The main idea that motivates my training plan is that I want to be in fighting shape for a sub-3:35 at the Tobacco Road Marathon on March 15. That's the Boston Qualifying standard for my AG.
Why not just try to improve on my current PR (3:45)? Well, I like racing marathons but I am not sure I could make it through another training cycle without a big, scary goal. 3:40 isn't scary enough. Sub 3:35? Yeah, that's pretty scary.
Even scarier is the idea of doing all the work to qualify for Boston, only to find out later I haven't qualified to actually register for the Boston Marathon (see: this year's 1:02 allowance.) Obviously, that's a first world runner problem and I would just try again the next year. But still, I want to take this seriously and do the very best I can.
What I made combines two training plans into one. I start with 12 weeks of half marathon training, then take a week to recover, followed by 18 weeks of marathon training. The 12 weeks of half marathon training also serves as a way of building up a nice, consistent base before marathon training. I can't really be trusted to "just run" with no training plan, so I like the structure it offers.
Plan One: City of Oaks Half Marathon plan. My goal here is to be competitive with myself and run strong through the very end. I think it's not crazy to expect a 1:4x, but I would honestly be happy with running it at my Kentucky marathon pace. Plus, I'm awfully rusty at this distance and haven't done any legit long runs since spring.
Strategy: Besides getting my MPW up to some kind of maintenance level (25ish/week), I am running four days a week with 1-2 workouts per week (usually, some kind of speed session and a tempo run). Four days a week is a sweet spot for me and gives me enough time left over to ride twice a week while still, you know, having a life.
Since having a life is kind of important to me, I should probably start trying harder to do at least a few of my runs in the morning. Eh......
The main point of this is get back into running after a summer spent mostly not running.
Plan Two: Tobacco Road Marathon plan.
After a week of recovery from the half, I jump into 18 weeks of training for my spring marathon. I haven't really decided which plan to use, but I will probably choose something similar to what I've done in the past -- a Hal Higdon-type plan with Pfitzinger workouts, using McMillan as my pace calculator. This works for me and I like being able to compare my progress over similar types of plans for past marathons. Going into Kentucky, I knew from comparing my workout notes that I was faster, and had more endurance than I did going into New York.
Still, there is a little insecure voice that is telling me that I have to do more -- much more. Maybe it's a consequence of reading too many running blogs (especially by runners with far faster workout times and faster PRs at shorter distances than me, who are still chasing that elusive BQ), but when I see my plan on paper I think, "Is this really going to be enough? What about more miles? What about more grueling workouts? What about hiring a coach? What about double days?" That voice is really annoying because this is my hobby, one that (for now!) I enjoy a lot. To be honest, I don't really want to do that stuff. I like running around with my dog, in nice weather, without sacrificing too many other things I like to do. But it's easy to lose sight of my personal reasons for running, and my own generally judicious sense of how my training is progressing and what kinds of goals are realistic. So anyway, a big part of my training plan includes an attempt to be peaceful during this process, to ignore that insecure voice, and just CTFO out about it.
Another thing: I record my runs in four separate places, which seems like madness. First, Runkeeper (which I've been using from the beginning, before I had a Garmin), where IRL friends and family follow me; then, Dailymile, where I follow a bunch of internet people; also, Garmin Connect (which my watch uploads to automatically); and finally, my training plan spreadsheet. This is excessive, no?