Category Archives: running

Running update – how not to train for a marathon

Over a year ago I wrote about running 4 miles for the first time and what a mental challenge that was at the time. Well I’m still at it, and 4 miles doesn’t seem like a big deal, even on a bad day. I’ve run about 10 5K races in the past year, a 4 miler, a 10K and the Flying Pig half marathon. Once I established a regular habit of running 3 or 4 times a week and knocked down a few goals, it just became a part of my life. Always having a next race to train for helps, because there’s always a goal and I’ve always got a training schedule to tell me what to do.

Right now I’m training for the Columbus Marathon on October 17th. Doing the Flying Pig half marathon was such a huge rush that it didn’t take me long to decide to take the next step. The Flying Pig is a very well supported race, with water stops and portable toilets every mile and cheering crowds nearly the whole coarse (even in the rain). I’m hoping Columbus will be similar, but even if it isn’t I’m going to give it a shot. After the Pig I was in the best shape I’ve ever been, so after a month of shorter runs and speed work I started the 18 week marathon training coarse.

It’s just a game of pushing a little harder every week and building distance without going over the edge into injury. It’s easy to focus on speed and race times, but I had to learn early in marathon training that faster isn’t better (except when it is). I’d always run 3 days a week with breaks between, but this schedule calls for 3 short runs in a row midweek, a break then a long run Saturday and cross-train Sunday. I’d never run 3 days in a row before and it was tough. I’d never had to back off on a 3 mile run, but I found out if I kept my pace down I could do 9 miles in 3 days and not hurt myself.

A couple weeks ago I had my biggest challenge yet – 12 miles midweek, followed by a 13 mile long run on Saturday. That’s 25 miles total and a half marathon (almost) as a training run. I’ve been running outside to acclimate to the weather which makes things rough. It’s getting harder to cram runs in before work so I did the first 3 miler on the treadmill. It was cool inside and I’m always impatient on the treadmill so I pushed it hard and did some record mile times. The next 2 days I ran outside and pushed it to see what I could do. I ran my fastest 3 mile time by a full 2 minutes.When I got to the weekend I was feeling tired from all that work, but went into my 13 mile long run feeling confident. I kept the pace at the usual for long runs and did the first 6.5, then turned for the run home. I’d been feeling fatigued the last 2 miles of my long runs, but this time I knew the whole return run would be rough. With 4 miles left to go I felt the knee and hip pain I’m used to near the end of a long run. Two miles left was agony and the last mile it was all I could do to keep going. When I finished there was pain and swelling behind my knee and I had to limp back to the car.

So last week I cut a couple runs short, dropped my pace back to where it should be and rested. By Saturday I was feeling normal, and fortunately my long run was a relatively easy 10 miles. I got plenty of rest and hit it hoping for the best. I cut my pace about 10 seconds per mile from what I’d been doing and blew through the miles with no pain.

So the lesson I need to keep learning is faster isn’t better. Marathons are about endurance. Really, everything is about endurance. The top 5K runners don’t just do 3 mile runs. I don’t know what I was thinking trying to push myself for the hardest training week I’d ever had, in the hottest part of the year. I hope I don’t forget again. Pacing is key, and if ya don’t finish there’s no point in starting. I’m glad I can break 10 minute miles again, but the marathon ain’t about that. I am the tortoise, not the hare, and I will finish the race.

NaBloPoMo is already a fail

Thanks to Linc for pointing out that it’s National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo). I don’t know who comes up with these things, but it’s a good idea I guess. If I had known about it in advance, I might have given it a shot. As it is I’ve already failed, but I’m not too upset. Life is busy.

I guess a quick update wouldn’t hurt. I’m actually enjoying Twitter and hope to write about that in detail at some point. Working from home, it helps me feel I’m more connected to humanity if I can look and see posts going by.

I’m still running a lot and am signed up for the 100th annual Cincy Thanksgiving Day Race, which will be my first 10K. Some new aches and pains lately, but I’m surprised that my body continues to adapt to the increasing levels of stress I’m subjecting it to. I’m not even sore from the 5 mile run I did 2 days ago, when it would have killed me 4 months ago.

I continue to study for my  RCHE exam that I’ll be taking in December. It’s a lot of material to cover, but I’m surprised at how much I already know. 10 years of Linux experience isn’t wasted, and I see now that maintaining a home server has been good practice.

Other than that, I’m just busy. Lots to do and lots to deal with, but I’d rather be busy on what I love than bored and hopeless.

I lived through the Reggae Run!

The Reggae Run in Cincinnati is like a big party with a 5K in the middle of it. It’s a race through a hilly neighborhood with free food, drinks and a reggae band at the end. People show up in reggae hats with fake dreadlocks and various other crazy gear. Last year 8000 people came, and this year they kept saying it was by far the biggest year ever.

Even showing up an hour early we had to park on side streets and walk 20 minutes to the park. There was no chance of getting to the car and back before the race, so we ditched our race shirts and spare clothes under a bush. and went to the starting line.

The first leg is a rolling downhill slope of about a mile. My running partner helped me keep my pace down so I wouldn’t wear myself out. It’s easy to get pulled along by the people who kept passing (by the hundreds) but I knew I had to save my strength. Some were yelling and singing and some were even drinking as they ran. The neighborhood turns out to watch and cheer. Some houses had the windows open with reggae blasting out. At the bottom of the hill is a sharp right up Delta Ave which is a half mile straight uphill.

At this point most of the pack I was running with stopped and started walking. We ran part of this Thursday, so I knew what I was up against and kept trudging up the hill. Since it’s straight you can see the top of the hill. Once there, it’s a right turn onto what looks like a flat stretch. It’s not until you make the turn that you see another short, steep hill. I’ll not repeat the language that came out of people who thought the uphill was over. 🙂

I knew what to expect so I just kept trudging up the hill. At the top there’s a little bit of flat ground that leads to a couple rolling hills before the long uphill grade back to the park and the finish line. This was the fun part, as the hills were steep enough that I leaned forward, lengthened my stride and just blasted down, passing people like crazy. Gravity just carried me along. On the upslope I leaned back and shortened my stride again letting some of the people pass I’d just flown by. Next hill I blasted down again then I started the long slow trudge to the finish line. I’d saved just enough strength to make it, but the last mile keeps curving so you can never see the end. I was so glad to see the finish line and be done with it.

The party was just nuts. By the time we grabbed our clothes from under the bush and changed shirts, the crowd was packed elbow to elbow around the food tents, and boy was I hungry. Lines where slow because by the time we got there they couldn’t keep up with the demand. The line to the beer truck was just this huge mass of people that didn’t seem to be moving so we gave up. We went up and watched the band and it was nice to just stand in one place for a while. With reggae though, I’m not likely to stand still. The race is in memory of a girl named Maria who was murdered running in that area, and the band told her story. After a few more songs we started the long walk back to the car.

It was a fabulous time and I can see it becoming a yearly tradition for me. Anyone who can at least walk 3 miles ought to try it. I met my goal of finishing without walking, I challenged myself a little and I had fun.

The 4 mile barrier

In March I started running again after a 5 year break. It was a lot harder getting started this time, but I’m glad I did. Back then I trained for a 5K race and after I was successful I trained for another 5K. The training program I use builds you up slowly to running 3 miles. After the race I just kept going trying to build up my mileage. When I hit 3.5 miles it was much harder than I expected and I had to slow my pace just to finish the run.

I was discouraged because until then I had steadily built up my mileage and my pace week by week. I hadn’t expected to hit a wall and it shook me up. I backed off on my running, eventually got out of the habit and quit.

I’ve learned a lot since then and today I ran 4 miles. It’s an important goal for me because somewhere in the back of my mind I was afraid of hitting that wall again. It feels great to break the barrier and now I feel like there are no limits if I just keep at it.

What made the difference? I’ve got people involved this time. I’ve got a guy I run with once a week and people to pat me on the back and encourage me. I also realize you can’t expect to keep improving at a steady rate forever. Progress tapers off and sometimes you have setbacks. I’ve been reading Hal Higdon’s book “Run Fast” and have learned a lot about training. My long runs I do at a slower pace with a focus on just finishing, and I pick up the pace on the shorter runs through the week. I’ve also learned that my mood, the weather, my diet and how much sleep I’ve gotten really affect my performance. There’s no shame in slowing down or cutting a run short if I’m feeling tired.

It’s good to reach a goal I’ve been working towards for months. As I get older I realize that there are no shortcuts. Nothing happens without work, and no goal is achieved without discipline, hard work and putting in the time week after week.