The Worst Marathon Training Plan – Ever!

On July 4th, 2017, I’ll be involved in a little experiment. No – it has nothing to do with hot dog eating contests or pop bottle rockets. Rather – I’ll be running a marathon with my son – on 20 days of training (just 16 runs – total).  Yes – I’m happy to admit up front that this is the worst marathon training plan ever, something I would never suggest to a wellness coaching client or friend.

But it’s my son’s first marathon. There will never be another opportunity to be out there with him on his first go-around. We planned this for almost a year, as he was looking to run one before heading off the college this fall. We looked over the options, marked the calendar, and got our training underway. Early training went well. I was conservative with the miles due to a history of foot issues. Unfortunately, while out doing some mile repeats on May 3rd, something snapped. MRI revealed the problem in the 4th and 5th metatarsals. 3 weeks in the walking boot and a total of 6 wks of no running. A huddle with the Doc teed up my first run back on June 13th, providing 20 days available for “training” before the big day on July 4th.

Normally I’d pull the plug. Not worth it. Just lay low and build for the next one. But once again, this is a “once in a lifetime,” so decided to give it a shot and see if the chips fell the right way. The last real run (and run #12 since the time off) was today. I’ll do a few brief runs of 2-5 miles between now and the 4th, but the training is done. Is it possible to come in under 3 hrs? Probably not, but worth a try. 3 hrs pace is 6:52/mile. My plan (especially with the extremely low training base) is to sit at 6:45’s as long as possible. If everything goes perfectly, maybe I can hang on for an injury free sub-3. But regardless of the finish time, it’ll truly be a lifetime memory and I’m thankful to have the opportunity to be out there with him.

For those curious, here’s a rundown of the WORST MARATHON TRAINING PLAN – EVER:

  • Run #1 (June 13th) – 10 miler at Harriman – tried to push the middle section to see what I had to work with in the coming weeks
  • Run #2 (June 14th) – Easy 6. Extremely stiff/sore from yesterday’s initial over-reach on day one
  • Run #3 (June 16th) – 15 miler, holding pace in middle 13 as best I could. Struggled.
  • Run #4 (June 17th) – Ridiculously slow 6 miles
  • Run #5 (June 18th) – Slow 8 miler
  • Run #6 (June 20th) – Slow, sluggish 6 miler while traveling for conference. Heavy, tired legs.
  • Run #7 (June 21st) – Big mental test – 22 miles with middle 20 held steady. Didn’t feel great, but didn’t totally go off the rails, so feeling some hope that I can at least finish in 13 days.
  • Run #8 (June 23rd) – Planned to run 8 miles but nothing in the tank (in spite of day off yesterday) so pulled plug after 5ish miles.
  • Run #9 (June 24th) – Easy 5 miler to set up final tempo run tomorrow.
  • Run #10 (June 25th) – Repeated the 15 miler from 9 days ago, pushing the pace a bit faster (in addition to being 4 days after the long run). Didn’t hit targeted pace, but not far off. Hope remains…
  • Run #11 (June 27th) – Easy 7 miles to test out the racing flats with foot. Decided against wearing them on race day to protect foot.
  • Run #12 (June 28th) – Easy/moderate 12 miler. Beautiful morning. Training now done…
  • Runs #13 – 16 – the next six days that lead up to race day will include easy runs of 3, 5, 2 and 4 miles.

So there you have it. The world’s WORST marathon training plan, and not one we’d encourage through the Catalyst wellness coach training by any means! But you know what happens when your kids are involved – logic falls to the side. Now let’s just hope race day brings kind weather and some extra mental strength. Again – grateful just to be out there with Joshua on his big day!

Post Script: While we still would never recommend the above training program for a marathon through our coach certification graduates, things turned out ok. I ran the first 10 miles faster than the targeted pace (6:30’s) to take advantage of a drafting opportunity into the wind. Dialed it back through mile 20 to try to sneak in under 3 hours. However, the lack of training caught up to me – as expected – around mile 22, when I simply couldn’t get the legs to flow. Ended up finishing in 3:04 (and no injuries – phew!), which I certainly can’t complain about after just 3 wks of training. More importantly, Joshua had a fantastic day, finishing 2nd overall in 2:54 for his first marathon. Great lifetime memory!!

But don’t try this at home 🙂

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