How I Went From No Running To a Sub 3 Marathon in Two Years

This post is the first in a new category, titled Training Theory. The idea behind this category is to write about the various terms, theories and principles of training that runners often adhere to when constructing their training plans. Hopefully, reading the future posts in this category will give you the knowledge that will make you more confident about your approach to training because you understand not just the hows but also the whys.

Instead of diving straight into the theoretical principles and the science and physiology that explains them, I want to start this section off by giving a detailed look into how I accomplished what is a big goal for many runners as they get started with running: Complete a marathon in less than three hours.

Before proceeding to the details of how my training progressed, I should note that everyone is different. What worked for me may not work for you, and vice versa. That said, I don’t think I am particularly talented or genetically gifted when it comes to running. To the contrary, I seem to require relatively high mileage to run similar times many other runners do with moderate mileage. You may need more time or less time than I did to build up to a sub-three-hour marathon or a similar age and/or gender graded time. I do believe everyone is capable of getting to that point, but it will take patience and consistent training over time. The idea here is to give you a good look at what exactly it took for one particular runner.

My Training Background

Apart from giving the local track and field club a go for a couple of weeks, and then quickly deciding that it was not for me, back when I was a tween, I have no background in the sport of running. I did, however, grow up playing football (that’s soccer for you Americans reading) and remained active at a reasonable level through my teens. Through the first half of my twenties, I continued to play at a regional level, for the social aspect and to remain physically active.

Having left football behind for good in 2010, I dabbled a bit in various activities over the next few years. I had my first go at running in 2012, running a 46:15 10k off of very little training. But I found that it was not something I enjoyed, so I stopped. Instead, I went on to try road cycling, a project that literally ended in a crash after a few months. In all honesty, I didn’t do much to stay in shape through these five or six years, and my dislike for being so utterly unfit was the most important force driving the decision to make a change in 2016. That, and the fact that I had moved to a small suburb where I knew absolutely nobody, and I couldn’t really think of a better way to get to know people than joining a local running club.

2016: Small Beginnings

The very first run logged on my Strava account happened on January 30th, 2016. I ran 12k at an average pace of 5:58 min/km (9:36 min/mile). It clearly took a lot out of me, because I needed more than a month of rest before I put my running shoes on again. In the following months, I only ran sporadically until I finally managed to establish a habit. Had someone told me at that point that I would run a 2:58 marathon exactly two years later, I would have laughed them off. Running a marathon, or any race for that matter was the furthest thing from my mind at that point. The only reason I ran at this point, was because I was appalled by the shape I was in.

Having finally made running a habit, I managed to stay with it from this point. Well, more or less, anyways. A big motivational factor for me at this point was being part of a local running club, and joining up with them on a weekly basis. It’s difficult to envision me sticking to regular running at this point if I hadn’t been part of that social setting, and I can’t overstate just how much I recommend joining up with other people when you start out with running.

Through the second half of 2016, I ran the following monthly mileage:

June ’16: 50 km / 31 miles
July ’16: 46 km / 29 miles
August ’16: 79 km / 49 miles
September ’16: 112 km / 70 miles
October ’16: 68 km / 42 miles
November ’16: 77 km / 48 miles
December ’16: 57 km / 35 miles

Not exactly a linear progression, but I believe this period with moderate mileage was important to get my body used to running again and reactivate the aerobic base I had built playing football throughout my youth. For the most part of this period, I averaged one or two runs per week, with a third run interspersed every now and then. I didn’t vary my training much, and most of the runs were moderately hard compared to the shape I was in.

2017: A Guy Who Runs Becomes a Runner

I remember the exact time I got the idea to sign up for another race: My local running club puts on a race every fall, and in February of 2017 our ordinary session was replaced with a “Winter Edition” of the race. There were no chips or official times, just a bunch of runners lining up to run through a 10k course together. My time in the wintery conditions, as per my GPS watch, was 45:16. It had taken more than half a year of regular running to get back into similar shape I had been almost five years back. Still, it was a real confidence booster for me, and I decided to try my hand on another race.

Together with a friend, I decided to sign up for a half marathon that following fall. The goal was to complete the half in less than 1:45, and I knew I had to keep running to have a shot at doing that. So I kept running, despite the fact that I didn’t particularly like running. It was the social aspect, and that I enjoyed running outside in nature, that made me stick to it. In my mind, I also started toying with the idea of running a marathon. Being on a roll, it seemed silly not to capitalise and get that bucket list item out of the way. But that idea I had had of running one in less than three hours seemed like a pipe dream.

My monthly mileage for the first half of 2017 was:

January ’17: 100 km / 62 miles
February ’17: 82 km / 51 miles
March ’17: 170 km / 106 miles
April ’17: 162 km / 100 miles
May ’17: 186 km / 116 miles
June ’17: 200 km / 124 miles

Throughout this period my training got a little bit more structured. I ran an interval session at least every other week, and through spring I participated in a local weekly trail race series where I got to spend five to eight kilometres every week at around threshold effort. Most weeks I ran three times, twice on weekday evenings, and once every weekend. I started to make the weekend run longer, bit by bit, and towards the end of the period, I added a fourth weekly run.

Runner at Nordby, Ski, Akershus
A Sunday long run in the spring of 2017.

Then, on June 11th of 2017, everything changed. Our daughter, our first child, was born and lived only for a week before we lost her again. What happened afterwards was the very thing that inspired this blog, and the topic of my first post. For reasons explained in that post, running a marathon became extremely important for me in the aftermath of losing her. I had to do it for her. And, more than that, I found that running actually helped me cope with the loss. It gave me a moment of respite; a quiet time where the heavy feelings didn’t weigh as much as they normally did.

So in the months that followed, I kept on running. And that half marathon I was planning to run in September? I adjusted the goal for it. Might as well find out what sub-three-hour marathon pace feels like, so I aimed to finish it in less than an hour and thirty minutes. You can read the full report from that race here. In the lead-up to that half, I probably scaled up my training more than what would be advisable. While running two hard sessions per week, an interval session and a threshold session, I kept adding on mileage. But my body held up, and I got through it without injuries.

After racing the half, I decided to take a full week break from running. To my surprise, that was a hard thing to do. Not only did I feel antsy, as you often do when dropping regular physical activity, but I couldn’t stop thinking about running. I thought about running, and I read about running, and I dreamed about running. While I can’t tell you exactly when it happened, that was the moment I realised that I now liked to run. It was no longer something I did just to maintain fitness, and to realise some random bucket list goal. Now I ran because I liked to run and because it had become a part of who I was. I had become a runner, and that’s something I consider a gift from the daughter we lost. It would never have happened had it not been for her. How could I not go all in on it after that?

At this point, I knew that I would be running my first marathon the next year and that it would be the one I ended up running in June. After mainly trying to maintain fitness through a 10k in October, I went all in on base-building. My weekly peak mileage at this point was 80 km (50 miles), and to have a shot at finishing a marathon in less than three hours, I knew I had to get that up. So I stopped doing workouts and spent the remainder of the year building mileage with easy and moderate running.

My monthly mileage for the second half of 2017 was:

Juli ’17: 307 km / 191 miles
August ’17: 338 km / 210 miles
September ’17: 204 km / 126 miles
October ’17: 252 km / 157 miles
November ’17: 357 km / 222 miles
December ’17: 324 km / 202 miles

My weekly schedule throughout this period consisted mostly of five to six runs per week, and as already mentioned, the last few months I only did easy and moderate runs. This was to increase mileage without the added stress from workouts, and considering I got through it unscathed I would say that it was a winning strategy.

Man at top of the mountain Breitind at Senja
I got off the roads, too, during marathon training, and here I am at the top of the mountain Breitind at the island of Senja, Northern Norway

If there is one thing I would change from this training period, it is that I would prioritise cross training in the shape of core strengthening exercises. I think that would have made me a stronger and more efficient runner going into the marathon training period, and perhaps I would have been able to keep it up through marathon specific training as well. And, even if I did avoid injuries, I still believe these types of strengthening exercises are important for injury prevention.

2018: The Year of the Marathon

2018 started much the same way 2017 ended; easy running to build my base capacity in preparation of the upcoming 18-week marathon specific training block starting in the middle of February. In addition to running, I also spent most of the weekends at the start of the year cross country skiing. I believe this to be near perfect cross training for running, and as per Advanced Marathoning, Pete Pfitzinger agrees! It was also important for my motivation to get out in the woods and enjoy the winter, rather than being stuck inside doing long runs on a treadmill.

Of course, you can read a weekly summary of all my training for the year in the training logs section. But, for posterity, I will give a short recap of my training here. The monthly mileage totals for the first half of 2018:

January ’18: 379 km / 235 miles
February ’18: 294 km / 182 miles
March ’18: 449 km / 279 miles
April ’18: 413 km / 256 miles
May ’18: 480 km / 298 miles
June ’18: 226 km / 140 miles

My choice of marathon training plan was the 18 weeks, 55-70 miles per week plan for Pete Pfitzinger’s book Advanced Marathoning. With my goal marathon taking place in the middle of June, marathon training began in the third week of February. At this point I felt fit and ready to go, and, having had several weeks with overall training time well above the peak of the training plan, I was convinced of my ability to handle the load.

With the benefit of hindsight, it is probably fair to say that I underestimated the added load of workouts and faster long runs. As early as four or five weeks in, I was struggling to keep up. But if marathon training feels easy, you’re probably not doing it right. Throughout the 18 weeks, I was able to hit the prescribed paces (based on my marathon goal time) or faster for more or less every single up-tempo session. The only times I had to slow down compared to the plan was when I altered the schedule and added races that weren’t initially part of the plan.

All in all, I feel like I made the right choices, both in terms of which plan I decided to base my training on, and how I prepared for it. I felt right at the edge of what I was able to handle throughout the marathon training period, without suffering any injuries or significant mental setbacks. That is probably the best you can ask for when preparing for a marathon. As for how the marathon went, well I gave that away with the title. But if you haven’t read it already, you’ll find all the details about how the race unfolded in the race report.

Can You Train Like I Did?

Like I mentioned at the beginning, we are all different, and ultimately you have to figure out what works for you and your body. That said, I think there are some key takeaways from my experiences that are transferable to most runners only starting out, whether you are aiming to run a sub-three-hour marathon, or just want to get into shape:

  • Start Out Slow: If I had tried to jump straight into marathon training, I don’t know whether my body or my motivation would have broken down first. Probably both, and at once. Even if you have lofty goals, you have to take the long view when getting started running. Get your body and mind used to running before you start thinking about entering races and time goals.
  • Establish a Routine: Motivation is fickle, and those moments of inspiration will only take you so far. When those vanish like dew before the sun, it’s the habit that will get you out of the door on a rainy afternoon. If you know that you run on Tuesdays, you run on Tuesdays. Make your schedule non-negotiable, so that you don’t give yourself a chance to back out of a run.
  • Join The Running Community: Joining the local running club was one of the most important things I did to make a habit out of running. I enjoyed meeting up with other people for a run, and it also made me feel accountable. When you’re part of a group, you show up for a group run. You can also turn to the internet and join a virtual running community to share your endeavours with others. I have been, and still am, an active participant over at both r/running and r/artc. Both are great communities where I’ve learned so much of what I now know about running.
  • Consistency is The Foundation For Improvement: How you feel will vary from day to day, and in the short term, you won’t notice the improvements you are making. You simply have to trust the process and remember that consistent training over time is what yields results. One of the most appealing things to me about running is that there are no shortcuts. To get into shape, you have to put in the work, over days, weeks, months and years.
  • Improvement is Motivating: Once running has become a habit and a part of your life, you want to start thinking about how you’re improving. Test yourself in a race, or repeat certain workouts from time to time. As you’re improving you will probably feel more motivated, and it is time to start thinking about how you can adapt and add to your training to realise your long-term goals.
  • Let Your Body Tell You What it Can Handle: Over the past year, I scaled up my training in a pretty drastic fashion. While I had no guarantees that my body would be able to handle such an increase in load, I believe that it was awareness and listening to the signals my body gave me that let me steer clear of injuries. If I noticed a particular niggle or irritation that lasted beyond a couple of days, I would always seek information on how to treat and alleviate the strain. And if the pain persisted, I would never hesitate to take a couple of days off. Listen to your body when increasing your training load, and adapt to the signals you receive.

Those are the main takeaways from my own experiences in going from no running to a sub-three-hour marathon. If you have been a runner for a while, or even if you’re still working on establishing that habit, what have you found that works for you? Share your tips with the rest of us by leaving a comment below.

Training Log for Week 24 of 2018

The final week of training leading up to my goal marathon, which happened on the evening of Saturday this week, contained very little actual training. The goal at this stage is, as I’ve mentioned in several of the past weekly logs, to get to the starting line healthy and feeling fresh. Total running time for the week excluding the marathon was 2 hours 50 minutes, with just 35 kilometres (22 miles) of running and 328 meters (1 076 ft) of climbing.

As has become more or less routine through this training cycle, I started the week with a full rest day on Monday. Tuesday I did 11k at recovery pace, as per my schedule, even if it felt strange to do a recovery session without really having anything to recover from.

Wednesday it was time for the “Dress Rehearsal.” The point of this season is to get a final feel for race pace, with about 3k at marathon pace, and do a final check of the gear you’re planning to wear on race day. As I’d planned my full race attire months in advance, I opted not to wear it during my dress rehearsal. I instantly regretted this when packing to leave the following day, as I couldn’t find the long sleeve I was planning to wear under my singlet. Lesson learned!

Two days out, Tuesday, I ran 8k easy with six strides at the end, and the day before the race I only did 5k at an extra relaxed recovery pace. The race report from my debut marathon will be published sometime later this week, but I felt fit and ready to go after my final run before the race.

Training Log for Week 23 of 2018

This was the penultimate week of the training cycle leading up to my marathon, and the first true week of tapering down the volume. I ended the week with a total of just 5 hours and 30 minutes of running, which amounted to 69 kilometres (43 miles) and 632 meters (2 073 ft) of climbing.

As I’ve often done this training cycle, per Pete Pfitzinger’s plan, I started the week with a full rest day on Monday. That was followed by the only workout of the week, and the final one before my marathon, on Tuesday. The scheduled session comprised 3 x 1600 meter intervals at 5k pace. Given that I ran a race on Saturday, followed by a moderately long run on Sunday, I was pleased enough to get through all three intervals faster than my estimated 5k pace at 3:30 min/km, or about 5:30 for each four-lap interval.

The rest of the week was nothing special to write about, with easy sessions at 6, 11, 10 and 8k from Wednesday to Saturday. I closed the week out with a medium long run, where I for the first time felt the effects of the taper as I was able to cruise very comfortably through 20k at goal marathon pace + 10%. It was a great confidence booster of a run, with the only drawback being that I once more had GI (gastrointestinal) troubles towards the end. I actually had to cut it short with about 1k on account of this.

Going into race week, I will be doing everything I can to get my stomach in order again. Everything that I’m not entirely sure about will be eliminated from my diet, and I will be exclusively drinking water up until race day. All in all, I’m feeling pretty good about my shape, but I do worry a bit that my GI troubles will cause me trouble on race day. Otherwise, the only focus this coming week will be to try and get myself feeling as fresh and well rested without going flat.

Training Log for Week 22 of 2018

According to Pete Pfitzinger, the mastermind behind the marathon training schedule I’m following, this week was supposed to be the first week of a three-week long taper leading into my marathon. Sure, the overall mileage was reduced a bit, but at the end of the week, it sure didn’t feel like I was tapering. My numbers for the week were 91 kilometres (57 miles) of running and 841 meters (2 760 ft) of climbing spread across 7 hours and 16 minutes of running. I also did an hour and fifteen minutes on the bike.

Monday was a total rest day, and Tuesday I decided to bike both to and from work. It went fine, but I definitely noticed it both in my groin as I was biking and in my thighs later. This made me decide to be quite careful about doing any more biking in the final weeks before my marathon. Later that evening, I did 12k easy with six strides at the end.

On Wednesday I was supposed to do a 20k Medium Long Run, but I ended up having to cut it short on account of stomach troubles. Very annoying, but I made up for the lost miles the next day when I felt decent and did 16k with six strides to close off the run. Friday comprised only a short 8k recovery session in the heat of the afternoon, as I was preparing to race on Saturday.

Runners at the start of a race
Oppegårdmila 2018 was a hot experience! This is a photo from the start of the 10k, which I raced.

My training plan calls for a final tune-up race between 8-15k just two weeks out from your goal race. Luckily enough, there was local a 10k trail race (well, 10.3k actually) on this weekend, and I penciled that into my plan. It was a hot and heavy race, with the sun shining from clear skies, and a fair bit of climbing on the trails. Still, I managed to put in a very decent effort, and even if my time was not what I was hoping for, I was pleased to come in at 8th place overall in the race. In the next couple of days, I will publish a full race report, so stay tuned for that.

One of the challenges Pfitzinger’s marathon plans throws at you is a Saturday tune-up race followed by a Sunday long run. This was the second time I did that combination over the past 16 weeks, and it is challenging. My original plan was to get up early and hopefully get a head start on the heat, but alas, sleeping in on a Sunday was just too tempting. As such, I ended up doing the 27k in the middle of the day. My legs actually felt decent, but my body overall was definitely not fresh, so I settled in at a pretty comfortable pace. After the stomach cramps ended my run the Sunday before, I also paid extra attention to getting my hydration and gel strategy right this time around, and I did.

Afterwards, I felt pretty tired and banged up, and more than ready to really start tapering. This coming week my running volume will be further reduced with another 20 kilometres, and I hope that this will have me feeling fresher and lighter on my feet.

Training Log for Week 21 of 2018

It is Sunday, and this week was the last of the “Race Preparation” mesocycle of the training programme I am following. The final three weeks leading up to the race involve a staggered reduction in training volume as race day approaches. This means that my peak period of training is over, and the majority of the work is done. All told, I did eight and a half hours of running this week, which resulted in 104 km (64 miles) and 634 meters (2 080 ft) of climbing.

Going into this week, I had my sights on the weekend. I knew it was going to close out the peak period of training with a bit of a challenge. It came down to either a 10-mile race on Saturday followed by a long run on Sunday or my biggest and fastest long run yet on Saturday. In the end, I landed on the former on account of the weather and heat, as the race was too late in the day for my liking.

But, before reviewing my big session, let’s go through the rest of my week. Monday I only did a short, 8k recovery run. Tuesday it was time for another hard VO2Max session, with 5 x 1200 meters @ 5k pace on the plan. Coming home from work I was already tired, and the weather was brutal with close to 30 degrees Celsius and the sun scorching. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to hit my 5k pace (around 3:30 min/km) at the planned session, and I instead decided to aim for 10k pace (around 3:40 min/km). Hindsight proves this was a smart move because I was absolutely exhausted after averaging about 3:37 min/km for the five intervals.

Wednesday I ran the 13k into work, and I felt absolutely dead on my feet the whole way, despite the very leisurely pace. On Thursday afternoon I actually ran a 10k race, but rather than racing I tried to pace a friend. It was an interesting experience, and I will be publishing a report of my experience in the coming week. Overall it took very little out of me, despite being another day with very hot and sunny conditions. Still, the day after I settled for another short and easy recovery run, eying the big session coming up on Saturday morning.

The plan going into the session was to start out with 25 kilometres at around marathon pace (or rather, a bit faster,) and then keep on going up to at most 35k if I was capable of keeping up the pace. The main idea behind this workout was to give my legs a final proper beating and hopefully gain some confidence that would help keep me sane as the taper crazies take hold.

It was yet another hot day, and the temperature was at around 25 degrees Celsius as we started the run at around 9 AM. I had planned the run with a friend who would be helping me along for the full run, and a couple of other people joined us at the start and ran with us for a good chunk of the workout. Doing an up-tempo long run in a group setting was a new experience for me, and definitely something I would like to do again. The miles just seem to fly by that much quicker when you’re running and relaxing with a bunch of other guys and girls.

Sunny roa
Running on a hot, sunny day can definitely be a challenge.

Up until 20k, I felt relaxed and comfortable, but at that point, it definitely started to cost a bit more to keep the pace up. Still, I decided to go on as we passed 25k, fully intending to at least one more “out and back” before slowing down, which would take me to about 33k. Of course, all good plans come undone, as this one did in every possible way when I was hit with some really bad stomach cramps at around 28k. I managed to keep up the pace for a bit, but at 29k I was struggling to catch my breath on account of the pain, and all I could do was hobble my way to 30k.

Having evaluated the run, I believe it was a combination of the heat and very poor fuelling that gave me trouble. I took my first gel at 17k and drank very little before desperately belching down around half a litre after taking another gel at 25k. This was probably too much, too soon for my stomach to handle, and thus I ended up having to cut the run a bit shorter than what I thought my legs would be able to handle on the day.

In a way, I guess I should be thankful for the stark reminder of how important it is to not scamp on my fuelling during the race. It is definitely an aspect of marathoning that I could well forget the importance of as the occasion takes me. I also got through 30 kilometres at 4 min/km, a pace significantly faster than the pace required to realise my goal of going below three hours in three weeks. Yet, I can’t help but feel a little annoyed that I was brought down by something like that, and was unable to complete the run as I had planned yesterday.

Either way, I took it easy today with a very slow recovery run at 10k. And with that, the focus now shifts. Instead of trying to improve fitness, the goal is now to get to the starting line feeling fresh and ready to go. I will be deviating very little from the Pfitzinger plan I’ve been following in these final three weeks, which means that I am doing a final 10k tune-up race next weekend. Other than that, it is primarily comfortable running until I toe the line in three weeks time.

Training Log for Week 20 of 2018

This past weekend marked four weeks to go until my goal race, my marathon debut on June 16th. I am still using the Pfitzinger 18 week, 70 miles per week at peak training plan as the template for my work, and the penultimate week before the taper starts was another decent week of training for me. The log shows a total of 9 hours 9 minutes spent running, which resulted in 115 km (72 miles) and 1,311 meters (4,302 ft) of climbing. Additionally, I spent 30 minutes on the bike for cross training.

The week started with half an hour on the bike on Monday, in an attempt to try and shake out some of the soreness in my legs from the hard Sunday run the day before. Come Tuesday my legs definitely still felt heavy, though, as I tagged along with a friend for a 15k morning run into work.

Wednesday I felt good as I started from work and intended to add an extra loop to make my run home a proper medium long at around 24k. Unfortunately, I totally failed to account for the fact that I’ve barely run in any sort of hot weather this year, and the 25+ degrees Celcius completely got to me after 7-8k, and eventually, I had to cut the run short at 18k.

Thursday was the Norwegian national day, and that means no work. I took advantage of the day off by getting off to the track before the festivities started properly, and did a light VO2Max session which consisted of 5 x 600m intervals at around 5k pace, which is about 3:30 min/km (5:38 min/mile). At 2:02, 2:02, 2:02, 2:02 and finally 2:01, I was pleased with how evenly I ran the splits.

Come Friday morning it was back to work, and I ran in for a good start to the day. As I beat the heat in the morning and felt quite good through the first half of the run, I decided to tack on an extra 8k loop to make up for the lost mileage on Tuesday. Total distance was 23k at a decent pace, considering I did a bit of climbing, too.

Saturday was just a short 8k recovery run before I ended the week with a 33k long run on Sunday afternoon. It was another hot day and the wind made the back half of the run extra challenging. But all in all another decent long run in the bag.

I am currently trying to plan out my final week before the taper. Yes, I am following a Pfitzinger training plan, but making modifications when and where I see fit. For me, that means that the coming week, which ends with three weeks to go until race day, will be peak week in terms of mileage. The conundrum as it stands is how do I close out the week, with a 10-mile race or a 20+ mile long run at marathon pace with a good group? I’ve yet to decide.

Training Log for Week 19 of 2018

Yet another week has become part of training log history, and the end of this one marked just five weeks to go until I toe the starting line of my debut marathon on June 16th. With regards to my 18-week training plan, I am closing out the hardest part of the plan, with just two more weeks to go until the taper starts. In summary, this was another very decent week of training as I managed to log 117 km (72 miles) and climb 1,043 meters (3,422 ft) over a total of 9 hours and 17 minutes of running. This was a new all-time high in terms of weekly mileage for me!

On Monday I started the week with a 10k recovery run before I did my first run commute to my new place of employment on Tuesday morning. Tagging along with a friend slash neighbour who works a bit further off, we took what for me amounted to the scenic route and a total distance of 15k for a nice start to the day. My plan after accepting this new job has been to try and get most of my weekday running done as part of my transportation to or from work. This will free up a lot of time for me, and hopefully, make running at this level more viable even as our family expands in the future.

Wednesday was a full rest day and come Tuesday, it was time for another interval session on the track. This week Pfitzinger threw 6×1000 meters at me, and while it definitely felt laboured throughout, I got through them comfortably enough coming in just under 3:30 in all six intervals. I opted for around 75% (2:30) light jog rest. With the benefit of hindsight, I probably could have made it an even better session by cutting the rest with 30 seconds. It was still a decent workout though, and with the sun out and the temperatures rising, it was a nice feeling to be able to run shirtless with some speed, relatively speaking, on the track again. I closed the day off with a slow 8k recovery jog.

A red, tartan running track
Feels great to be back on the track in great weather, running intervals. Photo by Karl Poggeman.

On Friday I paid the price for my session the day before, as I struggled my way through a slow and sluggish 22k medium long run. These runs can be really challenging on tired legs, even if you’re running them at recovery pace, but I believe it to be very beneficial to make sure to get these done during marathon training. Saturday I just did another short and slow 8k recovery run, trying to get my legs nice and loose for the big session to come.

In Pfitzinger’s medium and high mileage plans, the 18/14 (18 miles with 14 at goal marathon pace) is perhaps the most infamous. It is hard because you’re in the middle of the hardest part of the plan, but at the same time, you should be able to complete 14 miles at your goal marathon pace just five weeks out from the race. The idea is that if you manage to complete this session at your goal pace and in representative conditions, you are in a good place with regards to realising your goal come race day.

I decided the course I wanted to run by looking at my old Strava logs, and to get the balance right between climbs and descents in the marathon pace portion, I ended up planning a 35k (22 miles) run with 23k at goal marathon pace. My goal for the marathon is to come in at under three hours, which equates to 4 min 15 sec per km (6:50/mile). To give myself some leeway, all my training paces have been calculated with a goal marathon pace of 4:10/km (6:42/mile). For the most part, I’ve been able to complete all my workouts slightly faster than the paces calculated from my 4:10/km goal marathon pace, which I figure will give me some additional leeway when something inevitably goes wrong. It’s a marathon, after all.

So, going into the marathon section of the big long run this Sunday, I was hopeful that I would be able to average at least 4:10/km. Given that the 23k I would be running at marathon pace comprised as much climbing as the full marathon I will be running does, and that I did it with a hydration vest with bottles, I figured that would mean I was in a good spot. Coming back home, I was delighted to find that my average pace for the 23k at marathon pace was 4:05/km (6:34/mile).

Road and landscape
The stretch of road where I finished the marathon pace section of the run. Felt great to get through that!

It was a very hard session all told, but I am happy with how I got through it. The conditions were favourable overall, cloudy with little to no wind, but the temperature climbing into the middle of the twenties (Celsius) for the first time so far this year definitely made it a bit challenging. Still, I was able to handle my nutrition and get down four gels and around 200 ml of energy drink. But I did have to stop at a fast food joint along the way to buy more water after finishing the marathon pace segment. I was all out of water and felt desperately thirsty and sticky in the throat and mouth from the gels and the energy drink. A note to myself following this is to make sure to not skimp on water at the aid stations come race day.

After finishing the run, I was completely battered for the rest of the day, and eating was about the only thing I managed to do until bedtime. In summary, it was another good week of training, and the emphasis is now on keeping the mileage up for the next two weeks despite the cumulative fatigue. If I can get through to the taper unscathed, I think I will have put myself in a good position to realise my goal time in my first marathon.

Training Log for Week 18 of 2018

Only six weeks out from my goal marathon, I am now in the meat of my training. Last week was a really good week of training overall, as I was able to combine intensive workouts with peak mileage. Across just shy of nine hours of running, I got in 112 km (70 miles) and 1,033 meters (3,390 ft) of climbing last week.

I started the week off with a short 8k recovery session on Monday, before upping the pace a bit on Tuesday, with a steady state Medium Long Run with a 4 km cutdown to just a bit faster than marathon pace. Total distance for the run including the cooldown was 22.5 km. After this run, I felt a bit of a niggle on the outside of my right midfoot. It did not bother me at all while running, but I felt sore afterwards and in the following morning.

Come Wednesday, I kept the foot on the pedal and did a VO2Max session consisting of 5 x 600 meters at around 5k pace with an 80 seconds 200-meter jog between intervals. I didn’t feel particularly fresh throughout this session, but I got through it as prescribed, even if it probably cost a bit more than it should have. The outside of my right midfoot still lingered post running, without being more than barely noticeable while running.

Thursday was a full rest day before I did a 16k General Aerobic run on Friday. Saturday was the day for the last Lactate Threshold specific session of the cycle. With 11k at threshold pace, it’s a pretty big workout. As I didn’t feel really great on the day, I decided to the threshold segment based on HR, as opposed to trying to hit certain paces. All in all, I got through it alright, even if I found it pretty challenging to keep the intensity high enough at stretches. That cumulative fatigue is making its mark!

I closed off the week with a comfortable long run. Well, I use “comfortable” as an adjective for the pace, rather than how I felt throughout. At the end of a long week, I’m not going to find it comfortable past kilometre 25 regardless of pace. Which is fine, and getting the work in on tired legs should be very decent marathon training.

Training Log for Week 17 of 2018

As per Pfitzinger’s 18-week marathon training plan that I am using in the build-up for my marathon debut, the previous week was the last of the second mesocycle lactate threshold and endurance, leading into four weeks of race preparations. All in all, it was a decent week of training, and I ended up running 111 km (69 miles) spread over a little more than 9 hours, with 1,102 meters (3,615 ft) of climbing.

The week kicked off with a recovery session on Monday before I unexpectedly had to cancel the planned run on Tuesday. I barely managed to get through the day at work on account of headaches and generally feeling pretty bad, and feared that I was coming down with something that would throw a proper wrench in my training plans. As I came home from work, I went straight to bed and more or less slept until Wednesday morning, and woke up feeling much better.

What it was that bothered me on Tuesday, I don’t know, but I counted my blessings that it didn’t set me further back and went out for an easy general aerobic 15k run on Wednesday evening. On Thursday I did a double comprising an AM 10k and a PM 15k.

Because of my plans for the weekend, and the fact that I had the day off from work, I had scheduled my long run for the week to Friday. It was a pretty long one, with 35k on the plan. Every part of my body wanted to just drop it and pretend like nothing as I woke up to the alarm on my day off, which was a cold and quite windy one. But, I got out there and I put in the miles, despite the fact that it felt like I had to work for every single step. Some days are just horrible, but I believe that getting through whatever’s on the plan for those days hardens you.

An uphill road
Some days leave you feeling like you’re constantly running uphill.

Saturday was an easy 8k recovery session, while I closed off the week with a 20k medium long on Sunday afternoon. All in all a decent week of training, but because of scheduling and the unplanned day off, I missed out on the final LT session of the cycle. That means I have to try and fit it in somewhere in the coming week, which will make it a challenging week. Hopefully, I am equipped to handle it this point.

One lesson learned this week is that being busier than normal outside of running will have an effect my training. This is nothing new, of course, but it is interesting to really feel that my body has less energy when running in busy periods. Knowing that I fully expect that starting a new job this week will make my training severely more challenging in the coming month. Not ideal, but it is what it is, and will be doing my best to get enough rest between work and training to hopefully make it work both at my new place of employment and out on the road.

Training Log for Week 16 of 2018

The tenth week of my 18 week marathon training plan was a good one. I logged 109 km (68 miles) and 991 m (3250 feet) of climbing across nine hours of running. After coasting last week with only easy running to get my mileage back up post half marathon, I was able to add in some intensity this week.

Monday was a full rest day, while I did around 15k General Aerobic on Tuesday. Wednesday I did my first VO2Max session for the year, 5×800 with 90 seconds walking rest (Strava). I ran the 800s in 2:50 and it felt just as a tough as I’d feared, but I found it amazing to see how quickly I recovered in-between the intervals. Had planned on two minute rests, but after about a minute my HR was already below the range where Pfitzinger suggests you start back up again, so I went with 90 seconds.

Thursday I did a medium long run by commuting in to work (Strava), while Friday’s run was a 10k recovery session at a leisurely pace. Saturday I ran another race, Sentrumsløpet 10k. I bested my previous PR set back in October with about a minute and a half, and chip time as I crossed the finish line was 36:57. Was very pleased with that, as the course is a bit tough in my opinion, with a bit of climbing. Be sure to read the race report for all the details of how the race went.

I’m now in the meat of Pfitz, and will be looking to keep my mileage near peak volume over the next five weeks or so, before starting the taper. Overall I’m still feeling pretty good, but two races over the previous two weeks definitely makes it a bit harder to get the work in. While running a good race makes me want to do even better, I always feel like I deserve a bit of a break after racing. That makes going out for a long run the day after the race a bit of a mental challenge, but I’m hoping that will only make me stronger and more resilient in the long run. (He-he!)