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home > community > viewpoint > into the rollercoaster

Into the Rollercoaster
After the decision to run the marathon, the hard work begins. But first, there's the plan. The second in a series of essays.

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Related info:
Part one: The Itch

Part three: Just Keep Moving

Part four: The Meat of the Order

By Hank Brown
Posted Sunday, 8 December, 2002

This is the second in a series of essays following columnist Hank Brown in his march to the Myrtle Beach Marathon. Click here for the first article in the series.

When I first spoke the words, "Well, I'm thinking about doing the marathon," I knew I was pretty much committed to going the distance. But I had no idea just how committed. My wife, Natalie, is the planner in this partnership, and it didn't take long for her to set the campaign in motion.

After I uttered those words to her she shrieked, "Oh, I think that's great! You'll do great, I just know it."

"Well, I don't know about that, I just hope I can do it." I appreciated her support and enthusiasm; but I couldn't help feeling like I had just climbed onto the roller coaster at the Myrtle Beach Pavilion.... You want to remain calm and show no fear, but in reality you know you are in for a terrifying wild ride. I had a sinking feeling in my belly.

"Ok, I know you don't really know yet, but what kind of time do you think you'll run?" Gosh, I hadn't even taken my first step in training, and Natalie was already planning out my finishing time.

"I have no idea. I just want to finish." Even though that sound cliché-ish, it's the truth. For someone like me (a non-elite runner), the marathon is about finishing. When you set time goals, you're getting a little greedy. There's nothing wrong with it, I just think you set yourself up for disappointment. I have finished five marathons, but dropped out of two others, and let me tell you, no matter how grisly I felt near the end of those five marathons, it doesn't even compare to the feeling of stepping off the road and realizing you just quit. Set a simple goal: Find the finish line! It's a good idea to plan out the race, with splits to hit, but the clock shouldn't determine success or failure.

Within moments Natalie had gone out to the website and knew more about the Myrtle Beach Marathon than the race director. She was also in the midst of organizing a group road trip. She had drafted up a very clever e-mail invitation and sent it to a large distribution list of runners and non-runners (cheerleaders she called them). She made it sound like a really fun trip, which I guess it will be... for the cheerleaders! Yep, I'm committed now. I better get serious...

That afternoon I went out to run seven miles. No big deal. I have probably run a gazillion seven-mile runs in my lifetime. But this one felt a little different. I was now officially in training for a marathon. Each run from now on had purpose. Each step was taking me a little closer to the finish line at Broadway At The Beach. And... it felt good. It's amazing what a little motivation will do for your adrenaline blood flow.

Unlike Natalie, my capacity for planning goes only about as far as the menu for my next meal, but I knew I had to sit down and work out a training plan. Before that fateful Richmond Marathon trip with Tyler, I had pretty much settled in for a long winter's nap. So, the bad news was that I was nowhere near ready to tackle 26.2 miles. The "good" news was that I didn't have to re-arrange my schedule to accommodate this marathon. I was starting with a blank sheet of paper!

The first thing I did was figure out how many weeks I had before M Day. I counted 14 weeks, which was plenty of time to build up to the distance, which I would need because over the past few years I had let my training slip to four- to five-mile daily jogs. That's pretty good for the average Wal-Mart shopper, but doesn't gain you much respect in the Wally World of marathoning.

Usually I'm a "make it up as you go" kind of guy, but now I had to instill some discipline in my running routine. I had the luxury of time, so I decided to start at a reasonable level and build up. I had grinded out a few nine- and 10-mile runs this past year, so I knew I could at least run that far now... so 10 miles became my "starting point." From there it was just a matter of adding enough mileage until I got to a point where I could get in the car to Myrtle Beach relatively confident that I could go the distance.

After an hour or so of pounding the keys on my computer, I came up with a plan (see below), which included longs runs about every other week, medium length runs weekly, and speed workouts weekly. Of course, the long runs would be the key to success or failure. I've never been a mileage junky; I guess because my attention span barely gets me through the first quarter of a football game (either that or my team has already fumbled three times, and I'm a hazard to the furniture and family cats). Some guys can run and run, outlasting the city paving crews for longevity on the city streets. Not this guy. But I knew I had to do it, or I had no chance.

Speed workouts might sound like an oxymoron for an endurance program. But I believe if you keep up your speed, then "slowing down" to a marathon pace will seem easier. But, I knew there was no way I was going to the track in the dead of winter. For some reason, I just don't feel very fast in gloves, wool hats, and the layered look. So, the track was out, but I figured I could at least do a tempo run on the road once a week.

So, the plan was set. That was the easy part. As with any plan, execution is the hard part. Late fall and winter in East Tennessee can be very unpredictable, but I was lucky to have a decent day (about 60 degrees and pleasant) for my first endeavor into marathon training (a 10 miler). The run went well, but I struggled the final miles, which was a sobering wake-up call.... No doubt about it, I had a long way to go! But I was on my way, and in a strange way, I was excited and energized about the mountainous challenge ahead. I knew the next 14 weeks would be full of blistered feet, stiff legs, restless sleep, 20-degree wind chills, dark streets, and miles and miles of Kingsport sidewalks. Yeah, I must be crazy.

Next: Just Keep Moving

Hank's MBM Training Schedule

Tempo Runs:Every Tue, about 2M at 12:00-12:30, in the middle of 5-6M run.

Day Off: Saturday. Others as needed.

Long and Medium Runs (miles):
Week Fri Sun
1, Nov 15-17 10m 11m
2, Nov 22-24 11 13
3, Nov 29 - Dec 1 14 10-12
4, Dec 6-8 13 Traveling
5, Dec 13-15 17 10-12
6, Dec 20-22 13 10
7, Dec 27-29 19 10-12
8, Jan 3-5 13 10
9, Jan 10-12 21 10-12
10, Jan 17-19 13 10-12
11, Jan 24-26 23 10-12
12, Jan 31-Feb 2 13 10-12
13, Feb 7-9 15 10-12
14, Feb 14-16 10 10
15, Feb 22: Marathon Day!


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