Welcome to the Way Back Time Machine! This is a two part-er, consolidating my posts from my first marathon training in 2014. Follow my highs and lows as I train for my first long distance race. It’s long, but if you’re considering a similar journey, perhaps you will find it helpful.

First Marathon Training, Pt 1

The starting line

The starting line

After a year of sedentary living, I was ready to attempt exercise again. It was a slow decision. Due to unhealthy habits, life stressors, and a underactive thyroid, I was 25 lbs overweight and the thought of eating healthy, losing weight, and exercising all at once felt overwhelming. I started by treating my thyroid and restricting my calories. After 5 months, I had lost 20 lbs and was mentally ready to try exercise again.

Running a marathon felt like a huge, scary feat, but I wanted to try. I had run a 10K race before, and had poorly ran 9 miles once. I didn’t really know what I was getting into when I signed up in January for a November marathon (and I don’t recommend a marathon your first year). I just knew I wanted to make a change and I thought a big race would motivate me. I began building up my mileage. I got injured April-June. I recovered barely in time to start a marathon training program in July.

First Marathon Training Start

July 9First Marathon Training Schedule

Truly scary to think I’m 18 weeks away from a marathon — but here it is. This is the first week of official marathon training using Hal Higdon’s Novice 1 Marathon Training Program. At the start of this, Novice 2 was my goal, but an April-June injury has left me ill-prepared. To be honest, I’m not even ready for Novice 1. I’m actually struggling to wrap my mind around my 6 mile run this weekend (and the 9 mile run on week 4). I think if I can get those miles under my belt, I might just make it.

Week 4: Today was an excellent running day

July 31

First marathon training Oakley

Oakley dog

Oakley, our new 9-year-old deaf Australian Cattle Dog, ran his longest so far of 4.13 miles today.

Honestly, these first few weeks I’ve been kind of sloppily going about my runs and not caring how I recover (and then wondering why my runs are so hard).

I need to focus on supporting my runs with proper stretching, hydration, RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation), nutrition, and maybe eventually some cross-training. 100 days until the marathon; I need to take it seriously.

Last week was a cut-back week on miles, and it didn’t really feel good. But this week, I feel ready to tackle the increase. 9 mile long run coming up and I’m already excited about the route I’m going to try. Here’s to new adventures.

I’ve learned that I always feel bad on cut-back weeks (weeks with lower mileage), but it prepares me to feel excellent for the next jump in miles.

Week 7: A successful 12

August 25

First Marathon Training Heron on Trail

Heron on Trail

Friday I matched my longest run with 12 miles. If you remember last time I ran 12 miles, I did it on a treadmill and injured myself. Friday I did neither of those things. I ran on a trail along the Savannah River on McQueen’s Island (an island between Savannah and Tybee Island). Little crabs scuttled away from my feet on the 6 mile long trail.

Things were going well the first three miles. I was averaging about 11:15/mi. Suddenly, I was being dive bombed by biting flies. I ran 10:13/mi for mile 4. The next few miles I also ran too fast. I imagined they were speedy little zombies. By the time I got out of the bugs, it was hot and I was very, very tired. Mile 9 and 11 were 15 min and 16 min.

In the end I averaged 12:04 pace and it took 2 hours and 25 minutes to complete. I’m a little worried about my marathon time, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

A few hours later I was on a plane to Massachusetts for a wedding. I didn’t check the weather when I was out running, but by the time I was on the plane heat index was 117F.

I felt proud after this run, but nervous that long runs would now be entering into untried distances.

Week 8: I ran a half marathon

August 30

First Marathon training Never give up

Never give up

Saw this sign in a neighborhood on my last mile. Very fitting.

I ran half of a marathon through midtown and part of downtown Savannah. It took me 2 hr and 55 minutes and was the longest time and distance I’ve ever run. I definitely feel much more sore/tight than I did the days after my 12 mile trail run.

I had to repeatedly stop myself from multiplying my time by 2 to seek a minimum marathon time. I was nervous and embarrassed about my potential finishing time, but that had stopped me in the past, and I wasn’t going to let it now. 

Week 11: Ran to River Street

Sept 21

First Marathon training Talmadge Bridge

Talmadge Bridge

All of the runners on the road were in a great mood, because the weather was awesome. It was about 66 degrees with a slight breeze when I started and even when I finished at noon, it was only 81.

I ran down Bull Street through a bunch of lovely squares and this time, made it to River Street. Reaching River Street made me so happy. I ran down River Street, Bay Street, and then returned to Bull Street, dodging many tourists along the way. I had a lot of fun.

I got progressively faster my last four miles back home and once again my last mile was the fastest at 10 min, 30 sec. I ran 16 miles in 3 hours and 10 minutes, which was only 15 minutes longer than the half marathon I did Week 8. I also carried a small child through a wildlife preserve with lions to get her medical help (Zombies, Run app).

A definite high for me to make it to River Street! While difficult, the long runs were definitely my favorite. The first time around there is always that, “I’ve never run this far. Can I run this far?” in the back (or front) of your mind. It is exciting to learn the answer.

Care for Yourself

Sept 22 & 25

First Marathon Training Food

Burger, fries, and beer

We recently bought a fancy sleep number bed and I’ve slept on a firm setting, but the long runs are changing that. I woke up four hours in, so stiff and sore. And also hungry. I ate a snack, softened the bed, and uncomfortably got back to sleep.

In the morning, I hobbled down the stairs, made coffee, and did some yoga to try to loosen up. Oakley is not a fan of yoga. He did not take part. My body hasn’t been recovering or responding the way I’d like. This week has been kinda blah, gaining weight, and feeling sluggish.

Why is that? Possibly because I’ve fed myself junk the past two weeks, not gotten enough sleep, pretended warm stretches and a massage stick replaces yoga class, and went against my instincts to throw TF out of the house when he got sick.

How do I help myself? I guess by going to the store after work and buying something to put in the fridge that isn’t leftover Chinese food or birthday cake…

Week 12: Falling apart during 12 miles

Sept 27

First Marathon training 12 miles

Daffin Park

Carb-loading is not a joke.

I almost bonked on my long run today after (not purposefully) eating low carb yesterday.

Your body stores glucose/carbohydrates as glycogen for fuel. Bonking, also known as “hitting the wall” occurs when you deplete your glycogen stores in your liver and muscles, leaving you with sudden fatigue and loss of energy.

6 miles in, I was feeling a little tired. I scarfed down some crackers and a gel, but it was too late. Mid-stride, my body abruptly demanded I stop running. I slowed to a walk. I felt hungry and weak. My body was clearing saying: “You just burned through your oatmeal and you ate mostly salad yesterday. You’re kind of dumb”.

I pulled through, but it is not something I plan on repeating. The immediate loss of energy was disconcerting.

That day, I learned to prepare the night before and day-of for any workout over an hour.

My first marathon training taught me a lot. First, I learned running and nutrition basics. But second, I learned me. My first marathon training taught me volumes on self-care, naps, intrinsic motivation, endurance, and my ability to do hard things.

Read here for Part 2 where I deal with knee pain, the 20 mile run, and the dreaded taper.