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Adventures in Marathon Training: Next up - Boston!

A marathon is 26.2 miles on race day. But a training plan is so many more miles (and gym work-outs) than that! Working full time, taking care of a home and family, and having a social life can be hard to balance with marathon training. Keep reading to hear about what I learned from my first 2 marathons and how my current training is going for Boston Marathon (October 11, 2021)!

I ran my first marathon in 2018 on a gorgeous day through the 5 boroughs of New York City. I was lucky enough to get into this very desirable race via the lottery on my first try! As I neared my training window, I was in fairly good shape; I had just run a 1:32 half marathon, was mountain biking regularly, and was strength training 1-2 days a week. I built my NYC marathon training program based on my physical therapy and CSCS (certified strength and conditioning specialist) background along with some knowledge from Google. My 16 week plan included 6 days of running (1 run long run, 1 interval/hill workout, 1 tempo run, 1 medium run, 2 short "recovery" runs). I also worked in 1-2 days of body weight strength training and yoga/stretching. Overall, I was 90% compliant with my plan and completed several runs in the high teens/low 20s. During my 16 week training period, I spent countless hours managing my nutrition, studying the course, and figuring out race day logistics. Mid-training I developed some left hip pain - something likely related to uneven stride lengths due to ACL reconstruction surgery I had at age 16. I scheduled time with my physical therapist collegues to help manage and improve my imbalances. On race day, I felt totally ready to meet my goal of a sub 3:30 marathon - a goal I made based on qualifying times for Boston marathon. I was loving life and completely on track until mile 20 when I hit the wall that everyone talks about - it's real! By mile 23 I was puking the bushes. Mile 26.2 couldn't come soon enough…and when I finally crossed the finish line, I clocked in at 3:41. It was too slow to qualify for Boston based on my age, but I was still beyond happy to get my medal and my blue poncho. My brother and one of my closest friends met me near the finish line with flowers and Chipotle. Although I did not achieve my goal, running the NYC marathon was inspiring and amazing. I never thought I could feel that amount of energy and encouragement from total strangers. It is a feeling I will never forget.

The best resource I used to help with course info and race logistics:

NYC marathon was supposed to be a "one and done" life experience for me. But I quickly reneged on that statement and signed up for Chicago Marathon 2019. Chicago is known as a flat and fast course - perfect for a Boston qualifying time! Before designing my Chicago training plan, I looked backed on my Garmin data (sleep, resting HR, training load, etc.) from my NYC training plan. It was obvious when I looked at the patterns: I was running too often and therefore wasn't giving my body enough time to recovery. I reformulated my whole training plan to include only 5 days of running (but overall higher miles and higher quality workouts), more strength and stretching, and more flexibility in adjusting based on recovery and feel (emotional and physical). My weakness at mile 20 of NYC was not aerobic fitness but overall strength and endurance for running. Throughout Chicago marathon training, I was still seeing my PT colleagues regularly for triage and recovery (thank you myofascial release, dry needling, and joint mobilizations!). On race day, I was lucky enough to experience another perfect day for marathon running - bright, sunny, no wind, and mid-50s. My nutrition strategy was better, I had the knowledge of my previous marathon, and my race support crew was next level. At mile 20 I was tired, but there was no wall for me this time! The last few miles were my some of my fastest and I crossed the finish line in 3:26 - below my goal (and with the feeling I could have run faster!). I immediately knew I was going to run Boston the following spring!

And then Covid happened. Boston 2020 was cancelled and I was stuck in Thailand (see blog post here: ). There were a few months of uncertainty for Boston 2021: the date was shifted from the traditional April Patriots Day to October 11, the field size was reduced, and pre and post race staging was changed for social distancing. With a reduced field size, I was lucky to squeeze into the reduced field size with my qualifying time (cut-off times needed to be 7:47 minutes faster than posted qualifying times!). So now here I am, 2 months to go until Boston Marathon 2021 (barring something crazy!). My training plan has been inconsistent at best, but also very enjoyable. Now that I am back in Denver, training at altitude has been difficult, managing training times/days with the poor AQI (west coast wild-fires), and finding time in my busy schedule is proving more challenging than I thought. In the past 2 weeks I have: gone for a 10 mile trail run, 2x 5 miles flat, 1 interval run on the treadmill, 1 trail half marathon (1700 ft of elevation @ 7000ft), 3 mountain bike rides in the mountain (10-16 miles each), and taught 7 yoga classes. This lackadaisical running plan may spell trouble come race day …but I am hoping that my cross training, exercising at altitude, and my positive attitude will help! We'll see on October 11!

Learn more about the Boston Marathon:

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