Resuming Marathon Training

Allen in the inaugral Bob Potts Memorial Marathon
Allen in the inaugural Bob Potts Memorial Marathon

In October of 2008, I ran my first race in over a year, a 15K (9.3 miles) in 1:13:36, or about 7:53 per mile pace.  And while not particularly fast, my time was good enough, especially considering the minimal training I’d done, to feel like qualifying for the Boston marathon, while certainly not easy, might be possible.

On Thanksgiving Day, I ran the Lake Norman Turkey Trot 10K with a time of 46:33, or 7:29/mile pace.  And again, while this time wouldn’t make any Olympic coaches recruit me, it was a pace that was fast enough to qualify for Boston.  You know, if I could only keep it up for another 20 miles.

I started upping my mileage and began working in a few tempo runs and an occasional interval workout.  By January, I ran a 5K in 22:19, or 7:10 pace.  In early February, I finished an 8K (almost 5 miles) in 35:21, 7:06 pace.  By February, I was ready to race a half-marathon. 

It was too late to register for the uber-popular, no spots available, Myrtle Beach half-marathon, but a friend of mine was injured and let me run in his place.  I ran a 1:39:44, or 7:36 pace. (It was weird coming down the home stretch and hearing the announcer say, ‘And here comes Devin Thomas of Winston-Salem, North Carolina’.)  If I could maintain that exact pace for an entire marathon, I’d be booking a hotel room in Boston.

I ran one more half-marathon, in March.  I was able to finish the Charlotte Corporate Cup half in 1:38:15, or 7:26 pace.  Boston felt within my grasp.  3:20:59 (7:39/mile pace), the qualifying time for men 40-44, was now practically a realistic possibility, no longer just a pipe dream.

I read a renowned running coach’s book, Coach Benson’s “Secret” Workouts, and developed my own 16-week training program based on Benson’s philosophies.  I researched marathons that were about 16-weeks away and found one that sounded ideal – the inaugral Bob Potts Memorial Marathon in York, Pennsylvania.  Run on a flat course on a forgiving surface (a crushed gravel trail) with typically cool temperatures for May (low 60’s), it sounded ideal.  I registered and booked a hotel.

I began eating healthier.  I drank less. I did core exercises to strengthen the often overlooked yet vitally important muscles used in running – back and abs.   I incessantly researched and read about running and specifically about marathons.  I charted my runs daily.

As I read more and more about marathon training, I learned that one’s mileage is directly proportional to one’s success.  I rapidly increased my weekly mileage. Every serious runner knows the 10 percent rule – do not increase your weekly mileage by more than 10 percent or face a much greater risk of getting injured.  Many runners ignore this rule.  Many runners get injured.  I thought I was one of those rare runners that could cheat a little by increasing my mileage more quickly.  I was wrong. 

On week 3 of my training program, I was scheduled for a long, slow run.  5 or 6 miles in, I knew something wasn’t quite right.  My right quad, already sore before I began the run, kept seizing up.  I slowed down but my quad burned and was so tight that it hampered my stride, which I shortened.  The quad continued to bother me for the duration, but I chalked it up to ordinary training soreness and finished the 16-miler.

A few days later, I went to a local college track to do interval work, specifically Yasso 800’s.  The quad tightened again but I ignored it and pushed through as the college track team, just finishing their practice, looked on, watching the curious old man strain to piece together a string of 800’s in 3:20.  After this training session, the quad hurt enough that I limped.

The following day I limped through my normal activities.  I took the day off from training, but when I went to run the next day, the pain was so great that I had to quit about 100 meters in.  The tight and sore quad had become a full-fledged injury.  I took a few days off.

When I went to run again, the pain was excruciating.  I began icing the quad daily and I took 4 ibuprofen 3 times a day.  I was suddenly reduced to 2 gimpy runs a week.  I tried to maintain my cardiovascular fitness by using the elliptical at the Y and by putting on a life-jacket and ‘running’ in Lake Norman.

Even with the drastic reduction of mileage, the pain persisted, even intensified.  I finally broke down and went to see the orthopedic doctor that had performed surgery on my knee.  Luckily, he found no skeletal or cartilage damage – it appeared to be a muscle sprain.  He recommended that I quit running for a while but with the marathon only 6 weeks away, this was not an option for me.  I had to face the realization that qualifying for Boston was virtually impossible at this point.  But I was set on running anyway – I was not going to ditch the race over a muscle sprain.

By May, I was reduced to running around 15-20 gimpy miles a week, basically a 6-8 miler on Tuesday or Wednesday, and a 9-12 miler on Sundays, interspersed throughout the week with some elliptical and water-running.  As Bob Potts approached, I knew it was going to be one ugly race but I was determined to run it.

So I did.  I popped 4 ibuprofen about an hour before the race.  Fortunately, with the aid of the medicine, the quad pain was minimal and so I was able to run comfortably at about 8:40 mile pace for the first 16 miles or so.  And then the lack of conditioning kicked in.  The last 10 miles were gut-check time.  I had abandoned any hope of a good time before ever arriving in Pennsylvania, but I’d be damned if I wasn’t going to break 4 hours. Even injured runners have some pride.  I held on for a 3:57, or about 9:04 pace.  Boston would have to wait for another day.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: