I'm currently training for the Vancouver USA marathon on June 19th. I have run 3 previous marathons so I thought I'd look at what went right and what went wrong with my training in my two most recent marathons.
My first marathon was in 1998 at the Honolulu marathon. I ran that marathon with Team in Training raising money for the Leukemia society, and they sent me a schedule that I followed pretty much blindly - so, I don't really remember much about training for that one.
Fast forward 11 years, and I was ready to try again at the Portland marathon in 2009. I had been running half marathons pretty regularly and wanted to challenge myself with the full 26.2. Running buddy M and I made up our own training schedule - basically running a few times a week, adding a mile onto our long run every weekend until we hit 20 miles and then we tapered. We ran the marathon in 4:41 - not very fast, but about what we expected with our training. A few mistakes we made during that training cycle:
1) We ran on the same route -the springwater coordior- for the majority of our long runs. It's a great path because it's flat and long - but oh my goodness we got so bored of it after a few months of training.
2) We kept building with no recovery weeks. I know a lot of schedules do this, but I prefer schedules that have occasional down weeks.
3) We only ran one twenty miler.
For the 2010 Portland Marathon, M and I got a handy dandy schedule from Runner's World to follow. We had used a Runner's World schedule previously in the year with the (ultimately successful) goal of breaking 2 hours at the Race for the Roses half marathon so we felt this would be a good way to take some significant time off our previous marathon.
Improvements in our training the second time around:
1) We varied our running routes greatly. I don't think we repeated a route for any of the long runs we did. The burnout that I felt the year before wasn't an issue as we were seeing new things each week.
2) We did 3 twenty milers. We also did 3 different types of 20 milers - one was pretty flat along the waterfront, one was super hilly out in Sandy and one was a good mix of hills and flat out on country roads in Aurora. I really felt confident going into the marathon with this type of training under my belt.
3) This schedule had 3 building mileage weeks and then a down week of moderate mileage for recovery. Definitely made training more do-able and easier to wrap my head around.
4) We incorporated speedwork and tempo work. Every week we either did a speed workout or tempo workout according to the schedule. I do not really understand how or why this stuff works, but it does and I'm a total believer.
We ran the 2010 PDX marathon in 4:07 (me) and 4:15 (running buddy M) fufilling our goal to significantly improve our time from the previous year.
So now, here I am training for the next marathon. I'm following a similar schedule with a few tweaks:
1) added weights into the mix. I do a Jillian Michaels (I am a total Jillian worshiper) dvd 4 times a week. I do the 25 minute workouts daily on top of runs and all. I hope this will help me feel strong through the end of the marathon - I've definitely felt good and strong during training runs.
2) We're doing two 20 milers and one 22 miler. I think getting 22 miles under my belt will make me confident.
3) We've started running with more people. Running Buddy M and I still do the majority of our runs together - but we have met other like minded people, so we often have company for our longer runs which is nice to mix it up.
So, my goal for this marathon is to break 4 hours. I think I should be able to do it. After this race I'll probably take a look at my training and tweak it again for the next one. That's the great thing about running - there's always another race to prepare for!