Thursday, October 9, 2008

marathon training - lessons learned

training for my 1st marathon has been one of the hardest things i've ever done. i've learned a lot of things which i never expected to. last year i tried to train for a marathon and failed. so the accomplishment of getting to the starting line is a big one. here's what i learned:

1. set the bar low enough to succeed. initially i had an expert training schedule with 5 runs a week, all intense runs. quickly, i saw i was having trouble following it and injuring myself. i switched to a rookie schedule in july, which allowed me to build distance while feeling good about it, instead of beating myself up for not succeeding to follow the tough schedule.

2. there is no substitute for long runs. your heart can't just suddenly one day sustain 4.5 hours of running.

3. the fastest way to condition your body and build strength is by running hills. the fastest way to decondition your body and fool yourself into thinking you have ability is by running on a treadmill.

4. the logistics of training runs are just hard. imagine. you go for a 3 hour run in summer. you'll need a hat, sunscreen, appropriate clothing, a cell phone, money, keys. you need to figure out where to do that 3 hour run, and how to get water or food once you are there. you need to figure out how to find 3 hours to run when you won't be interrupted and have no commitments, and have enough time to wind down the requisite 2 hours after the run. you have to ensure you don't stay out til 4 am, as new yorkers are apt to do, or eat too much the night before or be hungover, so that a long run at 8 am is a fun thing rather than a painful slog. and winter's even worse, since then you have to actively figure out how not to freeze to death. i frequently run in loops, never going too far away from my house, since there's nothing worse than a long run gone awry, where say, you injure yourself, or get heatstroke, or in my case, have a random allergic reaction to exercise, and then find that you're 10 miles from home and need to walk it.

5. your body is not linear. advances in strength and speed come in spurts, sometimes when least expected.

6. listen to your body and your body's energy. if you feel tired, do a long slow run. if you're feeling angry, run up a bunch of hills, or run fast.

7. the telephone pole test. a friend at work taught me to get fast by picking out telephone poles on the road, and running fast in between 2 poles. they are evenly spaced. so i'd run fast for 10 poles, slow for 10, and so forth.

8. an ice pack works. i'd never tried it, but 15 minutes of an ice pack on every part of the body in pain after a workout - it does the trick.

9. the physical exhaustion of running long runs over 12 miles is higher than you can ever imagine.

10. treat your legs and feet like a model. wear sensible footwear and don't try anything new that can cause injury, like dance, or kickboxing or running through the airport in 4 inch heels etc. an injury where you're out for 2 weeks could be the end of training.

No comments: