Marathon Update

by Adam Reger

Tomorrow will mark one month to the Philadelphia Marathon. This past Sunday, I completed a 16-mile run and felt surprisingly, almost weirdly, good afterwards. (I usually feel zonked out, a bit nauseated, and go to bed pretty early after these runs. Only some mild zonked-outness occurred this time.)

Pretty soon, I am going to transition into carbo-loading most of the time, as well as officially banning beer from my diet. (Circumstances have happily conspired to keep me from drinking more than one or two per week.) On the whole, I’m happy with my progress and feel good about the race in Philly. I am also upbeat about the fact that it probably won’t rain the entire time, as it did during the Pittsburgh Marathon.

One point of concern has been a lack of training to go faster for longer. I’m following this Runner’s World plan, which in fairness is for beginners. If you look along the “Tuesday” column, where most of the shorter runs are, you’ll notice that a lot of attention is given to increasing your “TUT”—that is, “total uphill time.” I think that aspect of the training has helped, but I worry that it’s beside the point for a course as flat as Philly’s, and that I may have been better served by doing tempo runs—i.e., doing some or all of a run at a faster-than-comfortable pace. There are some of those on the schedule I’m following (marked “AI”—“aerobic intervals”), but I wish there were more.

Obviously, it’s on me to take it up a notch or jump up to a non-beginner marathon plan. In that vein, I plan, during my nine-mile Thursday run tomorrow, to try doing intervals of three miles at marathon pace, with a brief jogging intermission between each.

I have the uneasy feeling that I am entering into the dangerous and seductive next level of running; that it is not as difficult to finish a marathon as it is to improve one’s time; and that, in general, doing a long run is not the important thing so much as keeping your motor going, pumping your arms and challenging yourself to keep the pace up. I am comforting myself that these are lifelong-struggle types of issues, not to be resolved in the next month.

And anyway I am confident of improving upon my first marathon time, four hours and fourteen seconds. My primary goal is to crack four hours. How feasible that goal is will probably be answered, in part, by how much tomorrow’s run kicks my ass.