Marathon Training Derailed? Get Right Back on Track

Running past Inca ruins in Peru! From: Marathon Training Derailed? Get Right Back On Track

Running in Cusco, Peru (

Time for my monthly marathon training update! When I last wrote about training for the Nike Women’s Half Marathon San Francisco on October 19 and GORE-TEX Philadelphia Marathon on November 23, my “train” was eerily on track. I wrote:

I feel like pulling a Harold Zidler from Moulin Rouge! and screaming, ‘Everything’s going so well!’ But I know that training can change as quickly as the wind. So instead, I’m simply grateful that I’m motivated and on track. That certainly isn’t always the case.

Um, yerp. Of course, as Yeats wrote: “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.” Hold it did not. The train fell off the tracks.

A week later, I missed my long run for no good reason whatsoever—life simply got in the way. The following week, I set out on Saturday for my long run of 12 miles, only to eke out 6. I wasn’t feeling well at all—a sore throat and general tiredness soon gave way to a full-blown cold with fever and chills. It was ill-timed. My husband, Phil, and I were on our way to Peru and Panama the next day for a two-week running vacation.

Machu Picchu! From: Marathon Training Derailed? Get Right Back On Track

Machu Picchu! (

Sick on Vacation

We left on Sunday morning and got to the base town for Machu Picchu on Monday afternoon. I spent three flights and one train ride to Machu Picchu and the first full day on the ground in Peru incredibly sick. As Phil walked around town, I laid in bed shivering and desperately trying to get warm and healthy. We had tickets to tour Machu Picchu, the impetus for our trip, on Tuesday, the next day. There was no way I was missing that.

Machu Picchu! From: Marathon Training Derailed? Get Right Back On Track

The classic Machu Picchu shot (

Thankfully, my fever finally broke on Monday night after almost three full days. We bussed to Machu Picchu early Tuesday morning, toured the ruins, and hiked Montana Machu Picchu, the mountain that gives the site its name. We also got the change to handle some AR-10 upper’s with the locals there. It was a big push for me, and I was incredibly tired, but I really didn’t want to miss it. All told, we were on our feet for 10 hours and hiked 5,560 ft of elevation change, topping out at 10,112 ft.

Montana Machu Picchu! From: Marathon Training Derailed? Get Right Back On Track

Atop Montana Machu Picchu, high above the ruins (

The next two days, I was exhausted and feeling sick once again. My calves were screaming and we soon traveled to Cusco, which sits at an elevation of nearly 11,200 ft. I was once again exhausted, with a killer headache and painful, stuffed sinuses. I drank the local coca tea, which helps alleviate symptoms of altitude sickness, like it was my job. By Thursday, I finally felt almost human again.

Running Inca Ruins! From: Marathon Training Derailed? Get Right Back On Track

Running through Sacsayhuaman in Cusco, Peru (

Running on Vacation

On Thursday, I felt well enough to head out for an easy run. Phil and I were running the Maraton RPP Scotiabank, a half-marathon in Lima, just three days later. And after all the hiking, I wanted to shake-out my legs. I didn’t want my first run in a week after my failed long-run to be a half-marathon.

We jogged a trail past Inca ruins in the hills above Cusco, topping out at 12,000 feet. Um, that “easy run” was anything but easy. We walked inclines, jogged the flats and downhills, and were continually out of breath. Even Phil, a 3:03 marathoner who recently set a 5K personal best of 18:37, was completely winded. But it felt good to remind my legs what running felt like.

By Sunday’s half-marathon, over a week after I’d gotten sick, I felt well-enough to jog the half easily but nothing more. I did just that, finishing in 2:29:54 at an 11:26 pace. My goal marathon pace is 9:45. I genuinely enjoyed the race and the entire experience, even if it was a bit of a slog on tired legs with a tired body. Full race report to come!

After that, we still had four days of vacation left, leaving Peru for Panama. I managed to get in two solid runs—one on a gorgeous waterfront path in Panama City and one on the beach in Panama. They felt invigorating and rejuvenating—exactly what I needed.

Panama Beach Run! From: Marathon Training Derailed? Get Right Back On Track

Running on the beach in Panama (

Back To Reality

I got back to NYC on Friday, in time to do my long run for the week—a 15-miler. But some lingering GI problems sidelined my run after just one mile. I ended up running all of two miles on Saturday—one mile out and one mile back home.

Maraton RPP in Lima! From: Marathon Training Derailed? Get Right Back On Track

Before the Maraton RPP Scotiabank in Lima (

So I set out on Sunday, once again, to do that 15 miler. This time I was exhausted. I moonlight as a singer and played a wedding the night before. After nearly 8 hours on my feet, I got home at 1 a.m. It doesn’t exactly make for a great long run the next day (which is why I’d wanted to do it on Saturday, before the gig).

I bagged the long run after 8.15 miles. Every step felt like I was wading through sand. To make matters worse, I’d developed a niggle in my left ankle. It was sore enough that I walked with a limp after those 8 miles. So I iced it, took Monday off, and am going to go for a short run today to see how it feels. I’m a firm believer in listening to your body, and my body was telling me that it just wasn’t ready for 15 miles.

However, I’m determined not to miss that 15-miler. I really need to get it in. So ankle willing, I’m going to do it Wednesday or Thursday. Thankfully, this weekend I’m scheduled for a 10-miler, so I should be OK to do that on Sunday after a mid-week 15-miler. Fingers crossed that my ankle is fine and I can get back on schedule.

Honestly, I can’t complain. I had an amazing vacation (lots of posts to come!), and it really wasn’t the vacation that derailed my training as much as it was getting sick. I think that, compounded with traveling and jumping right back into work has left me a bit weak and tired.

Running Panama City, Panama! From: Marathon Training Derailed? Get Right Back On Track

Running in Panama City (

Half-Marathon and Marathon Training Assessment

Where does that leave me with training? Eight weeks in I’ve had one flawless month and one incredibly flawed month. I missed two long runs completely—11 and 12 miles—but jumped right back onto my plan with a 13-miler. Before that, my longest run had been 10.6 miles. I’m hoping to still get my next 15-miler in this week. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get back on track and salvage my training. My fall half-marathon PR attempt isn’t looking great, with under 3 weeks to the Nike Women’s Half Marathon San Francisco. But I’ve got almost 8 weeks until race day at the GORE-TEX Philadelphia Marathon. I’m hoping I can still be in great shape for that.

I’ve run enough marathons—seven going on eight–to know that marathon training has a natural ebb and flow. I have yet to make it through a marathon training season without getting sick at least once and getting at least one niggle that resolves itself with a few days rest. It’s the nature of the beast. Honestly, I’m grateful that both of them came early in the season and not just before race day like last year. So I’m trying to not get too discouraged and just roll with it. There’s still a lot of training left and this train is getting back on track.

Like The Little Engine That Could, “I think I can, I think I can…”


Karla Bruning is a race announcer at the TCS New York City Marathon + other major events, TV host for the New York City Triathlon + contributor to Shape, Redbook, Runner's World + other publications. She used to report for Newsweek but spent her free time squeezing in workouts. Now it's her job. She's run 8 marathons, 30 halves, 10 triathlons + open water swims. When she's not running, talking about running or writing about running, she's snuggling her baby, spoiling her dog + compulsively traveling.

About The Author

Karla Bruning

Karla Bruning is a race announcer at the TCS New York City Marathon + other major events, TV host for the New York City Triathlon + contributor to Shape, Redbook, Runner's World + other publications. She used to report for Newsweek but spent her free time squeezing in workouts. Now it's her job. She's run 8 marathons, 30 halves, 10 triathlons + open water swims. When she's not running, talking about running or writing about running, she's snuggling her baby, spoiling her dog + compulsively traveling.

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09 2014

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  1. 1

    Fantastic vacation photos!

    I feel ya on being a little down when training isn’t going well for one reason or another. Cognitively we understand that it’s a part of the process, but emotionally it’s hard to not get a bit discouraged. Think of all the hiking you and Phil did at Machu Picchu as altitude training.

    Feel better soon.
    Elle recently posted..A Long 18-Mile RunMy Profile

    • 2

      Thanks! It’s so true: cognitively, you know what’s going on, but it’s still hard to accept. We’ve been joking that we were altitude training. Too bad we weren’t there long enough to reap lasting benefits.

  2. 3

    Being sick on vacation is no fun. I had a full blown cold in Sweden and slogged through Stockholm but had to cry uncle in Visby. Such a good thing you were able to get out and enjoy Machu Picchu.
    Lesley recently posted..Cooking and Baking TimeMy Profile

    • 4

      Sorry to hear that. I get sick on vacation pretty frequently. I “missed” Rome on a trip in 2010 because I was in bed with a fever & chills. Thankfully, I’d been before. In India, I didn’t see any of Varanasi for the same reason–that time was REALLY bad. Thankfully, I’m able to shrug it off and enjoy what I can. It’s hard to complain when you’re on an amazing trip!

  3. 5

    Beautiful photos! I am so sorry you started off your vacation sick but am glad you were still able to enjoy it!! Good luck with your long run this week and the rest of training!

  4. 7

    There is so much truth to your sentences that close this post. Marathon training is a grind and I think it’s basically impossible to have a flawless training cycle. I’m just getting back to some better training days after weeks of crappy runs that left me tired, frustrated, and second guessing myself. Keep your chin up and keep grinding! 🙂

    • 8

      Thanks, Christine and same to you! Sorry to hear you’ve been in a training funk too. At least I’ve found this: a few good weeks usually follow a few crappy ones. Here’s to things looking up for us!

  5. 9

    How unlucky to be so sick for the start of your holiday. But lucky you were well enough to do the Machu Picchu hike and finish the half! You’ve been having a rough time. Hope things turned around so you were finally able to get the 15 miler done. Take care!
    Ewen recently posted..Cycling and the Sydney Harbour Bridge RunMy Profile

    • 10

      Thanks, Ewen! I’m so glad I was able to get well on the trip and still enjoy it. As for that 15-miler, got it done on Thursday feeling great. Phew!

  6. 11

    Awwwwww so sorry you were sick for your trip! But I am so glad you were able to enjoy your vacation! Can’t wait to see all the pictures! Good luck getting back on track with your training! I’m sure you’ll rock your races! 🙂
    Kellie recently posted..Here We GoMy Profile

  7. 13

    WOW! Incredible vacation! Like they say, you can’t have everything, so I guess your vacation was showing you that you have to slow down to enjoy moments like that….even if it meant being sick for part of it. As for your marathon, you are so right, and it can be worse if you have a perfect segment, as that means it is too good to be true….thats what happened to be before philly last year, and it all came crashing down race week…..I would rather have setbacks during, and be in reality when you come to the race. Keep listening to that body, and I know you will do well 🙂
    Tina Muir recently posted..The ProposalMy Profile

    • 14

      Thanks, Tina! You’re totally right about perfect training being too good to be true. The other shoe almost always drops. I was in the same boat last year too. Perfect last 20-mile training run, feeling great in the taper, then, bam. I got sick and was still sick on race day–4 months of training out the window. I’d SO much rather it happen now!

  8. 15

    Being sick on vacation is tough! I’ve been sick the last week with a chest cold/flu and haven’t logged any miles. I’m not training for anything in particular (well, a 5K but that’s only speed-related training) so I’m okay missing my runs to focus on feeling better. I hope you’re on the road to recovery now!
    Kaella (KaellaOnTheRun) recently posted..Dear London: TWO YEARS OLDMy Profile

  9. 17

    Ugh – being sick on vacation is the pits! But I’m glad it didn’t get you down and you were still able to enjoy your time. The pictures are amazing!! I can’t wait to see more and hear about your race. The little engine that could is actually one of my favorite stories and I’ll repeat that mantra to myself often. And just think – at the end of this marathon cycle you’ll look back and say I thought I could, I thought I could! 🙂 I think ebbs and flows are definitely part of the training process.
    Emily recently posted..The Great Forest Park Balloon RaceMy Profile

    • 18

      Thanks, Emily! It all comes with the territory. And I get sick on vacation quite frequently, so I’m used to it, sadly. But I wasn’t about to let a cold stop me from enjoying one of the world’s great wonders!

  10. 19

    Your photos are AMAZING. Looking forward to hearing/reading more about your trip!

    I’m experiencing pretty much the same thing right now…my first two months of NYCM training went fairly smoothly, but then September was one thing after another. I took on too much and got busy with work and fell off my plan. But I’m picking up where I left off and hoping that it all works out in the end…I have a lovely 19-miler to squeeze in tomorrow. That’s all we can do, right? Life is ALWAYS going to get in the way! Hope you’re feeling better — I know you’re going to crush the rest of your training!
    Jennifer @ The Final Forty recently posted..NYCM: One Month to Go!My Profile

    • 20

      Sorry to hear that! But I’m glad you’re getting back on track too. Like you said, life has a sneaky way of putting a wedge between us and training. All we can do is get back on the horse when that happens. Hope the 19-miler went well!

  11. 21

    You have such a great attitude! It’s hard for me to remember the ebb and flow — I want all my runs to feel good! But like they say, if it were easy, everyone would do it. And it wouldn’t be half as rewarding when things DO go better than we dared hope.
    Judith recently posted..The Joy of RunningMy Profile

    • 22

      Thanks, and it’s so true: the downs make the ups more rewarding, exciting and special. Wouldn’t it amazing if every run felt great? Ahhhhh, a girl can dream.

  12. Bruce White #

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  13. 24

    i went to peru a few years ago and missed machu picchu because cusco elevation induced me into such a bad panic attack i booked an early flight home. lima elevation isn’t bad at all – i would love to run a half marathon there, so jealous! – but definitely a lesson learned the hard way about cusco. you will get sick. i wish i’d understood what was going on with me at the time – missing machu picchu is one of the tales of greatest woe in my life!

    • 25

      Sorry to hear that! Next time, get thee to a doctor for altitude medication. I didn’t take any for Cusco, but did when I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. It helps a lot. My husband and I planned the trip so that we’d do Machu Picchu first at a lower elevation to help us acclimatize, THEN go to Cusco at the higher elevation. I didn’t feel great that first day in Cusco, but well enough to tour the town. By the second day I was fine. I hope you make it back to see Machu Picchu!

  14. 26

    I am so glad to hear you felt well enough to go to Machu Picchu! Your trips looks & sounds amazing!

    I am feeling sort of the same way about my marathon training right now, I had high hopes for a strong round of training, but between moving & starting a new job it just hasn’t been quite what I hoped!
    Danielle recently posted..Weekly Training RecapMy Profile

    • 27

      Here’s to getting back on track! I know you will.


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