After finishing my racing season in mid October, I laid out a 22-week plan to prepare for this April’s Boston Marathon — a race I have thought about every day for the past few years. Simply put, I want to be at my absolute best on race day. What comes before or after is irrelevant.
My strategy to reach peak shape over a six-month period was initially to put in two 9-week blocks of hard training followed by two 2-week rest periods to prevent burnout. One benefit of writing this blog is that I’m given the benefit of hindsight to see where I’ve felt the strongest in my training. And generally speaking, I tend to be at my sharpest towards the middle of training cycles that follow an extended rest period. With that in mind, my training plan, on paper, would have me at my sharpest around late February, which would give me a full month of peak training. And then, after a few weeks of tapering, I’d have fresh legs to blow doors in Boston.
Thus far, my training has gone almost according to plan. In November, I logged around 242 miles with several faster paced tempo efforts. The training wasn’t particularly difficult, but it reintroduced my body to marathon-type training, which I hadn’t focused on in over a year. In December, I hit 272 miles for the month and was able to get in several long, hard runs, which I believe are the single most important workouts you can do to be sharp for a marathon. I expect these race-specific efforts to pay dividends when I’m doing my main marathon workouts in the months ahead.
In addition to the mileage, I’ve been focusing increasingly on strength work, mostly through body weight exercises. I’ve expanded upon my summer strength circuit by extending my plank times and adding pull ups and dips. While I don’t feel the added upper-body work will make much of a difference in my running speed, it will at the very least help keep the upper half of my body stable and efficient in the later miles of the marathon. Additionally, I tend to recover faster when strength work is in my week-to-week training, which is more than enough reason to invest time into it.
This week, we’ve been hit with some of the worst New England winter weather in history, so I decided to cap my first training block at eight weeks. That means that after two weeks of light running (likely 25-30 miles this week and 35-40 miles next week), I’ll have a full 10 weeks to expand upon the aerobic base I’ve built these past two months. The biggest challenges ahead will be dealing with the erratic New England weather (I’ve already signed up at a gym and done some treadmill running) and keeping off the extra pounds I tend to gain during colder months. I’ll need to force myself to keep moving indoors, which is much harder than just naturally walking around to get places in warmer weather. Honestly, I will probably be forcing myself to walk up and down stairs and even get out the old Nintendo Wii so my body doesn’t get too complacent sitting still indoors.
I wish I had some more interesting content to write about, but the reality is that the past few months have been nothing but the unglamorous aerobic miles needed to establish baseline fitness for real marathon training. As much as the little things in running allow you to get ahead, the bulk of any good training plan is old-fashioned mileage increases. But now that I’ve prepped my body, I’m ready for the hardest ten weeks of training I’ve ever done.
I’ll check in after my next race, which will likely be whatever I can find this time of year.