No. 1 vs. No. 5: Lessons I’ve Learned Through Five Marathon Training Seasons

Then and now.

Then and now.

As I plow my way through Marathon Training Season No. 5, it occurs to me how far I’ve come (literally and figuratively) since I laced up my shoes for Marathon Training Season No. 1 in 2010. So much of what I know and do now is second nature — i.e. when to eat my Shot Bloks, where all the water fountains are in my neighborhood, how often I need to replace my shoes — but there are a couple big lessons I’ve learned that I’d love to be able to go back and teach 2010 Maggie.

If you miss a workout, the world will not end. While training for my first marathon, I didn’t miss one single run. Not one. On the surface that probably sounds like something to be commended, but in hindsight, there were times that I should’ve parked myself on the couch. I didn’t really listen to my body, and as such, I spent weeks after the race hobbling around and then another two months in physical therapy to fix my wonky ankle, improve my flexibility and strengthen my hips.

Also, my do-or-die attitude caused me to place too much emphasis on every single run. Oh, no. How will I ever finish 26.2 miles in October if I struggled to run 4 miles on a Tuesday in July?!? The sky is falling!!!!!!! Sure, I still go through ups and downs with training, but my extremes are, well, not as extreme.

Cross training matters. My first two marathon training seasons, I didn’t do anything besides run. I didn’t belong to a gym, I didn’t ride my bike, I didn’t do yoga. I scoffed at the “cross train” part of my trusty Hal Higdon plan. Cross training mixes things up mentally and physically. It allows you to become more well-rounded, and it’s key for injury prevention. I find that some of my cross training activities are less structured (i.e. riding my bike to dinner instead of driving), and that makes it even more fun.

Not every run should be the same pace. I remember flipping out if I ran much slower than my usual 9-minute pace. I was very consistent with that pace, but it didn’t allow me to recover properly nor make any significant gains in my training. Besides, when race day came, I ran 9:45s the whole way, which I had basically not done the entire summer. I also never really pushed myself. I thought speedwork was just for super-fast people. No, it’s for everyone. It’s just that your speed is different. Easy runs and speedwork should be a part of your training plan, no matter your pace or skill level. I get that now.

Investing in quality gear/tech is priceless. Once I committed to train for my first full marathon, I started to build my gear collection. But admittedly, I was still a cheapskate. I outfitted myself in good shoes (Nike Lunarglides), but that was about it. Yes, I had finally ditched the cotton T-shirts and invested in some dri-fit, but my workout clothing options of 2010 pale in comparison to my current arsenal of neon singlets, black running tights and accessories of all types.

I also was using the Nike+ chip to track my miles and pace. Remember how cutting-edge that technology was just five years ago? It seems like the Dark Ages now. And just how accurate was it? I honestly don’t know, which was kind of the problem. I eventually graduated to the Nike+ app on my iPhone — a large improvement, to be sure — but this year, I finally put on my big girl pants and ponied up for a Garmin watch. Game changer.

You could fill a book (or blog) with the things I didn’t know in 2010, and I’m still learning each and every day from my friends, coaches, fellow bloggers and my own personal experiences.

Any questions? Hit me up! — Mags



5 thoughts on “No. 1 vs. No. 5: Lessons I’ve Learned Through Five Marathon Training Seasons

  1. The Amish around here have a saying that goes like this: ” We get too soon old and too late smart.”
    The learning process is part of the beauty of and secret of getting older and wiser especially when it comes to marathon training. When I get the starting line of a marathon it’s like I’m looking at a big blank page. I have all the tools, pens, pencils, markers but I have no idea how I’m going to write the story or how it will turn out. I only know that it’s going to be my personal epic. How lucky we are to be runners.


  2. I am training for my first marathon with CES and find they are really terrific at getting us ready for the big day physically. Mentally is where I am struggling right now. Would love you to blog about he mental preparation, the week before/eating/sleeping, the night before advice. Thanks!


  3. Running is a continual learning experience. I learn something new all the time!


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