Running to Berlin: Introduction

18 weeks from now, I will be lining up to run the Berlin Marathon once more. In this brand new, weekly column, titled Running to Berlin, I will be documenting my experiences as I prepare for the race.

Right up until race day, and beyond—as I round it all off with a race report—I will give you insight into the nitty gritty of what it takes to get ready for a marathon. 

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This introductory edition of the column is all about setting the stage. Here, I will give you an idea of where I am coming from. I’ll be talking about my goals for the coming weeks, and the race itself.

Five Years a Runner

Let’s begin by giving you all, new readers and old, a reminder of my background as a runner. I first began running for fitness and performance in 2017. My first race was a half marathon that fall, and you can read about the race and the training leading up to it in the race report from the half marathon at the 2017 Oslo Maraton.

From that point on, I was hooked. I increased my mileage steadily, building towards my first marathon in the summer of 2018. Let’s see how my yearly total has evolved since I started running

Yearly Running Distance and Weekly Average

Yearly Running Distance 2017 through April 2022

As the data shows, my yearly mileage actually peaked in 2018. So far, anyways. Due to injuries and, more lately, illness, I’ve been unable to take it up another notch. The ambition to kick it up is certainly there. 

Particularly knee trouble in the form of patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) has kept me sidelined for a few months each year from 2019 to 2021. I think I have learned to manage that condition by now, however.

Personal Bests

Despite being unable to increase my yearly running distance, I’ve managed to improve my fitness. Each year since I started running, I’ve improved at least one of my personal bests. You can see my progression in the table below:

Progression of PBs (Personal Best times) in the 10k, half marathon and marathon from 2017 to 2021

Progress has stalled in recent years. This is natural, considering that I’ve trained less. In terms of total time, as well as distance. Going forward, my chief priority will be to maintain consistency and increase training volume. 

But first, I’m extremely hungry to improve on that 02:39:34 marathon time.

Marathon Specific Training Period

We’ve established that I’ve been unable to run more the past few years. But, going into an 18 week marathon specific, how does my mileage the most immediate past compare to previous marathon training blocks? 

Am I better or worse prepared for a big 18 week block?

Let’s look at the cold, hard facts.

Distance Run in 12 Weeks Preceding Marathon Training Block

Distance run in 12 weeks preceding marathon training block

Despite several layoffs due to illness in the past few months, it’s not all bad. My total for the three months preceding the 18 week marathon block is on par with where I was starting marathon training in 2018 and 2020. However, as you’ll note, I was significantly better prepared to handle a big marathon block in 2019.

Still, I’m hopeful that the cumulative gains over several years of decent training volume means I’m set for another big block. So let’s compare my plan for the upcoming marathon block compared to what I’ve done in previous years.

Distance Run in 18 Week Marathon Training Period

18 week marathon training block running distance

I’m planning to continue the trend, and increase the volume for my specific period ever so slightly compared to previous marathon blocks. Of course, this is merely a plan. To paraphrase Mike Tyson, everyone has a plan until they are punched in the face, suffer a stress fracture, or a total immune system breakdown.

But the plan is there, and I’m hopeful that I can get through it. If I do, I believe that it should see me in shape to beat my marathon PB, with a bit to spare.

Training Philosophy

For my first two marathon blocks, I followed Pete Pfitzinger’s training plans from Advanced Marathoning. I felt that this approach worked well for me. Still, in 2020, I decided to make my own training plan—heavily inspired by Pfitzinger, but tailored to my own strengths and weaknesses. 

I’m doing the same this year.

The exact details of my approach will be revealed in the coming weekly training reports. But the overall approach is simple and, I believe, a highly effective way of preparing for a marathon. Every single week I revolves around the following components:

  • A 30+ kilometre long run
  • A 20+ kilometre midweek medium long run
  • A workout with 8-12 kilometres of work at around threshold 

One way my approach differs from Pfitzinger, is that—beyond these three runs—everything is easy. And when I say easy, I mean zone 1, recovery run intensity. And I’m diligent to a fault in keeping these runs easy enough, as dictated by my heart rate.

This is perhaps the most important change in my training this year. Particularly the past two years, I’ve been more relaxed about the intensity of my easy runs. I believe this is one of the chief reasons for my repeated layoffs and setbacks.

I now know better!

Special Circumstances

Depending on who you ask, my life may be particularly well suited for a marathon training block—or the opposite. That’s because I’m currently enjoying some time off work. Instead, I spend my days being a dad, getting to know my soon-to-be year old daughter. I’m in the middle of a five month paternity leave.

This is familiar ground to me. Back in 2019, I trained for the Berlin Marathon in much the same circumstances. Only then, I had our now four year old son when I went out to run with the stroller.

Running with a stroller on a cloudy day
I will bring my daughter in this stroller for most of my easy runs this training block.

Compared to my normal lifestyle, I’d say that this is probably a net positive for me—as it relates to preparing for a marathon. Doing the bulk of my easy runs with the stroller is no problem at all. I feel like the training effect is near the same as for regular easy runs.

While being a stay at home parent is no joke, not working means freeing up much mental bandwidth. I enjoy this, as it means I can fully immerse myself in the mental aspect of marathon training, as well as the physical.

With another kid in kindergarten, illness is by far the biggest risk factor for this training block. Kids are germ magnets, and—going by the first few months of 2022–my body is ill equipped to handle them.

All that said, I’m more than ready to get to it. At the time of writing this, the first of my 18 week marathon block is already underway. I’m excited, and I hope to provide some insight by sharing my journey.


July 27, 2023


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