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Archive for December, 2009

Getting committed

Well, I’ve done it. I’ve gone and registered for a full marathon. I have 139 days and a few hours till the race begins, which I’m hoping is plenty of time to build up my mileage and get in position to finish (of paramount importance!) and post a respectable time.

What’s a “respectable time”? Many months ago, when the idea of running a full marathon, someday, first crossed my mind, I thought that if I ever found myself attempting such a thing that I’d like to break four hours. Why four hours? Mostly it’s because I remember being impressed by one of my classmates, who ran cross country, finishing the L.A. Marathon in just under four hours our senior year. It seemed impossibly fast to me, back then, to know someone who could run so far in such a time.

Actually, my goal is just a little more ambitious than breaking four hours. What I’d really like to do is to finish with an average pace of sub-nine minutes. Nine minutes a mile for 26.2 miles translates to 3:55:48, or not much faster than four hours. Based on the Runner’s World calculator, my time in the half-marathon suggests I should be able to run a full marathon in 3:36:58. That seems a bit ambitious to me, but I’d be ecstatic if I essentially split the difference and posted a time around 3:45:00.

I’ve done a fair job of maintaining my mileage in the two weeks since the half-marathon. I considered various marathon training programs, but I think I’m going to have to adapt one to my needs, since I’m starting from a baseline roughly halfway into most of the programs I’ve found. I have the wiggle room to increase my mileage gradually, throwing in the occasional week where my mileage remains the same. I also have the flexibility to add even longer runs (most programs seem to make the longest pre-race run twenty miles), or to not feel like I’m going to suffer if something comes up again to keep me from running for a few days.

So, we’ll see how it goes. At the very least, I now have a specific objective around which to plan my runs, which provides some nice structure.

I can’t promise that I’ll post daily updates on my run like I did during my half-marathon training. I don’t know that it’s that interesting, but also it feels like I’ve taken to blogging only about running (maybe I’ve just run out of things to say). But, presumably there will be progress reports and updates.

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What’s next?

I’m faring well physically after the half-marathon. My calves are still a little sore, but I was able to do twenty minutes on the elliptical machine yesterday, and today I ran four miles on the treadmill after wimping out on running outside. (In my defense: it was 37° and I felt underdressed for the cold.)

But with the race now behind me, I’m finding it a bit challenging to try to put together a new running schedule. I want to keep running the same days of the week, and I’d like to maintain my fitness. But I’m also not sure what kind of mileage I should be doing, and whether I should do the same set of runs each week, or if I should vary the distance on my long runs, or how I should approach running for the next few weeks.

Of course, the simple solution is probably to target another race so I have a specific distance and program to prepare. I could easily do another half-marathon; assuming I keep up my running, I’d have no problems doing that distance again in the next month or two. But while I can always run that distance on my own, I’m not sure if the half-marathon is the distance I should target for my next race.

In fact, I’ve been giving some thought even before the half-marathon of trying to do a full marathon in the next six months or so. I’d have the advantage of already being in pretty good condition, since most of the marathon training programs I’ve seen start with much shorter runs in the early weeks than I’ve been doing lately. And I also feel like I might have an easier time training for that distance while I’m still a graduate student, since my schedule has enough flexibility to be able to run pretty much any morning. Plus, there are a few races in the region coming up in the spring, which leaves me more than enough time to get on a four-month training program.

I’m not really sure why, at the moment, I’m waffling on this issue. I know that if I do another half-marathon, I can train for a new personal record (especially since I now have an accomplished time to try to beat), and I feel like I have plenty of room to improve on my performance from Sunday, even though I was pleased with my time.

But, there’s still a strong pull to do a full marathon. For one thing, training to run that distance would probably help me shed the remaining few pounds I’d like to lose, and running considerably more miles than I’ve already been doing would also allow me to pay even less attention to my caloric intake and eat more or less what I want (it’s a nice perk of doing so much running). I’ve never really run much further than the half-marathon distance (I think I managed close to fifteen miles on a run in the summer), but then I had never run more than about four miles before mid-August, and it only took me three months to get into condition to do 13.1 miles at a healthy pace.

I guess part of my desire to pick another race is the knowledge that it’s a lot easier to run and maintain a routine when I have a specific goal. It’s not even that I think I’m going to stop running all of a sudden. It’s just that it’s so much easier for me to look at a training program that tells me exactly what distance to run on which days so I don’t have to think about it and can eliminate the guesswork on my part.

But mostly it’s just a little crazy when I think about how, at the beginning of the year, I labored to complete fifteen minutes on a treadmill, and now I’m giving serious consideration to running a marathon that will probably require me to run for close to four hours.

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