It’s that time of year again…dun dun dun! Marathon training starts! This year, I’m running the 2012 Philadelphia Marathon on Nov. 18. In just under 18 weeks, I’ll be at the starting line in the City of Brotherly Love, hopefully prepared to tackle my fifth tango with 26.2.
My last marathon was the 2010 ING New York City Marathon, where I set a personal best of 4:44, despite missing the last four weeks of training due to a recent arthritis diagnosis in my knee.
Two years later, I’m feeling faster and fitter than ever. My knee feels great, and I’m hoping for a big PR. In order to do that, I know what I have to do: train right. That’s why I’m training with FIRST.
For marathons past, I’ve followed 16-week programs of various shapes and sizes. I’ll do the same this year, but spread it over the course of 18 weeks. I’m getting married and my honeymoon falls during training weeks 4 and 5. The last thing I want to worry about when I’m supposed to be enjoying newly wedded bliss is squeezing in 11 and 12 milers. So if I get in a few runs during those weeks, great. And if I don’t, I’ll still be on schedule with the 2-week buffer I built into the plan.
This year, I’ve chosen to run with the Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training, better known as FIRST. They recently published a revised edition of their book Run Less Run Faster brought to us by Runner’s World, which I have in my hot little hands. Coming in at 300 pages, it’s a tome on all things training including how to set realistic goals, how to plan for year-round training, and other gems about nutrition, strength-training and conquering your first Boston-qualifier. Most importantly, the book shares a variety of training programs from the 5K to the marathon aimed at newbies and seasoned runners looking to PR.
The FIRST program believes that three key runs combined with two days of cross training are all any runner needs to get stronger and faster. With weekly track repeats, tempo runs and time-targeted long runs, FIRST aims to improve your leg speed, lactate-threshold pace and endurance. And with two weekly aerobic cross-training sessions, FIRST aims to improve your cardiovascular endurance, while avoiding running burnout.
No more junk miles, no more plodding shuffle jogs to get all that mileage in. FIRST preaches quality over quantity to optimize training time. What’s more, they say it makes for faster race times. I believe them. I trained with FIRST in 2010 with great results.
As an arthritic, I find that the right amount of running actually helps my knee joint stay lubricated and feeling good. When I don’t run enough, it starts to get achy. And when I run too much, it also starts to nag at me. It will let me tolerate a lot—I ran three half-marathons in three consecutive months this winter with no problems. But I know that the demands of marathon training far outweigh that. So picking a program like FIRST, where I minimize time pounding my knees sounds, perfect to me.
I also completed my second triathlon in June to a huge personal best. I actually enjoyed throwing in cycling and swimming with my running workouts, even if I didn’t do quite as many as I should have. So I love the idea of rounding out my cardiovascular fitness with cycling, swimming and rowing instead of more miles on the ground.
So here goes. It’s time to start the countdown to marathon Sunday. I’m cueing up “Gonna Fly Now,” the theme from Rocky. Come Nov. 18, I’ll be ready to rock Philly.