Trial & Error – Thoughts On Marathon Training

I recently read an article about a runner who was training for his first marathon after 20+ years of running. He talked about how intimidated he was by the distance and how other runners feel the same way. They may not wait that long, but sometimes it takes a few years for someone who picks up running to be able to or even want to run a marathon. This got me thinking, why did I want to run a marathon? I know I started running because I watched a friend run a marathon and I thought it looked fun but I don’t remember why I wanted to take on 26.2 miles. I started training for a half marathon in December 2011 and ran my first marathon in December 2012. So I am always a little surprised at how quickly I decided to take on a marathon. If I knew then what I know now, I may not have done that. No way was I ready to run that distance. I was under trained, and didn’t truly understand what I was getting myself into. Obviously that terrible first marathon experience didn’t stop me – since I am currently training for my 6th marathon (and hoping to BQ). Maybe there is something to be said for just jumping right into something…even if you have no idea what the hell you’re doing.

I will say that I did, and continue to do, a lot of research about running. It started with a subscription to Runner’s World, then I started following running peeps on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook…all the social media venues – which is actually how I met some great friends. Then came the books. Hansons Marathon Method is a favorite, Running Anatomy is great too. I am currently reading ChiRunning which is a becoming a favorite. Oh, The Sports Gene is an awesome read too. Which is not specific to running but is educational and just so damn interesting. I’m sure not everyone gives a shit about all of the technical stuff about running and they just want to go out and run, and that’s cool. But I love learning, I NEED to know the ‘why’. I also am working my to becoming a running coach, so there is that too 😉

Another important aspect to training is to have goals. When I am training for a specific race I want to know what I need to do to reach my goal. Since I am talking marathons here, lets say I want to BQ – which I do. I know I need to run a finish time of at least 3:35. Which is an 8:12 average pace overall. I know my speed work, tempo and easy run times too. I am training with a group right now (not to put anyone down) but our coaches will ask what their pace is for the run that day and they don’t know. I’m over here like, excuse me? Okay, more like, are you fucking serious? Running a marathon is a HUGE commitment. Think about this: marathon training is taking up at least 4 months of your life. Take it seriously. I often hear the goal of just finishing. I don’t like that goal. I mean, sure, if you want to just finish you could take all day to do that. Have a time in mind. Having a time goal makes it more real and more likely for you to stay committed. Trust me, I am talking from experience.

My past CIM races. I have also run the SF Marathon and the Napa Valley Marathon.


Of course I don’t know everything, and as I said I continue to learn as much as I can. Here in Sacramento we are lucky to have an amazing running community. Everything from the Sacramento Running Association (SRA), to fun running groups like Sloppy Moose RC. Even our local running store Fleet Feet Sacramento is a great resource to learn about all things running. As the California International Marathon gets closer I wanted to get this out there that if you’re new to this marathon thing it takes time (for some) to get it. After my first one I said I’d never run another marathon again. I had so much negative self talk during my first, and I could barely walk after. I don’t want anyone else to have that experience. But they, maybe even you, will. Trial and error. Personally, I think that is what makes you stronger. Learn from your mistakes.

My biggest take aways in my years of experience (I’m being sarcastic here) are 1. Stay positive 2. Take some time to learn about running and recovery. Learn about what kind of training runs you will be doing and why. You may not want or need to take it to the level that I do, but a basic understanding will help your training to be successful. 3. Understand that running a marathon is a major commitment. 4. HAVE FUN! Get to the start line healthy, happy and injury free. Run strong and be happy for this wonderful thing called movement. Its quite a great gift.

Happy running, friends.


2 thoughts on “Trial & Error – Thoughts On Marathon Training

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