I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes a “good training cycle” lately. I am one week out from the Chicago Marathon. It will be my 4th Chicago Marathon and my 9th full marathon. I have done the training thing a little differently each time and I have learned a lot along the way. Do I feel like this time around was a good one? Yes. I think so.
(Photo: Aaron Ross Stories)
I got a late start to marathon training this time. I usually like to train for 17-18 weeks, but I needed an extra long recovery period after the Boston Marathon, so I didn’t actually start training for Chicago until the second weekend of July. To be honest, feeling behind wasn’t great for me mentally. My first few weeks of training felt awkward, difficult and not very fun. I even thought about withdrawing from the marathon. I don’t like to do things unless I give them my all. That is true for just about everything in my life, but especially marathons. I know it isn’t smart to go into a marathon under trained or feeling unhealthy, so I sat with this decision for a bit. But after a few weeks of slogging it out I started to feel like myself again. Runs started feeling easier and I had some speed back in my legs. So, I decided I was going to run this marathon after all and I was going to give it my all for the next 10 weeks.
The heat was pretty brutal this summer. And I won’t sit here and say that every single run I had from August on was amazing – it wasn’t. But I committed. I got out there when I didn’t want to, I struggled through some tough runs, and I got stronger. My peak week this time was lower mileage than my Boston training cycle. I cut a few tempo runs short. And my monthly mileage totals were a little lower than what I usually do, but I felt good. I felt like I was putting in solid work. I was running injury free and I was happy with my return to the grind.
So, this all got me thinking. What makes a good training cycle? Is it hitting 50+ miles a week? Is it running injury free? Is it not skipping any runs? Is it feeling consistently mentally strong? This answer depends on the person. I’d love to hear what you think. But I wanted to decide if for me, this training cycle was a “good one.”
Despite the late start and the first few weeks of struggle, here was my “good”:
- I logged a long run every weekend.
- I shuffled around my schedule to make my training work with my life.
- I had two of the strongest speed workouts I’ve ever had.
- I avoided over training.
- I made it to yoga once a week.
- I strength trained 1-2x a week.
- I used running time as friend time when I could.
- I reminded myself why I love marathon training.
So to me, this was a good training cycle. It wasn’t perfect by any means and I think on paper my Boston training cycle was a little stronger. But I felt good throughout these past couple of months and I am proud of myself for getting back into this sport I love. I juggled some life changes, I kept up my social life, I had a fun summer and I still logged important, happy, fast, slow and therapeutic miles.
I actually think the way I treated my training this time around was the healthiest yet. I worked hard, but I didn’t let it stress me out. I ran because I wanted to run. And I wasn’t taking my ability to train for granted. I logged my easy runs easier than ever and I ran my fast reps faster than ever. I recovered well. I took my nutrition seriously. And I can say tonight that I am truly looking forward to toeing the start line of my 9th marathon next Sunday.
I love the marathon distance. I love that you can’t cheat it. It’s always hard, you’ll have to believe in yourself to get to the finish, but you’ll also see your true strength. Am I going to PR again on Sunday? I don’t know. Am I going to enjoy every step? Yes. I love the Chicago Marathon so much and I am feeling grateful for the chance to run again. I’ll do what I always do – I’ll run the first half with my head and the second half with my heart. No matter what the time on the clock says, I will be proud of another marathon training cycle conquered and another marathon finish line crossed.