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Chicago Marathon Training -- Part I

So I started training for my first marathon (again) in June. I had a setback almost immediately, hence the NO RUNNING days. After a fairly busy race season over the past fall and winter (three half-marathons), I should have rested before taking on this new endeavor. But I didn't; instead, I joined a running group and intensified my running because I was a newbie and felt I needed to be competitive to prove myself. The result? Unforgiving shin splints and persistent pain in the muscles surrounding my right shin. Out of fear that the pain might turn into a(nother) stress fracture if I kept running, and upon the unsolicited advice of several friends, I grudgingly decided it would be better to rest early on to prevent an injury than to push through and possibly create an injury that may take me out of training completely.

I'm the first to admit that I'm stubborn about training. To get a personalized training schedule, I looked at several different training schedule put together by actual professionals (Runner's World, Hal Higdon, etc.), and then I took what I wanted from those schedules and plopped them into my own calendar on the days that worked for me, which revolved around my set-in-stone group runs and yoga classes. Again, I'll admit that none of the "real" training schedules included yoga. But I kept these classes in my schedule because 1) I love them; 2) I'm good at them, and I need a confidence boost on days when I feel I suck at running; 3) I don't want to fall out of yoga shape; and 4) the stretching and strengthening can be complementary to my running. What's missing from my training schedule is the different types of runs, like speed, tempo, interval, recovery, easy, long, etc. The reason is simple: I don't do these. I run pretty much the same speed on most of my runs, except in a race, when I push a little harder. I have never done a track workout, and I don't like to run fast if I can help it. I realize this is not a good attitude, and I've become aware (after a mere three years) that I won't get any faster if I don't incorporate these workouts.

My attitude on speed, however, is starting to change, as a result of my inclusion (if you can call it that; see previous post) in a running group. Once I started attending races with these folks, the question beforehand was always, "What's your goal?" to which the answer was not, I learned, "to race well." What they wanted to know was my time goal that I had presumably set for myself. And afterward, "How'd you do?" Again, they did not want to know, "I felt pretty strong in the beginning, began to cramp up halfway through, but I was able to push through for a good finish." They wanted to know my finishing time, and whether I'd met the goal I was supposed to have set. This made me conscious that I needed to set time goals, and, inevitably, that I should try to meet them.

So why am I still not doing speed work? I have a legitimate reason. I'm still feeling pain in my leg, around my shin, that feels particularly intense when I run faster. So when I did the midnight 10-k race this past weekend and told myself (and others) that I wasn't going to race, do you think I did? You betchya. That is, until I couldn't, for various reasons. It was a flop of a race, but I finished it. And I paid for it the next day. But with a lot of ice, ibuprofen, and self-massage (read: bruising), I can get my leg feeling better. I just have to seriously not push it. So that is my goal now. We'll see how I apply it to a 16-mile group run this Sunday.


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