Thoughts on my first marathon

I'm still thrilled by my 3:58 time in New York. In the past month, I spent some time reflecting on my training and how things went on race day. Here's a rundown:

My training plan

In the beginning, I had a ton of questions about how to choose a training plan. I thought "advanced plan" would equal "advanced results," especially when various training plans and calculators were predicting some, um, optimistic finish times for me. It took some convincing to accept that I, as a first-time marathoner and all-around average runner, just can't train on the level that more experienced/high-volume runners can. I guess one reason people get coaches is so they can tell them things like this, but half the fun of marathon training was learning about why & how to train, and experimenting on myself. The single best decision I made was to IGNORE the McMillan Calculator and others and slowly back away from advanced training plans. 

In the end, I decided on <4:00 as my "reach" goal, and I truly would have been happy with anything under 4:20. I'm a really competitive person and it was hard to walk back from a plan that promised a 3:20 marathon. Halfway through my frankenplan, which combined Pfitzinger workouts with Higdon mileage and long runs, I knew I'd made a good decision. I was exhausted but getting faster. My training paces were suggestive of a 4-something marathon, which felt right. I was worn out by the sheer effort of attempting distances I'd never covered before, but gradually getting stronger from week to week.

That's not to say I had a perfect training cycle. Summer was crazy: I was coming off an Achilles injury, I quit my job with nothing new lined up which was stressful, I all but stopped running completely, we left Chicago, traveled in Thailand for a month, then moved to North Carolina. Once I was here I tried to jump back into running again. It was August and very hot, and so hilly, especially compared to Chicago. When I do this again, I will definitely have a bigger base (ANY base at all, actually, would have been better).

Negative splitting

I negative split by six minutes (2:02 first half, 1:56 second half). The second half is more difficult: there's the Queensboro Bridge, and the long upward slope of Fifth Avenue. 

I like to pretend that if I had gone out a little faster I could have shaved some minutes off the first half while keeping the 1:56 second half, finishing around 3:55ish. Of course, it's also possible I would have just tired myself out and suffered, or even positive split. When I look at my splits now, I think I ran too conservatively. Having never done it before, I didn't know what it would be like to run 26.2 miles. But now that I have a marathon under my belt, I will be more comfortable taking risks in future races, like starting out a little faster and trusting that I can stay strong through the very end. 


No disasters felled me on race day! I'm grateful for the cooperation of the following: 

  • My stomach: My plan to take a gel every 45 minutes went well. I never felt close to bonking, and I had no stomach issues, and didn't make any bathroom stops.
  • My legs: Overall, my body cooperated in every way, besides my knee pain (which I treated mid-race with two ibuprofin 2x) and some painful chafing.
  • My mind: I was full of good vibes only. No doubts or negative thoughts troubled me. I was in a good feelings loop: my happiness made me feel great, which made me happier, and so on.

Blogging about it

Blogging about my training was kind of mixed: on one hand, it was great to have a place to dump my thoughts about running and to reflect on my training. More than several times, I found myself re-reading past weekly recaps to remember how I felt that week, whether the twinge I was feeling had cropped up before, or how a past workout had gone. Plus, I think it will be fun to look back on this a few years from now and be reminded of how nervous I felt.

On the other hand, as someone prone to overthinking things, blogging in such detail about my training definitely encouraged tedious analysis of something that, at the end of the day, doesn't matter very much. 

So, what's next?

I want to run a spring marathon pretty badly, but I haven't committed to anything yet because I have some post-crash symptoms that need to be sorted out. I'm now four weeks out from my crash and I resent it, and the guy who hit me, more and more with every passing week. My restlessness to get back to doing the active, outdoorsy things I love is currently in hyperdrive, but for now I'm trying to just rest. 

Is anyone else eyeing a spring marathon?