Marathon training is nearing it’s peak–I’ve only got three long runs left before Phoenix: 18, 20 and 22 miles. As I get closer to Peak Week (which, if I’m honest, I’m not really even sure when that’s suppose to be…) I’ve been thinking about the way my mileage is increasing, and reflecting a lot on my past training cycles.
I’ve never been one to run an absurd amount. I just can’t handle anything more than high 40/low 50 mile weeks. My first marathon, I ran 5 times a week, one strength day, and one rest day. I got up to one 20 mile run, and I think I maybe hit 50 miles in a week, but it was probably more in the upper-40’s.
Marathon #2 was 6 days of running with one rest day. I was supposed to be doing minor strength exercises on easier running days, but I didn’t really. My mileage did get up there–close to 55 miles in a week, I think. But, I only did one 20 miler.
Marathon #3 was drastically different. I ran 4 days a week, had two strength days and one rest day. My highest mileage week was 47 miles. I ran a 20 miler, and a 22 miler. I even practiced yoga semi-regularly.
The results varied drastically. Marathon #1’s goal was to finish. I secretly wanted to finish in under 4 hours, but I really was just focused on finishing the damn thing. I felt GREAT until about mile 22 and then hit the wall. But, I crossed the finish line in 4 hours and 5 minutes, which I thought was pretty stellar.
Marathon number 2, I wanted to try for a BQ. That was an ambitious goal, considering I would have had to chop off over 30 minutes off my marathon time, and I trained hard. 2 speed sessions a week, 1 longer midweek run, 2 recovery runs and a long run. I got to the start line of that race and was tired. I had overtrained. I hit the wall early on, even considering running just the half. I stuck through it, finished in 3 hours and 59 minutes and then was so burnt out on running, I took six months off.
UVM this past summer was so different. I took aspects of my two other training cycles and created a brand new one. I knew strength training was important to me, and figured the neglect of it during Marathon #2 was part of what sucked so bad. I also liked the idea of running a bit less, especially since I was working full time for the first time while training (the other two were while I was in grad school and had a more flexible schedule). I didn’t worry so much about the quantity of my weekly runs, but rather the quality. I had one hard, fast run a week, one mid-distance, one easy, and one long. I believe it worked well for me–I crossed the finish line in 3:42, an 18 minute PR.
When I was trying to figure out my training schedule for this cycle, I went back and forth between running 5 times a week, versus 4. The hardest thing about that is seeing other blogs or photos on instagram where people starting their marathon training are hitting the same mileage per week as I am…six weeks from my goal race.
And that’s where this post come full circle. How a person runs, the way their body handles the mileage, and the way they choose to increase their mileage is such a personal thing. Sure, I’d love to be able to handle 70 mile weeks and still function, but I can’t. My body hurts and I don’t have time for anything else. I’m running 40 mile weeks and barely have time for anything else.
A big aspect of marathon training is about balance. Balance within training itself, making sure I’m hitting my hard runs, my long runs, my mid-distance runs, and my recovery runs, plus a good amount of stretching, rolling, and strength training. But I’m also striving to achieve a sense of balance within my life. Training takes up a lot of time, no doubt, but I still want to be able to go out for pizza and wine with a friend to catch up, or, go play pool and drink a few too many beers with my boyfriend.
In honor of that, here’s a few of my tips for increasing your mileage and being true to you:
- Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. This is so important. In order to run your best, you have to run for YOU, not on what you expect to be running because of what someone else is running. Focus on your body and your capabilities and go from there.
- Start slow. Build your base. Before I start increasing mileage for any training cycle, I always try to have a good base. This can vary depending on the race, but for a marathon, I like to be able to hit ten miles comfortably before I actually start ramping up mileage. Prior to training for UVM, I was starting nearly from scratch. I gave myself 2 months to build my base before officially starting training.
- Have one day for your long run. Don’t try to run a ton more right away. If you’re comfortable running 3 miles, run 3 miles a few times a week, and then on Saturday or Sunday [or whatever day you choose to dedicate to long-runs] shoot for four. Or five! As you increase your weekly long runs, your weekly runs will increase with it.
- Don’t be afraid to walk. You’re getting your body used to moving for that long. Walking is ok–it’s all about the time you spend on your feet. The more you run, the more acclimated you’ll become and you’ll spend less time walking, until you can eliminate it all together.
- Run for time. I’ve never actually done this, but I’ve been reading about it a lot lately: running for time, rather than mileage. If you want to increase the amount you run, increase the amount of time you run. That way, instead of aiming for an arbitrary mileage number that might seem out of reach, you’re focused on a specific time goal that you can easily increase as you run more.
Please note, these are just things that have worked for me. The whole point of this post is to find the things that work for you. I just hope you can pull something from all of this to help you find that!
What’s the most you run during a training cycle? How often do you run a week?