By Kevin Bernier
Please keep in mind when reading about my training that I have run exactly 2 half marathons and 1 marathon and
still have no idea what I am doing am by no means an expert.
So I did two things when I first found out I was officially running the Boston Marathon: (1)
panicked went out and bought a marathon book (Hal Higdon’s Book), and (2) increased the amount of my life insurance called my running friends to ask for help. The result was an 18 week training plan that started in early January 2012 (18 weeks prior to the Marathon).
I found out I was officially running in September 2011 so I had a few months before my official plan began. Rather than just wait around, I started training in October because I knew there would be constant adjustments to my training plan (a few reasons for this: (a) I have kids, kids and Marathon training don’t mix well, (b) the weather in New England sucks (I trained in the 2010-2011 winter for my half marathon and had to skip tons of days due to snow and the days I didn’t skip I was running in the street with cars because no one shoveled their sidewalks – Note: I had no idea we were getting the perfect winter for marathon training, and I really had no idea that Mother Nature, being the cruel b***h that she is, was going to prescribe a 90 degree Marathon Monday as my penance for such a great winter), and (c) I’ve always had some issues with my right knee (patella tendonitis) which always seems to bother me at some point and I figured I might need to give it some extra rest).
My goals for this pre-training period were to not hurt myself and make sure that when I started my plan I could run 13 miles without
pain dying too much of a struggle. This actually turned out to not be all that bad, since I had run a half marathon and had been running somewhat consistently since March 2011 (and by “somewhat consistently” I mean I was running at least once a week – for someone who has been running off and on for so long, this is consistent). I also needed to make sure I had a decent mileage base (i.e. I needed to be used to running 25+ miles a week) for my upcoming plan.
My training plan had me running between 30-46 miles a week, which is when the
ritual torture fun really began. I needed to ramp up to this mileage, so it’s not like I was running 46 miles every week (in fact I only went over 40 miles a week 4-5 times due to various bumps in the road). I started out around 30, then went up to 33, then 36, and then scaled back down to 30…and then back up again. If you increase too much in any given week you really expose yourself to injury (at least this is what my friends and the running books say). I also steadily ramped up my distance runs…14 one weekend, then 15 the next weekend, then back down to say 10, and back up to 16, etc. For many first time marathoners they recommend you work yourself up to a 20 mile long run (running this 20 mile run 3 weeks before the marathon)…I ramped up a little earlier and was pushing for a time (I was pushing for a sub-3:30 time, but Mother Nature had her own ideas), so I did “really long” runs of 18 and 20, ramped down for a couple weeks and then did 18 and finally 22 miles 3 weeks out.
My 22 mile run route!
A lot of people asked why I never ran 26 miles or more during my training. The reason:
that would be f***ing insane running 26 miles puts a lot of stress on your body and marathoners, first timers especially, don’t want to overdue the training to the point where you are burnt out before the marathon. This is not to say that experienced runners do not run the full distance as part of their training, but the consensus from everything I read is that it’s not necessary and can be counterproductive to run the full 26 ahead of time (for irrefutable evidence of the impact a 26 mile run has on the body, please refer the hobbling I did around my house following the marathon – I also needed both hands on stair railings to go up and down stairs for a couple days after the marathon – going down stairs was the worst).
One thing I did not know was the majority of the training runs should be slow (much slower than you intend to run the race) – again, the reason is so you don’t wear your body down too much. I incorporated at least one “speed workout” into my training a week – these can vary from short sprint repeats (400’s or 800’s), hill repeats, tempo runs done at or faster than race pace, and farlteks (and no, it’s not pronounced how you are pronouncing it) among others. However, like adding distance, you also need to be careful that when you add speed you don’t overdo it, or you could hurt yourself (potentially hurting yourself is a common theme here).
Many people also asked me about eating and weight loss. If you have a lot of weight to lose, you will lose weight as long as you don’t eat everything in your house (which is very easy to do when you are running for 2+ hours and burning 1000’s of calories). You can eat whatever you want (within reason i.e. don’t eat an entire pizza after your long runs) and not gain weight; however, not watching what you eat can hurt performance. If you plan on running 40+ mile weeks you really need to focus on eating carbohydrates so that your energy supply remains loaded up for all the running and proteins to assist with recovery. Alcohol, not surprisingly, also has an impact on running…I like drinking too much to give it up, but I wouldn’t drink before long runs and really pared back the drinking a couple weeks prior to the actual marathon. I personally only lost about 5 pounds; however, (1) I only ate OK, (2) as I mentioned I enjoy drinking, and (3) while I didn’t lose a lot of weight, my body did change with all the running (my
love handles extra weight around the mid-section dissipated, my face was noticeably thinner, my arms and legs became much more defined).
American Chop Suey, my food of choice for long runs!
Like Ron Burgundy, my favorite drink is scotch, scotch, scotch, scotch! Can't give that up!
Now, since all of this previous stuff was way too serious here are some of my training
- I was almost hit by cars more times that I can count…people on cell phones cannot see anything, even if they are looking right at you. The most common place of my near misses was cars pulling out of driveways and only looking in one direction (some running gear can help, but people on cellphones cancel out all the effects of reflective clothing). Running Tip: It is very empowering to just run in front of these cars and make them slam on the brakes and stop and respect you…this is not a good idea, even if you have the right of way as the runner. Steel trumps bones and skin; you will lose.
- I did a 16.5 mile run in the one and only snow storm we had this year. It was like running in quick sand and I had to run off the road several times to avoid being buried by a plow. Running Tip: Do not run in big snow storms, it is not smart.
- I got blisters on the tips of 2 toes, yes, the tips of my toes – I did not think this was possible. Running Tip: Your body will do weird things after you run long distances.
- Most Embarrassing Moment: While running at 5:00 AM one morning in the dark, a car was coming up behind me with its headlights shined on my back. It reflected my shadow onto a white fence that I was approaching. I, not totally awake at this point, think the shadow is a person dressed in all black, running out of the woods at me. My heart drops, I scream and run into the street narrowly missing the passing car.
Running Tip: If we are together and approached by a mugger I am most likely not going to be the one who rescues us.Running Tip: There is no tip associated with this story.
- Second Most Embarrassing Moment Narrated by Me While Running: (running by a house where I know a large Newfoundland (a/k/a a f***ing huge dog) resides) "there's that big dog again; good thing they have an electric fence" (the dog is now barking very loudly and running full speed at me) "Ummm…they have an electric fence, right? Yes, they must" (still coming fast and barking even louder) "is there an electric fence?" (I then run into the street screaming like a small child not looking to see if any cars are coming…the dog stops at the edge of the lawn) "yes, there was an electric fence -- I'm never running this way again, I hope no one heard my screams and I think may have peed my pants". Running Tip: Don’t run near dogs in general. In addition to scaring you, they can also run at your feet and cause you to hurt yourself. Also, dogs poop, I feel no further explanation is necessary.
A large Newfoundland...like the dog that chased me!
The Gear Post will be next…we’re going to go with a different format to keep you interested.