I’ve run two marathons in my lifetime so far, and I plan to run more. The first time was the Chicago Marathon, and the second was the 29th California International Marathon (CIM). In this article, I will compare how I trained for each and look at the results.
Training for the Chicago Marathon
Before I ran the Chicago marathon, I trained for an entire year. I used a training plan from a book I read by Dean Karnazes (50/50: Secrets I Learned Running 50 Marathons in 50 Days — and How You Too Can Achieve Super Endurance!). This marathon training plan is in one of my postings if you want to get right to it. Does the training take an entire year to do? No. I ended up running through the training two times.
The first time I completed it was around May-Jun 2010 time frame; I actually ran a marathon on my own; were my calves sore after mile 21. I had to walk and jog periodically until I completed around 26 miles; it was pretty hot that day too! My time was around 4:37.
The second time I completed the training plan was before the actual Chicago marathon. I really stuck to the plan, which meant I ran anywhere from 4 to 6 times per week, logging in many miles. during this second round, I injured myself a couple of times. The first time was to my left knee. I think I logged so many miles to the point that my left knee got very painful to the point where I could no longer run. I stopped running for about a couple of weeks until I could run on it again.
The next time was maybe a month before the marathon. This time the muscles under my feet were sore. I experienced the pains associated with plantar fasciitis. To treat it, I iced my feet regularly using ice in a regular plastic cylindrical bottle (I rolled my feet on it); eventually, it wasn’t as bad anymore and I could run on it.
Oct 10, 2010 came. I ran the Chicago marathon and completed it in 4:57. It wasn’t ideal running weather as it was warm (around 60’s in the morning, then 80’s later in the morning). Were my legs sore! The last 800 meters were a killer as a small incline caught me by surprise. Then on last 200 meters I pushed to the finish line, even getting a chance to take a picture of the finish line from a distance.
Training for the CIM
I took a different approach to training for the CIM. This time I used a training plan from Active.com which they provided for free. The training was scheduled to begin in August and complete just before the CIM (Dec 4, 2011).
Before August 2011, however, I continued some degree of running regimen. Running three times a week only with occasional cross training activities involving a stationary bike (non-weight bearing workouts). I used a training concept I read from the book titled “Runner’s World Run Less, Run Faster: Become a Faster, Stronger Runner with the Revolutionary FIRST Training Program“.
The general idea is to run only 3 times a week with cross training work outs in between. For the three runs to work, you need have a purpose for each run–interval runs, tempo runs, and long runs. This comes down to achieving the following with each run:
- interval runs – trains you to run faster
- tempo runs – helps your body become efficient at processing oxygen; this way lactic acid are handled better, and as a result, you can run faster longer
- long runs – designed to help your body get used to running for long periods of time; builds endurance
- barefoot or minimalist shoe running
- chia seeds for energy (Nutiva Organic Chia Seeds, 3-Pound Bags)
Perhaps the problem is that my feet have been effectively in a cast for the many years I’ve been wearing running shoes. This could account for the weakness in the muscles in my feet, and the issues I had with my plantar fascii. So I got myself a Vibram shoe–Vibram Fivefingers Mens Bikila LS Castle Rock/Navy/Grey 44 to be exact. All information regarding running barefoot says to take it slow, so I did. On some days I do short runs, I would wear my Vibram Fivefingers Bikila LS. Boy, did I notice a big difference; my calves were sore. Running almost barefoot makes you want to land on your forefoot by instinct.
To ease my transition to barefoot/minimalist shoe running I also bought a Saucony Men’s Progrid Mirage Running Shoe,Silver/Black/Yellow,11 M US. This is considered a minimalist shoe. It has a very small heel to toe height difference. I ran with this for this first time in May 2011 at the 100th Bay to Breakers (12K run). Running in these shoes felt great, it was very light.
I stated to experiment with the chia seeds. You can make chia seed drink simply by mixing 2 table spoons of the seeds with 40 ounces of water. Add some brown sugar for flavor (or whatever turns you on), mix, and let stand for at least one hour. I leave mine overnight in the fridge, and it tastes good. It really does give you a energy and because it absorbs water very well, it serves as a good energy drink for long runs.
OK. Back to the training. August came and went. I began my training runs, doing only 3 purposeful runs a week and mixing in some occasional cross training workouts in between. The core of my training was just the 3 runs per week. Two week from December 4, I began to taper off. On the last week, I did very little running.
December 4 in Sacramento area was great. The weather was perfect for running–no wind and the temperature was around the 40’s. On the morning of the run, I made sure I had a little light breakfast (just a light breakfast bar), and I made sure I was hydrated (drank gatorade). Just minutes before the run, I finished drinking my chia seed energy drink. For this run I wore my Nike Pegasus 26+ (not my Vibram Fivefingers since I’m not ready for that yet).
I had a strong first half (2:03), but I buckled at around mile 23 I think. I had some of the most serious muscle cramp attacks in my life–on my left quadriceps and on my right hamstring. I had to periodically stretch and walk just to recover. Nevertheless I completed the run in 4:36! Overall a good run.
Personally, I thought my training for the CIM was better for my body since I didn’t suffer any injuries during my training period. However, I think I didn’t really follow the training plan as well as I could have. I attribute the muscle cramps to this. The preparation in the morning with the chia seeds also helped significantly I think as I felt a lot of energy that day.