Last month I ran my first marathon (I am 53 yrs old and I have been running since 1974). My training went well until about 2 months prior to the race when I strained my right calf muscle. I was running one long run/week, cross training at the gym, and taking other short runs during the week, short weeks about 30 miles/long weeks over 40 miles. I went to physical therapy for treatment of my calf muscle, cross trained and aqua jogged during my recovery. Three weeks before the race I ran 21.6 miles without a problem, my third run at 20 miles or longer. One week before the marathon I ran a 15K race with no problems. Prior to starting I ate 2 power bars and a banana (a breakfast that has worked well for me during my long runs). While I was running the marathon I drank a little over a gallon of Gator Aid and and some additional water (race temp 60-low 70s). I ate 6 Power Jells and a Power Bar in route. I didn't have muscle cramps and my spirits were high the entire race. However, at about 22 miles my quadraceps, the front of my thighs, were screaming enough! I am not trying to make the Olympic team (I finished in 4:36:39), I just like the marathon experience. My question is, how can I adjust my training to have the last third of my marathon be as much fun as the first two-thirds?
- Dick B.
Marathon training and marathon racing, for most runners, is a pain-management
sport. That being said, it does not have to be a pain-ful sport. But it does
require knowing your body's limitations. It sounds like you pushed yourself
too far over your current limits. Although you have been running for 25
years, this was your first marathon, so I'm assuming that your mileage is the
greatest it's ever been.
My experience with first-time marathoners (no matter how many years they've
been running) is that to complete the distance and simply have a goal of
crossing the finish line you only need to train very moderately. This means
running only ONE 20 MILER in training. You ran three. You also raced the week
before the marathon. This is the week to really relax and cut back your
mileage. You raced a 9.2 mile race. You say you ran one long run every week.
If that means 12 or more miles, it's entirely too much. You need some weeks
that are just recovery weeks. Completing the race in 4:36 tells me you were
overtraining with consistent weeks of 30 to 40 miles. You simply don't need
that much mileage. You didn't say if the course was hilly, but downhills
place a lot of stress on the quads.
One way to "push back the pain", is to run your 20 mile training run this
way. Run the first 15 miles at about one minute per mile slower than
anticipated marathon pace, then run the last 5 miles at marathon pace. This
will teach your body how to handle the fatigue in the later stages.
Best of luck in your future races.
Gotta run now,
- Coach Mindy
Mindy Solkin is a full-time, professional running coach. Among other achievements, she is certified as a Level II coach by USATF and is head coach of the Leukemia Society's Team in Training program in New York City.
Read more of Coach Mindy's wisdom in MarathonGuide.com's Training Section.