Training for the Boston Marathon
By Joey Lee
Regular readers of Well-Being will remember from the January/February 2013 issue that contributing writer Joey Lee first chronicled his journey to qualify for the 117th Boston Marathon. In this issue, Joey shares his training regimen as he prepares for the iconic boston race this April.
I’d been busy planning the vacation part of my Boston trip, but had a rude awakening when I received my entry confirmation in the mail. I realized there were only a few precious weeks left for training, B-Day (Boston Marathon Day) is April 15, and I still had a lot of miles to put in to be ready.
While I already had been training, it was time I started tailoring it for the marathon. The tricky part is that the race is at the beginning of triathlon season and I still want to compete in those, so I’ve had to find the sweet spot of getting enough running miles while maintaining my biking and swimming.
There is one thing I want to make clear, I don’t plan to run Boston as hard as I did my qualifying marathons. When I run that hard, I’m focused on nothing but my pace and I don’t get to enjoy the course or the experience. In Boston, I definitely want to run a good race, but I also want to enjoy the sights and special mystique of the Marathon.
I’m going with the old school plan that’s basically two steps forward, one step back. For two weeks I will build up my mileage and then the third week, I will back off a bit. This allows the body to ease into longer distances and then gives it a week to recover, without losing anything you’ve gained. This is a great plan for anyone wanting to run a marathon, and it can easily be modified to one step forward, one step back where you increase mileage one week, back off the next, increase the next and so forth.
This plan is fairly straight forward, so of course I had to complicate it. For the long run on the shorter week, I will either race or do mile repeats slightly faster than race pace. For the repeats I’ll start with four and work up to between eight and ten, with a quarter mile of easy running between each.
Additionally, on the two long weeks, my mid-week run will include speed work. This will consist of 800s (half miles) or 1200s (3/4 miles) much faster than race pace with about 400 yards of easy running for recovery. My plan is to build up to at least 12 800s or 10 1200s. It sounds complicated but it’s not that bad.
You probably noticed there are no rest days. I know I’m supposed to plan my rest days but on the swim days, I don’t swim far and I don’t kick much so I consider them semi-rest days. Also, with life being like it is, I inevitably end up taking a full day off at least every couple of weeks. This is especially true now that we have the munchkin. Things can get pretty hectic.
The hectic life makes it difficult for training with friends, so most, if not all, of my training for B-Day will be alone. Well, not exactly alone, most long runs will be with my favorite training partner, but she’s not the greatest company, she usually kicks back and sleeps in the baby jogger, making me do all the work.
Now don’t be scared if you want to run a marathon, you absolutely do not have to do the speed work. I’m doing that so I can run somewhat hard in Boston and still have some speed for triathlons. But, you definitely will have to put in the mileage, or you’ll be miserable and probably injure yourself if you don’t.
I will continue with these cycles until three weeks before B-Day, that’s when I start tapering. This is something else I’m not very good at. A proper taper gradually ramps down the distance and time spent training but not the intensity. This allows you to recover while keeping the fitness you’ve gained. If done properly, you’ll start your marathon rested and ready.
Typically my taper consists of sitting in the recliner eating pizza and ice cream; but this time, I want to do it right. I will run my last long run three weeks before B-Day, then the next week I’ll reduce my running by about 75-80 percent. The next week I’ll reduce the mileage by about 45-50 percent. The week before B-Day will consist of a couple of four mile runs early in the week with a couple of two or three milers later in the week, one of them the day before the marathon to loosen up.
The training program is about 14 to 16 weeks long. I’ll level with you, at the beginning; it’s pretty easy, mentally and physically. Then when you get into it, and the long runs start getting really long and the body starts getting really tired, sometimes it’s incredibly hard to get out the door. But then you get to the taper and your body starts healing and feeling strong. When the race comes, you’re thanking yourself for being strong and preparing the way you did because now you know you can go out and put your stamp on that 26.2 miles.
I’m hoping this is how it works for me in Boston. But my biggest question is, after all the running with Ginger in the baby jogger, how will I deal with running 26.2 by myself?
Editor’s note: This is the second in a three-part series. Part three will chronicle Joey’s experience running the Boston Marathon.
To read the first article in this series visit www.wellbeingmag.com/fitness. It will immediately follow “A Long and Winding Road – Qualifying for the Boston Marathon.”