Well, I’m committed now.
Before I could second-guess myself, I signed up for the Harrisburg Marathon in November. It was the same morning I booked my trip to Colombia. Courage is fleeting, and it’s best to take advantage of it when you can, before the doubt sets in. So I registered and paid and now I have a giant endeavor on the calendar, lying it wait, lurking a few months away. Running a marathon is on my bucket list, a kind of no-brainer physical challenge any endurance athlete worth their salt should at least try, and there’s no better time than now. I’m assuming it will be the last one I run. Maybe I’ll get hooked, but I doubt it. I don’t like running that much.
The longest I’ve run is 13 miles, a solo half-marathon effort that involved getting lost on some forest roads in the tangled woods of North Carolina. A marathon is twice that. So. I have some training to do.
I’m not worried about the cardiovascular element; I ride 150-250 miles a week, so my endurance baseline is there. I’m not even particularly worried about finishing the race–if you go slow enough, you can get just about anywhere. But I want to have a respectable showing, with a decent (under four hours) time and minimal or no walking. I think the biggest obstacle is just my body’s lack of familiarity with running. Usually I do a couple runs a week, totaling between five and 10 miles. My legs just aren’t used to the motion, the pounding, the unique form of resistance. When I looked at the course route, which involves running along the river all the way up to Fort Hunter and back, I thought: that’s a long way to run without stopping. Hell, sometimes it feels like it takes forever to get from downtown to Fort Hunter on my bike, when I’m heading north out of the city on a ride.
So, I started an in-depth, wide-ranging research project to determine the best training plan. This project involved Googling “first marathon training plan” and selecting the first one that popped up. It’s the Higdon plan, which seems popular and effective. I selected the “Novice 2” program, designed for first-time marathoners with some fitness already. It’s a good thing I looked when I did, because it turns out you need 18 weeks to get ready. The marathon is 16 weeks away.
I probably could have gone with an intermediate plan (bigger training load, faster time), based on my fitness from cycling, but honestly I don’t know how well it translates. How much of a marathon’s difficulty lies in the cardio? How much lies in the impact on the legs? How much in the mental challenge of slogging ahead on a seemingly never-ending route? I suspect, like many endurance challenges, it’s mostly the later. I think that’s a good thing, because I’m generally pretty mentally tough. But I’ve also never run 26.2 miles.
Mr. Higdon’s plan for me is pretty simple: four runs a week, one day of cross-training, two off days. Three of the runs are shorter, and one on the weekends is longer, eventually building up to 20 miles before tapering in the weeks before the race. All sounds fine to me. The only issue is that cycling will have to be put on the back burner for a while.
Obviously I’ll ride on the cross-training day. I figure I can ditch an off day and ride instead. Then maybe double up on one or two of the easy run days with a ride in the afternoon. Still, the miles will diminish. I hate to say this, but my biggest concern is watching the totals on Strava crater. Why I care about that is a separate post (or series of posts) entirely. But suffice to say, it’s a concern.
In all likelihood, less time on the bike will probably do me good. A mental break, at least. And I have to tell myself that I won’t lose fitness–I’ll be training for a freaking marathon, after all. Still, there’s always that nagging concern that I’m not doing enough, that I’m losing ground.
But I’d hate myself if I reached old age or infirmity without having tried such a ubiquitous endurance challenge. The marathon is in my city, passing literally past my front door. I don’t have anything else to train for. So, basically, I’ve got no excuses.
More posts to come as the saga continues…