It’s been an eventful training season for the Philadelphia Marathon on November 18. As always with marathon training, I’ve enjoyed plenty of highs and lows over the course of the last few months. But marathon training comes down to this–how ready you are on race day. I’m ready to tackle Philly with a vengeance and leave all my cares out on the course in an attempt at my marathon personal record.
My training began on a somber note. I initially planned to run the Philadelphia Marathon as the cap in a $10,000 fundraising drive for my cousin Laura, who was battling a rare cancer called clear-cell sarcoma. But just one month and $4,200 into my Laura’s Warriors crusade, Laura lost her battle while still in treatment.
Heartbroken, I turned to running as I always do. I took my sorrow and anger out on the run with me, and dedicated my pain to Laura and all the other people who have lost their battles to cancer.
It turns out that heartbreak is an incredible motivator.
Over the course I training, I slayed my half-marathon personal record by nearly five minutes at the Staten Island Half Marathon, logging my 50th race in the process. I got married in the middle of training too, and learned that leaving my running shoes behind on my honeymoon was easier said than done.
I’ve been training with the Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training, better known as FIRST, using one of the marathon plans in the revised edition of their book Run Less Run Faster. Every week I’ve logged just three key runs targeted specifically to my marathon goal, combined with two days of cross training per the FIRST plan.
Amazingly, the cross training was the hardest part. Earlier in the summer, I completed my second triathlon as part of my Laura’s Warriors fundraising effort. But after the race in the heat of the summer, I found it hard to will myself into an indoor pool. My cross-training most often turned into an easy run with my dog, a ride on the bike at my gym, and, yes, lots of swimming on my honeymoon.
But I stuck faithfully to my FIRST marathon training program, and it paid off with that big half-marathon PR. I’m hoping it will translate to a marathon PR as well.
My last few weeks of training have been less than ideal. My last long-run fell on the Sunday before Hurricane Sandy blew into New York City. It was the windiest and most challenging run I’ve ever done. I was also getting sick, and about 14 miles in I started feeling dizzy. So I cut it short and headed for home, logging just 17 miles instead of the scheduled 20. I managed to hit my target pace exactly despite the wind and dizziness, but felt disappointed that I didn’t run the full 20 miles. As a result, my longest run clocked in at 19 miles four weeks before race day.
Then I spent the better part of the last three weeks battling a cold and then the flu. Of the eight taper workouts on my schedule, I’ve managed to complete just four.
It’s certainly less than ideal after such a great training season, but I’m looking on the bright side: my legs are certainly well rested!
So I’m going into the marathon with reasonable expectations. My half-marathon PR puts me on schedule for a 4:13:36 marathon, according to the McMillan Running Calculator, which has been a tried and true friend to me in years past.
I’d love to break 4:15. I know I have it in me. But just one week out from the flu, I also know I’m not in peak shape. So if I finish anywhere north of 4:30 I’ll be ecstatic, and anywhere in PR territory will leave me happy. To do that, I have to best 4:44:27, my standing PR from the 2010 ING New York City Marathon, and I know I have that in me. My long runs during training were at a faster pace than my current marathon PR.
So here goes. I’m off to the City of Brotherly Love for my fifth marathon. I’ve come a long way since my first tango with 26.2 in 2007. I’m going to dedicate this race to Laura. And every time I want to give up or quit, I’m going to think of her and her family.
I’ve got my Philadelphia Marathon playlist cued up for inspiration. The race’s motto is “Best time of your life.” I hope so, Philadelphia, I hope so.
Good luck to everyone running Philly!