish, but if you’re a parent and you’re training for a marathon, you know exactly what I mean. You still love to hug them, but you secretly hold your breath when you do it. Am I right?
So, here’s what I do to stay proactive and keep my guard up. I drink a glass of Emergen-c almost every day. Every afternoon, I drink a cup of hot tea with lemon and honey to soothe my throat. I remind myself to drink plenty of water. I go to bed early and use the DVR extensively. I eat a healthy balanced meal and snack wisely throughout the day. And, when I feel like I might even be close to getting sick, I ask my wife to please make her magical homemade sweet potato stoup.
Another aspect of staying healthy is listening to your body and taking a day off when necessary. If you are running without a coach (like almost everyone), then you have to be sure that the runner in you isn’t steamrolling the coach in you. Ask your ‘running self’ to describe how you’re feeling out loud. If the words were being spoken by another athlete, what would your ‘coaching self’ say? Whatever that advice may be, follow it.
When your marathon training plan begins just after the holidays, April and May seem like dates way off in the distance. But, time goes quickly and every training week is important. So, never waiver in your commitment and always keep your marathon goals front and center. Work, family, and life have a way of disrupting and overriding our running plans. That’s okay, as long as you can be flexible. Maybe the long run gets pushed ahead a day or two, or maybe you run extra early one morning. If you have to miss a couple of days, no biggie. Just focus on completing your quality workout(s) that week.
When I’m struggling to finish a workout, I think about my race. I imagine how I’ll feel at 20 miles, what my split time should be at 10 miles, hearing the crowds cheer, or seeing the faces of my family after I finish. I plan my race strategy, visualize my performance, and allow myself to dream. Each of us has our own motivators, find yours and use it to push through those tough workouts.
Running with a team, or a club can help you stay focused. If you don’t belong to a club, or you prefer to train alone like me, your passion and your discipline must be sky high. I find that writing about my marathon training on this site has helped me tremendously. I thoroughly analyze my runs at the end of each week and stay focused on my race goals. Knowing that others will read my words and judge my performance strengthens my resolve and keeps me accountable. Thank you for that.