A Race to the Finish: Marathon Training Weeks 7 & 8

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August 16, 2016

Ever wondered what it’s like to train for a marathon? Our blogger, Rachel Glum, invites you along for the ride as she takes on her second marathon, this time with a shiny new time goal. Read on as she talks unsuccessful speed work, training while on vacation, and why you should set big goals — even if you don’t reach them.

Anyone else sick of the crazy heat and humidity we’ve been having? While runners are overly obsessed with the weather, and like to constantly complain about it (sorry), I haven’t actually started wishing summer away until this week. Running faster feels easier in cool temperatures — plus, I don’t return in a puddle of sweat. I can’t wait for those perfectly crisp fall mornings!
Besides dealing with unpleasant weather, I struggled with my runs during week 8. Week 7 went well, but after spending a weekend away, I had trouble easing back into my routine. My mind was especially restless, while my body felt more fatigued than usual. One run during week 8 also had me attempting to run 5 miles straight at marathon pace, which I could not make happen. I took several breaks during the run, but even discounting the extra rest time, I only hit my goal pace for three of those miles.

Setting Big Goals

It’s frustrating not to hit a goal, no matter what it is. But it’s also important to keep things in perspective. Did I manage to run 5 miles straight at an 8-minute pace? No. But did I push myself to try? Yes. Have I gotten faster since I started training? Absolutely. Training for a race is never going to be smooth sailing the whole way through, and it’s the bad runs and the failures that prepare you for race day just as much as those triumphant long runs and successful speed sessions.
But my failure to hit goal marathon pace for 5 miles also brings up another issue. Is it even possible for me to run my marathon in a Boston Marathon qualifying time? The truth is, I’m not sure. This goal might be completely unrealistic for me.
But what I do know is that while reaching for this big, crazy goal and doing everything in my power to reach it might not get me all the way there, it will get me much closer than if my goal had been to simply run a second marathon faster than my first. Big goals can be intimidating, but they also inspire you to bring your best every day. So don’t be afraid to set a goal that might be slightly out of reach — even if you don’t achieve it in the end, you’ll likely surprise yourself with what you are capable of.

Topic of the week: Marathon Training While on Vacation

While you don’t have complete control over how well your body responds to marathon training, you can control how committed you are to that training. Training during the summer months inevitably means that you’ll have to navigate running during a vacation or two. Here are my top tips for sticking to your training plan when you’re away from home:

1. Schedule and Plan Runs

If your vacation only spans a few days, consider shifting around your training schedule so you can complete your long run before you leave, or if necessary, the day after you return. This will eliminate the stress of having to find the time and motivation to fit in a long run, map out a safe route to run, pack all your running gear and fuel, and still try to enjoy your vacation for the rest of the day.
During week 7, I went to Cape Cod for a long weekend, and I chose to wake up extra early on Friday morning to squeeze in my 16-mile run before we left. The wake-up call was rough, and my legs were sore while walking around the rest of that day, but it was a huge weight off my mind to know I’d gotten the run out of the way. If you have time, I recommend getting in a good stretch or foam rolling session after the run to help relieve some of the pain and muscle tightness.
If your vacation is long enough that you will have to do some long or difficult runs during vacation, try to plan ahead as much as possible. Map out and familiarize yourself with your running routes. Then figure out exactly what time you’ll be able to run. Running early in the morning might be your best bet, but whatever time you choose, make sure it’s realistic. Make a list of all running gear that you might need and bring it with you: In addition to clothes and sneakers, you might need to bring a fuel belt, hand-held water bottle, sunblock, and whatever your preferred long run food is (Gus, gels, dates etc.). I also always run with a phone while on vacation in case I get lost, and suggest you do as well.

2. Mentally Prepare

If you’re anything like me, you rarely have trouble motivating yourself to run when at home, but as soon as you’re in a new environment, motivation and commitment often seem to go out the window. This makes sense – at home, you’ve likely created an environment and a routine that is conducive to training.
For example, each night, I prepare my breakfast, lunch, and snacks for the following day, and I set up the coffee maker to start brewing coffee when I wake up. I get up around 6am, drink coffee and get ready to run, and then enjoy the “me” time on one of many routes that I know by heart before the work-day begins. I’ve structured my wake-up time, running routes, and nutrition around my training, so it’s now simply a part of my routine. I rarely struggle with motivation or feel unprepared to run.
But on vacation? My environment is completely different. I don’t know any routes by heart, I have no work to structure my day around, and it’s much harder to be picky about my nutrition. Plus, I often don’t sleep well in new locations, and I often seem to develop the mindset that I’m on vacation and it’s ok to be lazy, even though I’m much happier when I’m active.
While it’s important to make sure that training does not interfere with enjoying your vacation, it’s also essential to recognize how a loss of routine might deplete your motivation, and take steps to combat this. One of my go-to methods for creating motivation is to plan a reward immediately following a run. For example, you can end your run at a local coffee-shop, or plan to go to brunch or out for drinks after the run. You could also reward yourself with a few hours spent reading on a beach, napping, or whatever else might get you out the door.

3. Make Training Fun

In addition to planning a post-run reward, try to find other ways to make your training more fun. If anyone else on your vacation is a runner, plan a run date with them. Use your run to explore the city or town you’re staying in. Allow yourself to stop a few times to enjoy the scenery or take pictures. Listen to a new album or a podcast episode you’re especially excited about. Get back to the root of what made you love running in the first place!
Staying on track with your training plan can be a challenge when you’re on vacation, but if you’re committed, there’s always a way to fit in your runs and still enjoy your time off.