Giving Up Control in My Training

by tinareale on November 6, 2012

Last week I ran 14 miles on Sunday. I hit my 30 miles over the course of the week, the point I have established as some base mileage over the past few months. I checked my calendar and then got a little bit nervous. Why?

16 weeks! Marathon #2 is already just 16 short weeks away and training needs to get official!

I’ve known that it’s coming for awhile now, so I shouldn’t really be nervous. In fact, I’m pretty excited for the race itself. The nerves mainly hit when I think about training.

I do LOVE the training part of the marathon. I just know that I loved it a little too much last time and made some stupid mistakes. Now I want to train smart so I can run strong in this coming marathon…but I haven’t been able to determine what that will actually mean in my training. I have researched, revised, and overanalyzed training plans and my previous training to try to figure things out.

Errors of My Previous Marathon Training Ways

  • I went from running 3 days per week to 5 days per week without any transition time or base building period to increase my mileage.
  • I completed speed, tempo, AND pace runs each week. I had thought to do just one per week, but I always “felt so good” that I ended up doing some sort of speed work almost every single run. No easy runs.
  • Then, I ran my long runs way too fast. I ran my long runs often around 9:00 minute miles, which would be faster than a reasonable goal marathon pace. Or over one minute per mile faster than those runs should have happened for safe training.

In sum, I got cocky. Yea, I’m owning up to it.

picture from a previous post after a too fast 8 mile run…just a few weeks before injury struck

Based on my previous half marathon times, the McMillan running calculator predicted I could run a full marathon in around 3:52 or something like that. So, I assumed I had it in the bag and trained at paces to achieve a 4 hour marathon. In reality, I should have recognized that the marathon is a completely different beast and I should have approached it with zero time goal and certainly more of a focus on steady, easy paced mileage. You all know what happened – injury #1, injury #2, and quite the struggle of a first marathon experience.

It’s what brings me back. Not only the fact that conquering the marathon provides such an intense experience and thrill, but also because I know I can do better and train smarter. But then what does smarter and better even look like for me?

I’ve been gradually rebuilding up my mileage and have settled at around 30 miles per week for awhile. I’ve discovered imbalances and things to take caution around with training in this cycle. I plan to run slow and steady more often than not and force myself to keep long runs even slower than that.

I’ve toyed with the ideas of following the Run Less, Run Faster book I reviewed before, considering running only 3 days per week. Then, I know the principle to be able to tackle a marathon on only 3 days of running per week means those 3 days need to be more intense training. I don’t trust my body to do that much speed work yet. So, that doesn’t feel right. Most other plans include 5 days of running per week and/or very little other guidelines. I know the extra training day and mileage doesn’t work too well for my body. So, those plans didn’t feel right either.

I picked and chose a variety of things and created my own plan with 4 days of running per week, more frequent scale back weeks, and only one conservatively paced tempo/pace/cruise interval training run per week. Even still, I was unsure of how that plan would play out and if it revolved around good training principles. That left me turning to an expert.


Hi, Heather! She has run numerous marathons, completed Ironman triathlons, and holds a USATF certification to make her a reputable running coach. On top of all that, she is a trusted friend who I know I can trust her experience and advice. That means I’m not quite sure what my training will look like just yet, but I will a week from now! And I can trust she will work with me and my body in the best way possible. I’ll get in a standard 30 mile week this week and then off we go! Let marathon training officially commence!

Your Turn – Do you enjoy working with a coach and having a plan laid out for you? I guess I’m used to CREATING the plans, that it took a lot to give up my control tendency ways to say “Help me, Heather!”. I know I will be glad I did, though. And that I still really have the control since she will listen to me and my feedback. She’s a good coach/person like that.


1 Melissa November 6, 2012 at 8:23 am

Good luck with your training, Tina!

And thanks for this. The “What are you planning to run in 2013?” questions are starting, and frankly I’m a little put off and scared after 2012. My knee got very angry with me! Looking back, after reading this post, I realize that I too “felt good” and ran my long runs faster than I should have. That was drastic mileage for me. I haven’t been running much since my spring injury, so my plan for 2013 is not to push too hard and try easing back into it. For me, that will probably mean shorter distances.

I think that’s awesome that you’ve established such a good base *before* your official training plan even starts. That is smart training. Go Tina!

2 Katie @ Talk Less, Say More November 6, 2012 at 8:30 am

Sometimes the hardest thing is to just ask for help but when we do it’s a reminder that it’s OKAY and we don’t know everything. And especially when it comes to preventing injury, I think it’s really important. Go you – I’m rooting for you!

3 Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table November 6, 2012 at 8:41 am

That’s so exciting! I know a lot of people who’ve run this one and loved it. Can’t wait to see how you do after rocking your first one!

And yay for Heather! I love how we are use each others expertise.

4 Lindsay's List November 6, 2012 at 8:53 am

i love heather (of course), so this pairing made me smile really big today! good luck!!!!!

5 molly @ heart, sole & cereal November 6, 2012 at 9:00 am

yay for marathon training beginning! i’m kind of jealous that i’m not training for a race right now – good thing i’ve got bootcamp! random (and you may have posted about this many times before so i’m sorry if you have!) but how do you work in strength training with your running?

6 Lauren (@poweredbypb) November 6, 2012 at 9:01 am

Good luck with your training, you have to find what works best for you. I kind of adapted a couple of plans to suit my training. I found 5 days a week too much for myself, and stuck to 4 including a tempo, interval, long slow run and a recovery jog each week. I always ran my long slow ones 1-1 1/2 mins slower than marathon goal pace and the extra time on my feet seems to have paid off during my first successful marathon experience a week ago!

7 Caitlin November 6, 2012 at 9:55 am

Good for you for recognizing how you want to train for this marathon, Tina! I think that it’s awesome that you’re taking your experiences and what you’ve learned about your body to try and make a plan that’s right for YOU. Typically, I make up my own training plan, but I plan to look over some suggested ones for my halfs and a full when I get there!

8 Michelle November 6, 2012 at 10:00 am

I’m definitely interested in how your new training plan works out! I used FIRST with my marathon last year and I don’t know that I would do it again. Like you – I think ONE speed training run a week is good – but not sprints AND tempo. And I really need to add a recovery run after my long run, even if I REALLY don’t want to do it!! Good luck with your training. The next 16 weeks are going to fly by!

9 Brittany @Berries and Barbells November 6, 2012 at 10:06 am

I think working with a coach is a really smart thing! I have only been running for about 7 months and did my first half in October. I tend to think like you did, I’m invincible and can do lots of speed work and not get injured. I proved myself wrong last night when I pulled my groin after a 6 mile tempo run that I did WAY to fast, or too far. I shouldn’t have tried to do both. Lesson learned. I’m going to focus on running smart to avoid injury from here on out. I hate being forced to rest because of injury.

10 Sarah @ Blonde Bostonian November 6, 2012 at 10:17 am

Good luck with your training, Tina! I definitely found that running 5 days was way too much for my body while training. 4 days is perfect and allows me to get some cross training/strength/rest in there.

11 Victoria (District Chocoholic) November 6, 2012 at 10:29 am

Having a coach is very helpful because they lend an outside perspective. My coach has a coach! Enjoy the process.

12 Jess November 6, 2012 at 10:34 am

I think this is an AWESOME approach to training for your second full marathon my friend. You are taking EVERY SINGLE THING you learned during the first go-around and applying it here which is so smart and is bound to give you a better training experience (i.e. no injuries please!) and definitely a better race day experience. I’m SO excited to follow along for round II!! (and I’m totally with you — IF I were to do another marathon, I’d run 4x per week vs the 3x per week I did the last time. But only because my goal would be different next time…my first marathon I just wanted to finish and not hurt myself in the process. IF there were a next time, I’d want to improve my time ever so slightly, nothing crazy, but an improvement would be nice, you know?) Yay you!!

13 Heather @ Better With Veggies November 6, 2012 at 10:52 am

Yay!! I’m so excited to coach you and help make your 2nd marathon a great experience! Get ready for some running fun!! =)

14 Bethany @ Accidental Intentions November 6, 2012 at 11:02 am

I can be a little bit of a control freak with some things, but running is absolutely not one of those things. I love training, but I have absolutely no idea what kind of principles go into smart training (or really smart fitness stuff in general), so I’m more than happy to have an expert tell me exactly what to do. I ran a 9K twoish weeks ago, and that was the only race I’ve run where I didn’t follow a set training plan but did my own thing. It was all right, but I really prefer to have someone lay out a plan for me. It keeps me from slacking off in my training!

15 Ali November 6, 2012 at 11:06 am

Great advice! It’s a fine line between pushing ourselves and over doing it!

16 Tiff @ Love Sweat and Beers November 6, 2012 at 11:14 am

I’d love to do the RNR New Orleans half. I bet it’s flat down there!

I’m sure Heather will be a huge help. I think she even ran that same race last year, if memory serves me. :)

17 Ari @ Ari's Menu November 6, 2012 at 11:21 am

Having a coach has been the most amazing part of my training!! I think you will be so happy you made that choice!!

18 Katie @ Peace Love & Oats November 6, 2012 at 11:38 am

You’re going to rock this marathon! I definitely took my first marathon training easy – I was so worried about getting injured that I took everyone’s advice and avoided doing any speed work and just focused on finishing!

19 Leonor @FoodFaithFitness November 6, 2012 at 11:45 am

I ran my long runs too close to marathon goal pace last year and ended up injured as well. I am a few weeks in to training for the same marathon next year. Good luck!

20 [email protected] November 6, 2012 at 11:51 am

I think it’s awesome that you’re allowing someone who’s done it before to help ya! Humility is a great, and hard thing to do/have ;)

My first marathon I had no pace goal, and landed right under 4 hours. And this was from someone who didn’t run enough .Haha. So yah-no injuries there.

21 jobo November 6, 2012 at 12:42 pm

This is a perfect approach for you! you have really put a lot of thought into it and what ‘went wrong’ last time etc. I agree on 3-4 runs a week, absolutely. 4 sounds ideal for you, I am so excited to read about your progress and virtual sherpa my heart out :)

22 Natalie @ FreshLifeFindings November 6, 2012 at 1:07 pm

Love this post Tina! I had the hardest time doing slower training runs because I was always so competitive with myself! Atleast you are acknowledging it and helping yourself better prepare for your next 16 weeks of training! Can’t wait to hear more on your training!

23 Angela @ Happy Fit Mama November 6, 2012 at 1:48 pm

I’ve learned that I can’t run more than 4 days a week and can only handle 1 “special” workout a week – tempo, speed, hill repeats, etc. It sounds like you are on the right track. And how awesome to have the knowledge of Heather to guide you! BTW – isn’t it weird to have someone else tell you what to do when you’re the fitness professional? That’s always been the hardest part for me! :)

24 lindsay November 6, 2012 at 2:55 pm

you can ask my husband about this too, he’s learned the hard way, we all have. But we learn from our mistakes and learn to ask for help! Which you did and HEATHER is a great help. Thanks for keeping it real Tina, as always!

25 Haley @ The Saucy Apple November 6, 2012 at 4:26 pm

I LOVE that you posted a lessons learned from your past marathoning history. I have signed up countless times (okay, maybe 3 times) for long distance races, and I’ve never completed one because I get injured during the training. The longest race I’ve completed is a 10K, but I really really (really!) want to accomplish a half marathon. But every time I go to sign up, I hear a naysaying voice in my head that whispers, “You’re just going to get injured again.” I’m really interested to see how your training goes. I’m just getting back into running regularly and trying to take it slow. :) Thanks for the ideas! It’s nice to know others can empathize. And maybe soon, I’ll take the leap and sign up for a race.

26 Kierston November 6, 2012 at 4:57 pm

I think it’s great that you outlined your lessons learned. It’s always so important to reflect back and think about the next steps on how you can best move forward :)

Looking forward to following your training to the big day!

27 Cecilia November 7, 2012 at 7:46 pm

Good luck with your training! I hope you stay injury free. I definitely like having a laid out plan for my training. Even though I know things can get messed up (see my blog post titled Frustration), I like a plan.

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