After running the Boston Marathon last month I had an opportunity to give some thought to why I enjoy training for and running marathons while I took time off from running to recover.
For me the answer to that question is twofold. The first reason is the challenge involved with training for and running a marathon. The process will push you to the limit both mentally and physically.
It takes a lot of discipline to properly train for a run a marathon. By this I am referring to the need to ensure you are eating the right foods to fuel and recover from your workouts, don’t cheat on your training and get a decent amount of sleep to help you recover from your workouts.
The second reason I enjoy running marathons applies more to out of town races. Believe it or not running a marathon is a great way to see a city. In my case I’ve run through neighbourhoods of large cities that I would never have visited if I had not been running a marathon.
When I think of this the first thing that comes to mind are neighbourhoods in Boston and Philadelphia I ran through that were filled with families enjoying breakfast or a bbq as they encouraged the runners going by.
Runners who are not from Ottawa also likely have a similar appreciation for the opportuniy to run by the Parliament Buildings and the residences of the Governor General and Prime Minister during the Ottawa Marathon.
For me the biggest reward from training for and running a marathon comes when I cross the finish line . Following 3-4 months of dedicated training involving several hundred miles in multiple pairs of running shoes I get to celebrate. In my case this involves going out for beer and food I would not normally eat ( ie. cheesesteaks in Philadelphia) once I have showered and changed.
Unfortunately the high from completing a marathon is often followed by a bit of an empty feeling when it is over. I went through this phase after I got home from Boston. Fortunately this time I already have a half-marathon coming up in 3 weeks to help get me over it.
I am not sure when or where my next marathon will be yet. I just know that I will run another one for the reasons mentioned above.
This is a blog post that has been a long time in the making. It’s no secret that my mission, probably more accurately my obsession, since I started running marathons has been to qualify for the Boston Marathon.
At first it seemed like a distant and out of reach goal. After a couple marathons I managed to shave quite a bit of time off my results and my goal seemed to be within reach. It was at that point running Boston became my main focus with regards to running.
Then I got to a point where I was close to meeting my qualifying standard of 3:10 but not close enough – 3:15 and 2 x 3:12 in Ottawa, 3:14 in Toronto. In each of those races I was on track to meet my goal time but I either made a mistake or simply ran out of gas over the final 10 km of the race.
Last November in Philadelphia I made my most recent attempt to qualify. Coming off a 3:12 finish in Ottawa in the spring and due to the fact that I finally got to add 5 minutes to my qualifying time since I will be 40 on race day in 2017 I was confident it would finally be my time to qualify.
Despite not running a pb, off by 11 seconds, I managed to meet my new qualifying standard of 3:15 with a 3:12:29 finish…
Since I only managed to beat my qualifying standard by 2:31 I would have to wait almost a year before finding out if I would get to run Boston. Despite that I did celebrate my BQ with beer and made sure to order what I thought was an appropriate selection…
I planned to take a shot at improving my time here in May but a heat wave put an end to those thoughts. I went into the Ottawa Marathon with a more conservative race plan and finished more than 10 minutes over the qualifying standard. My time from Philadelphia would have to be enough.
Two weeks ago I finally got to submit an application for entry and last Wednesday after a week and a half of waiting I received an early birthday present with the confirmation that my application had been accepted. I beat the cutoff of 2:09 under the qualifying standard by 22 seconds.
It feels weird in a sense to finally be able to say that the next marathon I run will be Boston. At the same time I am also very excited to finally have a chance to run what many consider to be the holy grail of marathon running.
With one day left in 2015 I decided to take a look back at my year. It was a productive year for me, producing some results I am very pleased with. You can read longer recaps of al of my races on here so I will try and keep the summaries short.
Before I get in to my review here is a quick summary of my 2015 in numbers:
Mileage: 3454 km (2146 miles)
Busiest Week: 118 km (73 miles)
Busiest Month: October – 424 km (263 miles)
Number of pairs of shoes used: 6 (of these 2 pairs were New Balance Fresh Foam Zante which is my current favourite shoe)
Number of races: 8 (2 marathons, 1 trail 30 km, 2 half marathons and 3 10 km)
My goal for the year, once again, was to run a Boston qualifying time. Once again I took two shots at it. Once here in Ottawa in the spring and once in the fall in Philadelphia.
My lead up to the Ottawa Marathon followed a similar pattern to previous years where I ran a couple of 10 km races and a half marathon in the months leading up to the marathon.
Coming off a two month layoff to end 2014 due to a ruptured appendix I was not sure what to expect with my training for the Ottawa Marathon. I surprised myself in April by shaving 1.5 minutes off my pb in the half-marathon with a 1:26 finish. The result gave me a needed boost a few weeks before my first marathon of the year.
Going into the Ottawa Marathon in May I once again needed a sub 3:10 finish to meet the standard for the 2016 Boston Marathon. Unfortunately I ran out of gas in the later stages of the marathon and fell just short of that target.
However, it was still a solid result and my friend Greg did manage to get one of my favourite running pictures of me reaching the finish line with my family cheering in the background…
With the Ottawa Marathon out of the way my focus turned to Philadelphia Marathon in the fall. Highlights during the lead up to Philadelphia were my busiest month and week in terms of mileage ever and of course my annual gig as a pace bunny during the Army Run half-marathon. This year I was a 1:35 pacer…
With that our of the way I was ready to tackle the Philadelphia Marathon in November. Since my time would count toward the 2017 Boston Marathon it meant that I now needed a sub 3:15 in order to qualify.
My plan was to aim for 3:10 again in order to give myself enough of a buffer to ensure I would be accepted. In the end a stop just before the half cost me valuable time but another 3:12 finish was good enough to meet the Boston standard with a buffer of 2:31.
Overall I’m pleased with my 2015. Time will tell if my marathon time will be good enough to be accepted for entry into Boston but I do have a shot at improving my time here in the spring and regardless of what happens I will be applying for entry into Boston for the first time when registration opens in September.
It’s been a little over a week since I ran the Philadelphia Marathon. I had planned to get out for an easier run a couple of days earlier but had to wait until yesterday to get out for my first run since the marathon. I’m sure the extra couple days of rest did not hurt at all.
Now I am slowly going to ease back into my routine. I was tempted to want to run another race this month just for something to do but options are limited here at this time of year. Instead I am going to try and go on a bit of a streak and run every day in December. It will give me something to aim for as 2015 comes to an end.
As previously mentioned on here, I will be running the Ottawa Marathon again in May. In order to get ready for that I will get back to a structured training routine in mid to late January. That will include at least two 10 km races and a half-marathon leading up to May.
Until I get back to a structured routine I will probably run based on how I feel. I’ll throw in some tempo runs when I feel like it and probably get in a couple workouts at the indoor track before then. However, I’m going to try and not obsess over my mileage or pace until the time comes to start another marathon training cycle.
What do you have planned for the rest of 2015 and the start of 2016?
Yesterday was marathon number 13 for me. It was also my third Philadelphia Mararthon since 2011. I chose it as a fall marathon option in 2011 due to the timing and because it was not too far from home, about a 7 hour drive. My wife and I really enjoyed the trip which made the decision to return an easy one.
One thing about Philadelphia for those who have not been there is that references to the Rocky movies are still very present. I lost track of the number of times I heard Eye of the Tiger and Gonna Fly Now playing along the course yesterday.
I can’t claim to be a big fan of the movies but I recall watching the first three because my dad watched them and Rocky IV seemed like a great movie to me when I first saw it when I was 10 or 11, in part because the Cold War was still underway and the villain in the movie was Soviet.
On that note I began my race weekend by waking up early and going for a very easy run over to the Art Museum to run up the “Rocky steps”…
Once I got back to my hotel I continued the Rocky theme by watching the following clip for more inspiration since I would run by several of these sites during the marathon…
Sunday morning I had my usual wake up call for breakfast at 3:30. I tried to eat as quickly as possible and make as little noise as possible to not wake up my wife and kids. Usually try to get back to bed after eating but there was no point yesterday because my adrenaline was already flowing.
Given that I was ready to go and I was not sure how long it would take to get through security I headed over to the start line probably a little earlier than I needed to and there I was sitting along the Ben Franklin Parkway at 5:45 yesterday morning. A couple of volunteers were also there but I was the first runner in the maroon corrall.
The last time I ran Philly I was cold waiting for the race to start. I learned my lesson this time and had a pair of throwaway pants and gloves from the thrift store to keep me warm. I also had an old running pullover I no longer used.
Now on to the actual race. If you don’t want to read any further because I’ve rambled on long enough already here is the short version. My first half was slower than expected because I had to make a stop that cost me valuable time, much of the first 32 km was run into a headwind and I ran my fastest second half to a marathon ever to finish strong.
If you are still with me here is the more detailed version. Since there were only 3:05 and 3:15 pace bunnies my plan was to stay between the two and aim for a sub 3:15 finish. That plan was going well until I had to make a stop at a porta potty around 17-18 km into the race.
Around the 24-25 km mark I noticed there was a pacer ahead of me. I assumed it was the 3:15 pacer who must have passed me when I stopped. I eventually caught up to the group and asked the pacer if he was on target. He told me he was about 27 seconds ahead of his goal at that point. Given that I needed a buffer for a BQ I took off ahead of the group and continued to run my own race.
For those of you who have not run the Philadelphia Marathon the second half is an out and back that takes you out to the Manayunk neighbourhood. At the 32 km mark you turn around and run back to the finish line.
I hit the turnaround feeling stronger than I ever have at that point in a marathon. To add to that we ran much of the initial 32 km into a wind. Once I turned around I knew the wind would finally be at my back. Also, for a final Rocky reference Living in America by James Brown was blasting in the background as I hit the turnaround brininging back memories of this…
At this point I knew that barring any issues with muscle cramps I was going to reach my goal at the finish. I must say it is much more fun to be the guy who is still passing people in the last 10 km of a marathon than to be one of the people who are starting to hit the wall. The fact that I was still going strong gave me all the motivation I needed to finish and if that was not enough over the final 1 km – 800m I had multiple spectators calling out my name as I went by because I was still running hard and trying to pass people in front of me.
I managed to cross the finish line with a chip time of 3:12:29. Although that was 10 seconds slower than my time here in Ottawa in May it was 8 minutes faster than my previous Philadelphia efforts and thanks to the fact I move up into a new age category for 2017 it gave me my elusive BQ!
Following the race my 6 year old was dying for a cheesesteak so we grabbed a cab and headed to Geno’s for one of these…
I normally would not eat a cheesesteak but I have to tell you they taste pretty good after running 26 miles. If you do go to Philly I recommend a trip to Pat’s or Geno’s after the race.
With regards to my result, unfortunately I know it does not guarantee me entry to Boston. For 2016 the cutoff was 2:28 under the standard and I gave myself a buffer of 2:31. My plan for the spring will likely be to try and improve on my time from yesterday to improve my chances of getting in. For now I’ll take some time to enjoy the fact that I met the qualifying standard for Boston. Having one of these seemed appropriate last night…
Race day is only one week away now and my last full week of training is complete. I ended up cutting a couple of my runs short this week but I am feeling pretty good about next week. I’ve had a good training cycle and managed to avoid getting sick or injured. Now I am looking forward to putting my training to the test.
The key workout this week was a threshold effort on Tuesday. My schedule called for a 3.2 km warm up followed by 4 x 2 km @ 4:12/km with an easy 1:30 in between each set. A 3 km cool down left me with a 15 km workout.
This is the second training cycle I’ve stretched my tempo and speed workouts to 15-20 km efforts during my biggest weeks of training. I think it helped me in the lead up to the Ottawa Marathon in May by having me run at a harder pace over longer distances. We’ll see in a week if it was in fact a benefit but for now at least it helped make me feel more confident about my training.
I ended the week with a marathon pace effort. I opted for a 16 km run today. I felt it was a good distance because it took me over an hour to complete but it wasn’t enough mileage to have a negative impact on my goal.
Now the focus for the upcoming week will be to pay more attention to nutrition and rest. I’ll do one more tempo run on Tuesday but my key workouts are out of the way now. I just need to focus on being ready for next Sunday morning.
Race day is only 2 weeks away now. This week was another full week of training although I did cut back on my mileage due to time constraints on a couple of days. That said, I think it was still another solid week of training. The result was a 77 km week.
The biggest impact on my training this week was not being able to fit in my scheduled 16 km tempo run and 20 km worth of speed work. To make up for that I opted for 11 and 10 km efforts both at marathon pace.
This morning the weather was what I hope it will be on race day. There weren’t many clouds in the sky and it was cool with little wind. The previous two occasions I’ve run in Philadelphia it ended up being a little on the warm side for this time of year. Weather like we had here this morning would be great for running a marathon.
Once again this morning I brought my soon to be 3 year old along for the ride in the Chariot…
The plan for week 17 is for another solid week of training before I really ramp things back the following week. My plan has me coming in around 92 km for the week which I think is a little more than I’ve done 2 weeks out from a marathon in previous cycles but I think it will be fine this time since I had a bit of a recovery week this week in terms of overall mileage.
Today marked three weeks until race day. Based on how the last month of training has gone I am feeling pretty good about this training cycle. I had another solid week of training this week before I start to taper.
My plan for this week was for another solid week in terms of mileage and I managed to accomplish that despite the fact I ended up having to drop my Tuesday night threshold run.
On Monday night I started off the week with an encounter that was a first for me…
On Wednesday my run ended up being cut short due to something we do not deal with often here. The remnants of Hurricane Patricia passed through brining strong winds and a lot of rain.
After non-stop rain for most of the day the was a brief pause late in the day and I thought it would give me the opportunity to run home. However, the heavy rain started not long after I left work and I found myself running into strong winds and being pelted with rain. It was not a pleasant experience and I ended up taking the shortest route home.
Thursday night was a much better experience as the weather was much better and I was able to fit in my speed work. The schedule for this week called for a 3.2 km warm up, 6 x 200m hard/200m easy, 7 km @ 4:30/km, 3:00 easy, 6 x 200m hard/200m easy, 3 km cool down.
Today I ended the week with a different workout. When I reviewed The New Rules of Marathon and Half-Marathon Nutrition by Matt Fitzgerald back in July I said that one of the ideas in the book that caught my attention was running a 26.2 km race simulator. I tried that workout today with 26.2 km done in 1:53. I’ll know if a few weeks if it was useful but it felt good to doing the run today.
Next week will be my last week of full training before I cut back on my mileage and taper for race day. So far my training cycle has gone really well so my primary focus now is to stay healthy.
Race day is now less than one month away. My plan for this week was to continue my progress and put in another big week of training. I managed to finish the week with 104 km done. That makes three consecutive weeks of at least 100 km. For me that is a first and certainly a positive as I get closer to taper time.
I managed to average over 10 km per run again this week with my shortest one being a 10.2 km effort. Once again my threshold and speed workouts were by biggest efforts during the week.
Tuesday night’s threshold effort involved a 3.2 km warm up, 6.4 km at 4:25/km, an easy 5:00, 10 x 100m hard/0.30 easy and a 3 km cool down. I managed to plot out my route for this run properly as I arrived at the highschool close to my house in time to do my 100m sprints on the track…
With my wife being out of town Thursday I had to push my speed workout back to Friday night. This week my workout ivolved a 32 km warm up followed by 6 x 200m hard/200m easy, 6.4 km @ 4:30/km, an easy 1:30, 6 x 200m hard/200m easy followed by a ool down of just over 3 km for a total of just over 18 km done.
Unfortunately I was not able to make use of a track for my 200m sprints when I did this workout. Like I often do I ended up running it on a bike path on my way home from work with my backpack on. Fortunately it is still pretty warm here during the day and I am not having to load much in my backack so I did not really feel it.
This morning I ended off the week with my longest run with one of the kids in the Chariot. I ended up doing 35 km with my 2 year old along for the ride.
I know have 4 more weeks of running before race day. My plan is for two more weeks of solid mileage before I do a 2 week taper leading up to race day.
Coming off my biggest week of training my plan for week 13 was a similar one in that I was aiming to surpass 100 km for the week once again. My schedule of runs for the week was very similar to what I did in week 12. I ended up with 106 km done in week 13.
Once again longer tempo and speed workouts on Tuesday and Thursday were key in helping me fit in my scheduled mileage for the week. On Tuesday evening I ended up running for 1 hour at my tempo pace following an easy warm up. My total mileage was 19 km.
Thursday night’s speed workout was a tougher one, in part because it rained most of the time I was running. This time my workout involved 200m repeats. After an easy warm up I completed 6 x 200m/200m easy, 3.2 km @ 4:51/km, another 6 sets of 200m repeats and ended with an easy cool down for a total of 21 km done.
Yesterday I took my 2 year old out with me in the Chariot for my long run. We ended up doing 31 km…
Week 14 will follow a similar pattern before I start to drop my mileage with race day only just over a month away now. That means I will do one more 30 km run this weekend.