My training plan has gone off the rails this week. One thing after another and each workout had to be shifted around for some reason, almost like a domino effect. Or like when you spend too much money one month and it leaves you broke for the next 3. Maybe I’m just not a great planner. Or maybe I just forgot, again, that I can’t have control over everything all the time. The whole “live messy” part of the blog got in the way.
It started off with my long run being on Sunday instead of Saturday. Well, that meant I wasn’t up for 8 miles Monday morning, so I did 5 easy recovery miles instead. I was still planning to get my tempo in Tuesday, when my husband told me Monday night that he had to leave AT 6:30 Tuesday morning. 9 miles before 6:30 am is just too much pressure for me on a random Tuesday, so I decided to run 6 instead and do 8 Wednesday and the 9 mile tempo Thursday (I know this is boring and confusing, I’m actually just trying to figure it all out myself to so this is helpful!)
Wednesday morning came and I was planning to run 8 on my usual hill route. I woke up feeling a little too rested and looked at the clock. Blech, it was already 5:32 (5:00 is when I needed to be up.) I somehow was outside and running by 5:38 but I really should have thought that through longer than 2 minutes because by mile 3-ish I really needed to go to the bathroom. So, I decided to cut the run by one mile. I know it sounds ridiculous but to all you marathon- training readers you know how you feel when you want to run 8 – you mean YOU WILL RUN 8! Anyway, I got over it and I’m fine now, and I’m going to do everything in my power to get the 9 mile tempo and my 18 done Saturday. I’m feeling great (weather’s helping I’m sure) and I don’t want to screw anything up.
Even outside of this week, logistical challenges during the past few weeks have forced me to switch around long run days and tweak mileage to fit runs into my family’s busy schedule.
There have been several times I’ve asked myself this question: What IS the most important part of Marathon Training?
In the past, pre-injury, I was so concerned with getting mileage in that I didn’t take how I felt into consideration at all. Back then, the most important thing was RUN ACCORDING TO THE PLAN. Or more, if I was so inclined, which I often was. I thought more was always better.
Getting the correct long runs in was a close second. If I planned for 20, I would be running 20 even if the tendons in my ankles were busting at the seams (as if tendons have seams. It sure felt like they do.) I did not even remotely understand the importance of helping the body recover and how that plays into training. I just thought run fast and far to race fast and far.
So, what are my priorities now, and, what the heck IS the most important part of marathon training?
First and foremost, the most important part is making sure your body will be healthy enough to complete the marathon. That means you can’t be injured or on the verge of an injury. Although I may get a bit obsessive about various twinges as I described here, I truly feel that allowing the body enough recovery time takes precedent over getting the miles in.
Think of it this way: would you rather be standing at the start line of a goal marathon knowing you skipped 2 long runs but are otherwise feeling fine, or with obvious pain somewhere in your body. If you are as
smart dumb stubborn as I am and completed a marathon in pain I bet I can guess your answer. Both are not ideal situations, that’s true. But learning how to prioritize with your training when you have a busy life outside of running is essential, although it can be really difficult to do.
If you prioritize health as number one, the second most important thing for marathon training I believe are your long runs. You will still be able to complete the marathon if you skip one for some reason, but making sure you’ve done several runs that are 16 mile+ is essential in my opinion. However, making sure you run exactly 20 if the plan states 20 is not as important as I once felt it was. Past 16 the body is getting plenty of practice burning fat, as well as training your muscles and skeleton to adapt during a long run. BUT there is no way around it – you need enough of those long runs. I still make sure I will get enough quality long runs above other workouts. After that, I would say running a lot of miles at you goal marathon pace is important, because, you will be asking your body to run 26.2 at this pace so you need to know what that will feel like.
And what does that leave? The day to day aerobic training you get from easy paced runs. So, the fact that I ran 7 instead of 8 easy paced miles will not make a difference either way. However, if I had decided to get back on track right away Monday morning and do 8 miles following the 16 on Sunday which included some fast miles, I could have been risking my body not recovering and getting started on a cycle toward injury. Yes I am a bit injury paranoid, but since my biggest priority is being healthy at the start line I have to put recovery above sticking to plan. No, I still don’t like when my training plan gets all wacky and confusing, but, I most of the small details won’t matter in the end. What WILL matter is that I stayed healthy and completed enough long runs and tempos.
What do you prioritize most in your training? What is the number one thing you put above all else when training for a marathon?