Touching Base

This weekend, those of us in Chicago were blessed with the kind of weather that keeps us from setting up Google alerts for entry-level sales jobs in Tampa. Fortunately (or unfortunately), that meant that Chicago’s annual St. Patrick’s Day celebrations were out in full force. By full force, for those who’ve never experienced it, I mean all-out shit show. People were everywhere; sobriety, nowhere to be found.

Instead, I chose to binge-watch the entirety of Broad City, and put together some thoughts on my marathon training. Two really important points in that statement: 1) Broad City is ridiculous, and I can’t recommend it enough; and 2) marathon training requires some thought.

Specifically, I’m in what we call the, “remembering how to run,” phase of marathon training, where you spend 30 minutes looking for the Garmin you put in a drawer for safe-keeping and promptly forgot about for 14 months. To say I’m out of shape would be an understatement. The last race I did was Grand Rapids, in Oct 2013. Since then, I’ve logged mayyyybe 30 miles? If you’re playing along at home, that essentially means I’m starting from zero.

chicago marathon

The Chicago Marathon is Oct. 11, which leaves me a pretty good position time-wise. My initial plan (prior to randomly submitting a registration for a race I would, in no way, be prepared for) involved doing some basic math. I would have a good 3 months to build back a solid base, after which I could slowly start folding in some race-specific training. The typical marathon training plan is about 18 weeks, so when added to this “base program”, I land right about race day.

I’ll be perfectly honest. I have no idea what I’m doing. I googled around a bit. I looked at really old training plans (when I was slower and wasn’t doing speed work). I looked at blogs. I looked at Hal Higdon. I am 100% winging it. Here are my basic rules and the rationale behind them:

  • Increase by no more than 10% running volume each week.
  • Start with 3-4 mile workouts.
    • Rationale: My only logged runs have been around 3-4 miles, and running less than 3 miles always feels like a waste (taking longer to shower than to actually work out seems cruel).
  • Build to 5 days a week.
    • Rationale: I’ve run best when I’m running 5 days a week. Running four days a week may be doable, but I don’t belong to a gym, so the necessary cross-training just wouldn’t happen.
  • Remain flexible.
    • Rationale: I have no idea what I’m doing, and it’s very possible that I’ll need to adjust things on the plan as I get into it. I’ll be easing into Sunday running after about a month, and keeping that day’s mileage pretty low (3-4).

If you are at all interested in following the base mileage build of someone who is making it up as she goes, you are more than welcome to download the plan by clicking on the excel doc.

base mileage plan

The actual marathon training part remains a blank, because much of it will likely depend on how my base goes. Suffice it to say, I’ll likely be putting something together using Higdon as a base, and inserting workouts that I know have really worked (e.g. race pace workouts and track ladders), as well as some shorter races. I’m wide open to suggestions, laughter, or words of encouragement.

Either way, this weekend was beautiful, and it served as a great way to unofficially kick off the next chapter of this running life of mine. Today, I ran 4.5 miles. My pacing intuition is completely gone, so I started at what was around 9:30/mile, and definitely faded a bit, landing just shy of 9:50/mile. Moving forward, I’m going to try and slow things down so that these runs are consistent, and so that I can really focus on my form, and enjoy the ride. This time around, enjoying the ride is something I don’t want to forget to do.


Add yours →

  1. Hi!!! So excited to see you back on the blogosphere, and even more so to see your return to running! Your base training looks solid. My only “advice” is in regards to the Hal Higdon plans — I jumped from Novice II to Intermediate (2?) between my 1st and 2nd marathons. While the Novice plan was just a tad under my abilities, it ended up being perfect for me because I was a marathon n00b. On the other hand, the Intermediate plan was too much for me. I was able to complete it, but I sacrificed quality for quantity — i.e., I did maybe 3-4 sessions of speedwork the whole cycle in exchange for monster 30-mile weekends. I showed up to MCM tired and without any speed… and because I spent so much time running, I hadn’t done any strength work, which also made me slower. Wow, that was a long comment. Anyway, GOOD LUCK, take it easy on yourself, and have fun!!


    • !!! Good point. My homework over the next few weeks is to really figure out what worked best for me in the past. I’ve used a Hansons-inspired plan before, & it just left me burneddddd out. Only one day of rest is just not something that works for me, mentally. At least not currently. If I had a sense, I’ll fall somewhere in the middle, and definitely start with a less advanced training plan that I can bump up with some speed sessions. I’m also on the fence about switching my Sunday easy runs to Fridays. As I said on your post, those Sat/Sun grinds started wearing on me. All of that being said, I’m trying to separate what didn’t work for me plan-wise with the general feeling of burn out that I was definitely experiencing with some of these later training cycles. It’s scary committing an entire training cycle to one method! If I have to switch mid-stream, so be it, but I’ll be walking that fine line between gathering data points & setting myself up for failure. 🙂


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