August 30th, 2010

Solo Training for My First Marathon

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Hi everyone- Long time no see! I haven’t written a post on Life Evolver in quite a while (11/08), so my writing might be a little rusty. But I’m going to give this a try. I’d like to start posting more regularly here. To start back up, this post will cover my training for the NYC marathon (11/7/10).

What triggered my decision to run a marathon?

Last year, I ran my first half marathon in Santa Cruz, with a final time of just under 2 hours. Immediately after finishing the half marathon, I felt like I could still keep running. I told myself that adding 13.1 miles for the full marathon wouldn’t be that difficult. I didn’t think of it much after that. Fast forward to February of this year, when I moved from San Francisco to New York City. I started running a lot in Central Park, as I live a couple blocks away. Again, I started thinking about running a full marathon. Mostly, my interest in running a marathon seemed to stem from my enjoyment of running and need for a challenge.

I picked up the book Four Months to a Four-hour Marathon, which is a short, basic guide for training, including detailed weekly workout schedules. After reading this, it seemed very doable. I decided to start training for 4 months, with a race time goal in under 4 hours. I would need an average pace of 9:09 minutes per mile to meet this goal.

Choosing a Marathon and a Charity Organization to Run For

The marathon book I read suggested a smaller (less popular), flat-course race for a first-time marathoner. But being new to NYC, and always hearing about the NYC Marathon, I was determined to run in it, even though it is the world’s largest marathon. I looked for a charity to sponsor, which would guarantee my marathon entry, and give me a good cause to run for. I decided on the Children’s Tumor Foundation, whose mission is to find a cure for Neurofibramatosis (NF). NF is a genetic disorder usually diagnosed in childhood that causes tumors to grow on nerves throughout the body.

This is by far the largest charity fundraising activity I have ever been involved with. My goal is to raise $2,500. If I get 100 supporters to each give $25, I will meet this goal. So far I have raised $455 from friends/family/coworkers, so I am 18% toward my goal (thanks to everyone who has donated!). I have to reach this goal by October 20th in preparation for the November 7th marathon. If you would like to help out and support a great cause, simply make a donation. You can also read my last post for more details on the Children’s Tumor Foundation.

Marathon Training Solo

During my half marathon training last year, I had some friends I trained with once per week for long runs. This year, I am training completely solo. I feel like this suits my personality, and I enjoy the time alone when I am running. And although the long runs can get a little lonesome, I feel like they are good for me. Each long run I go on now, I am pushing my boundaries, running several miles longer than I ever did before. Doing this alone provides me with more self-knowledge. I am able to more accurately see my own limits as I push myself.

Running Form

While I was training for the half marathon last year, I injured my left knee. This injury carried on in to the half marathon, and made a portion of the run very painful. I was determined not to do this again during my marathon training.

Four weeks in to my marathon training, I noticed the same knee started feeling very tight, like it did before I injured it the previous year. I knew that my current running form was not working for me. At that point, I decided to get some help and met with a running instructor at The Balanced Runner in NYC. I have had two sessions with them so far, and noticed an incredible improvement in my running form. I finished a 15 mile long run yesterday, injury free, which was a great accomplishment for me.

Running Mantra

On the first week of my marathon training, I read the book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, a memoir about running and writing by Haruki Murakami. It’s a very good read- so good that I’m reading it a second time now. In one chapter, Murakami writes about mantras that long distance runners use to keep themselves going. One mantra stood out in particular- Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. When I several hours in to my long runs, and start to feel the pain, I repeat this mantra in my mind, and keep going.

Training Gear

Getting the right training gear has been a process of trial and error for me. I am hoping that this post will be of benefit to other people that have decided to train for a marathon.

Clothing: Since  I started training this summer, I wear running shirts and shorts that are sweat proof. As the weather starts to cool down, I will need to start wearing layers, especially on my long runs.

Shoes: I have been running with the Brooks Adrenaline Gts model shoe for the last few years. They were originally recommended to me by a professional at a running store. When I started training for the marathon, I purchased two pairs of these, and have been trading them off every day. This gives my each pair a rest. They are able to decompress and dry out for a day, and last longer this way. One month before the marathon, I will purchase and break in a third pair. My running instructor at The Balanced Runner recommends that I switch to a shoe with neutral support, so I plan to do that after I finish the NYC marathon.

Music Player: I use an Apple iPod nano with a wrist band. I find that the screen and extra space of the Nano better-serve long-distance running than my shuffle.

Headphones: I had problems with using headphones while running for quite a while. Sometimes they would fall out. Or they would get too sweaty and stop working. After checking Amazon.Com, I found Innovelis BudFits. These are little rubber adapters that you connect to your existing iPod headphones. The rubber adapters fit snugly on your ear. Your headphones hang upside down, being held by the rubber adapters. Since your headphones aren’t wedged deep into your ear, it feels better and allows your sweat to dry around your ear canal naturally. While the headphones take a few seconds longer to put on than normal earbuds, they never fall off and work great on long runs.

Music: When I first started training, I used my regular gym workout playlists. But with the amount of time that goes into marathon training, those soon got old. I also found out that the kind of music I listen to at the gym to pump me up didn’t really do the trick on my long runs. It just got old. So I went through my music library, and created a new playlist with more variety. I have rock, alternative, techno, rap, and reggae music on my current playlist. This way, when I am on a long three hour Saturday run, I have something to give me an extra boost of energy, and I don’ t tired of the tracks. I will probably add a few more playlists as well throughout my 4 month training plan.

Time/distance/pace tracker: Initially, I started tracking my runs with the iPhone RunTracker application. But the iPhone is really too bulky for long runs, and not convenient for long-distance running. So instead, I purchased the  Nike Ipod Sport Kit, to use with my Nano. It has been working out great for me, I really wish I had purchased it earlier. It allows me to track my running over time, and I can easily choose a goal (distance / time / pace), pick a playlist, and get started with my run. Since I switch out between two pairs of running shoes, I bought an easy-to-remove Nike sensor holder Shoe Pouch.

Chafing Prevention: When I did my first long run in my training, I came back home and noticed my skin was very sore / raw around my nipples. I researched this, and it is very common for men during long-distance running. Running for a long distance causes friction between your skin and shirt. Not so much for women, as they wear a sports bra. I purchased Bodyglide Anti Chafing Lubricant and no longer have this problem.

Water Bottle Holder: On my long runs, I started to get dehydrated unless I was lucky enough to be near a water fountain. My running book mentioned that I should be staying hydrated at least every three miles. I ended up buying the Ultimate Direction Access Waist Pack, and the first couple times I used it, I didn’t like it at all. I wore the pack around my waist, over my running shirt. Every few miles, it would start to slide up, and I’d have to readjust it. Finally, I tried wearing it under my shirt (duh!), with the waist band / buckle around the top part of my shorts. This has proven to be much more effective. I still have to readjust it, but not nearly as often.

Food for long runs: When I first started training, I used Power Gel packs to use on my long runs. But those are pretty expensive and don’t taste very good. More recently, I will cut up a banana, put it in a plastic bag, and carry it in the zipper compartment of my water bottle holder. Not only is this more affordable, but it tastes better, and it gives me more energy without upsetting my stomach.

Your Experiences with Running

What have your experiences been with running? Have you ever training for a long-distance or speed race? Do you have any running tips? Please post a comment below!

Creative Commons License photo credit: familymwr

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2 Responses to “Solo Training for My First Marathon”

Kevin D

August 30th, 2010 - 10:20 am

Good for you. I haven’t read the 4months to a 4 hour marathon book, though I did follow something similar: an 18 week training plan from Jonn Stanton of The Running Room.

I buggered up one of my feet (bad genetics, not bad training) so couldn’t do much running in the final few weeks leading up to the marathon I ran in May (my first) so I missed the 4 hours by 18 mins. I did do the front half in 2:00:03 though.

A few comments- try running without headphones and music. You should run your marathon without them and you may as well get used to it now.

Also, ditch the expensive Body Glide and use good old fashioned vaseline. On your nips, between, over and above your toes, around your underams and all around the unmentionables, particularly on any run over 6 miles. Definitely on anything over 1o. Body Glide is ok, though I’ve found it can smell a bit rancid and it’s needlessly expensive.

Re water, yup, take water on any run lasting more than an hour. The Fuel Belts are very handy.

Re food, gels are fine but make sure you take them with lots of water. Or, gummi bears are great. I can’t do bananas. Something about the texture when it’s hot out, or I’m hot.. just makes me gag.

Re timing, I use a Garmin 405cx and I love, love, love it. A little expensive perhaps, but the auto uploading and the tracking you can do on the Garmin site are excellent.

But, the biggest tip I can give you is to use something like where you log your mileage/times and other workouts. It’s got a great community of runners who’ll give you the support you need when you need it. Plus, if you know you have to go and log your miles, it makes it harder to blow off a run ;)

Good luck!

Derek Ralston

August 30th, 2010 - 10:44 am

@Kevin- Thanks for all the tips/advice! I will try running without headphones and music on my next long run and see how it goes. Very true that I won’t be wearing those during the marathon! Although there will be some cheering fans on the sidelines to give me a boost of energy.

I will also give vaseline a try, if it’s cheaper and does the same thing, why not? (=

The Garmin 405cx looks very good, and it would have GPS tracking which I don’t currently have with my Nike setup. If I decide to do another marathon, I may look in to making an investment in one of those.

I hadn’t heard of DailyMile so will have to check it out, the community aspect is a nice benefit. I wonder if they have an option to upload Nike stats there?

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