Marathon thoughts–what I would do differently next time

Alright y’all–it’s time for some Thursday thoughts (linking up with Running with Spoons). Almost everyone I’ve talked to about the marathon has asked me the same question: would I do it again? I’ve flip-flopped a little bit on my answer, but now that it’s a big fat YES. Sure, the training schedule was tough, the last 5-ish miles of the race were pretty painful, and my right knee is still recovering.

I’m smiling because I’m running downhill!

But I have a couple of things to prove to myself and I really loved the whole training process (and of course, the endorphin high!) And because I’m super goal-oriented–I want that sub 4:00 marathon. After running by far my fastest half (1:46) during training, I know I can do it. So here’s my after-action review and what I will do differently for my next marathon.

More hills and speed: I was pretty laser-focused during this training cycle on counting miles–it was all about checking the box and getting in the specified mileage each day/week. I purposely chose a training plan that was mileage-based (this one, if you’re curious) and didn’t spell out when run hills or do speedwork… and then I ran a really hilly (or bridge-y) race. I did run my fair share of Newton hills during training but I wasn’t strategic about it, and I felt the effects of that during the race. Also, I just didn’t do speedwork. If I felt good on a shorter run I would push my pace, but I didn’t do intervals or sprints on the reg. Adding both intentional hill training and speedwork would definitely get me to the next level.

More strength training and core work: I think strength training is every runner’s secret weapon–and because of that, I did yoga at least once a week during training. The problem is that you never know what you’re gonna get in a yoga class, and it may not end up being what your body needs. Next time, I would love to have an at-home runner-focused strength circuit to commit to doing multiple times a week.

A personal training plan: Dovetailing off of the two points above, next time I’d hope to sit down (maybe even with a running coach) and make a plan that meets my particular needs and goals. I don’t think training is one size fits all, and a tailored plan would help me reach my goals and still stick to the things I know work for my body (lots of yoga, no more than 4-5 runs a week, during the week mileage that adds up to at least my total long-run mileage).

Post-marathon face

Not running a big city race: The NYC marathon was an incredible bucket list race, but traveling to a big city added a huge amount of time and expense. Next time I’d hope to try for a smaller, less logistically complicated race–I’ve heard across the board that small local races are the perfect places to PR. I guess that’s why so many people (like my speedy big bro) choose to BQ at teeny tiny races like the Sugarloaf marathon!

Not running for charity: I really loved running for the Celiac Disease Foundation (and thank you all SO much for your support) but fundraising on top of running is a huge added stressor–and this is coming from a professional fundraiser! I think next time around I’d like to focus more on running and less on money.

Boston Fit Post-Race Party!

The one thing I would definitely, 100% for sure do again? Train with a group! Having the built-in accountability and camaraderie of training with a group was absolutely essential. I’d recommend a group like Boston Fit to any first-time marathoner. I especially liked the flexibility of the program–it really worked for any fall marathon. Plus these peeps–what a rockin’ crew!

10 lessons I learned running my first marathon

Sometimes big accomplishments take a while to sink in. Basically, my thoughts have been running in a loop over the past few days that goes something like this: I just ran a marathon. Did I just RUN a MARATHON??? I JUST RAN A MARATHON.IMG_7848

I’m working on a full race recap post, but since I get teary every time I try, I thought I’d start with a list of the top ten things I learned this past weekend. Some were total surprises and some reinforced what I had expected–but they all were funny, powerful lessons on just how wonderful people can be if you let them.

  1. Be selfish: New York is one of my favorite cities, so planning a weekend away without a lot of museum-going, city-strolling, or bar hopping with friends was a struggle. My takeaway was to just own the weekend and be incredibly appreciative that my parents, boyfriend, brother, and cousins all were there to support me–crazy meal schedules, hydration planning, early bedtimes and all. Be selfish, it’s YOUR marathon!
  2. IMG_7833Beware what you wear: Spectators will yell whatever you have on your shirt, over and over, for 4+ hours. I got all hometown proud and decided to wear my Boston Strong t-shirt with my name stuck on below. I didn’t quite realize I’d be hearing “woooooo Boston!” and “go Pats!” for most of the day on Sunday. So just beware, people will read and yell the biggest and boldest thing you’ve got on your chest. Choose wisely.
  3. Do not underestimate the power of having family and friends along the course: looking for friends and family is the number one best way to pass time during the most painful parts of the race. I’ll let this video speak for itself in terms of my enthusiasm level the first time I saw my personal cheering squad. Goofball central!
  4. Staten Island Ferry viewsMost runners people are really, really nice: My most frequently asked pre-marathon question was: are you running it alone? And the answer was yes. Like most runners, I think, I like to run races solo so that I’m not beholden to anyone else’s pace. Being by myself made me even more appreciative of all of the support from friendly fellow runners: Sarah from San Francisco who showed me the sights from from the ferry (check out that sunrise!), my fellow #teamglutenfree runners who kept me company during the stressful last few minutes before the race, everyone who made noise during the long, painful slog up the Queensboro bridge, and more–you made me feel like I had a running buddy holding my hand all day. Thank you. 
  5. The last 5 miles will be unlike anything you’ve ever experienced: in equally good and painful measures. My body did some tricky things at this point in the race–muscles I didn’t even know I had threatened to cramp up, dehydration set in, and sweat flowed–but I also felt like I had an invisible hand pushing me forward. That’s what those months of hard training are really for. I knew I could run 21 miles, but I built up to be able to get myself through “the wall” and across that finish line.
  6. You are a rock star (for a few miles, at least): the high that is running down fifth avenue about to accomplish a huge life goal with thousands of people screaming your name has to be experienced to be believed. Pure marathon magic.
    Hey! I'm almost done!
    Hey! I’m almost done!
  7. Marathons are emotional roller coasters: Highs, lows, frustration, tears, pain, euphoria–all emotions were on tap on race day. But the disappointment and frustration of cramping up and dropping below my goal pace paled in comparison to the complete sense of accomplishment I felt when I knew I had done it.
  8. There’s a reason people say your first marathon time goal should be to finish the race: Watching my time goal slip through my fingertips was really hard–I had a sub-4:00 time in my grasp and then just lost it during the last five miles or so. I’m glad I had a secondary goal in mind and am incredibly proud of my 4:05, but this was a lesson I learned the hard way.
  9. The post-finish line trudge will be the longest walk of your life: NYC is notorious for making you walk pretty far after you finish the race, and the rumors are true–my achy, cranky legs had a 20 minute walk ahead of them before I could leave the chute and find my family. This is supposedly good for you, but those were probably the longest 20 minutes of my life.
  10. The next few days will hurt: I’m usually pretty diligent about stretching/yoga, foam rolling, and getting back on my feet after a race. Post-marathon recovery, however, is a whole different beast. It took me 3 days just to be able to walk down stairs properly, and running probably won’t be happening until this weekend at least.

What lessons have you learned from accomplishing a big goal–running-related or otherwise?

Marathon training with Boston Fit

I am running a marathon in t-minus 162 days. Holy WHOA… so close yet so far away! The most common tip I’ve gotten about marathon training is to find a crew of people to run with. Given the fact that my charity team is five people strong and we’re all over the country, I took to the internet and found my brand new running crew: Boston Fit.

As they say on their website, Boston Fit is “a group of training partners and friends preparing together for a fall marathon or half marathon.” Basically, we meet up every Saturday morning (so so very early…), listen to a seminar on a running-related topic, and head out for our long runs together. I’m only three weeks in, but the verdict so far? Two very enthusiastic and sweaty thumbs up!

Here are my favorite things about Boston Fit so far:

  1. Accountability: It is super easy to get myself up and rolling on a weekend morning when I have a place to be and a time to be there.
  2. The coaches: I’ve never had a running coach before and I’m pumped to have professional cheerleaders/advice givers to give me tips along the way.
  3. The pace group: Boston Fit splits their runners into three pace groups and I somehow ended up in the fastest of the groups (say whaaatt??) It is really lovely to be with a group of people who challenge me to push myself. I tend to find I’m faster than most casual runners but slower than most hardcore runners, so this is a great middle ground.
  4. The seminars: So far we’ve covered hydration and injury prevention, and I’m super pumped about the sessions on proper gear and running form. SO much to be learned…
  5. The training plan: Every week, Boston Fit gives each pace group a detailed plan for which days to run, how many minutes to run for, and when to fit in hills and tempo runs. I’ve never run for time before (my training plans have always been mileage-based) but I feel great so far, and I LOVE not having to plan out my runs myself. Especially the long run routes!Leah and Bry Run
  6. This girl: I somehow managed to get my former work wife and running bestie Bry on board to train for her first marathon with me at Boston Fit. Hooray for fit friends!!

Oh yeah, if you haven’t yet, head on over to my fundraising page to support my NYC marathon run for the Celiac Disease Foundation. And if you or anyone you know wants to train with us for a fall marathon, tell them about Boston Fit–there’s still time to join!

Happy running,