I am TREMENDOUSLY thrilled for today’s guest post from my friend Tasha not only because she is awesome, but I NEED all these great marathon training tips! Take it away, Tasha!
Hi! My name is Tasha and I blog at Healthy Diva. I am a Brooks ID Athlete, and an ambassador to Nuun, FitApproach & Girls Gone Sporty. I am also a 3:21 marathoner and I have completed 14 half marathons. Currently I am training for my 5th marathon that I will run in May. I live in Spokane, WA with my husband (I like to call him Mr. Healthy Diva) and our two King Charles pups- Tia & Maisy. When I am not training for a marathon I love to read, knit, watch bad reality TV, travel, attempt to be crafty, and spend time in my kitchen baking & cooking. I have recently become involved with an all women’s crossfit box called Farmgirlfit. I love the competitive atmosphere and the mixture of cross training it has added to my training.
I think I was born with running in my blood. My Aunt Carol is a very accomplished runner and helped to fuel my desire to continue with the sport. In high school I was an average runner. I was competitive, but I was also the only girl on the cross country team so I didn’t have anyone to push me in practice and I was sidelined for almost a year with a torn ACL.
I ran in college at Eastern Washington University. It wasn’t one of my favorite memories. Again, I was an average runner and the coach wasn’t really interested average. My freshman year I sucked and was definitely at the bottom of the pack. I worked hard over the next year, lost some weight and gained some confidence. My sophomore year I came back and I was in the top 6. Even with that success, my heart was not in it. I didn’t like the coach and I didn’t feel as if I had a niche on the team. I decided at the end of my junior year to not come back for my senior year.
Fast forward 3 years and I got the running bug again. What lead to running the Bloomsday 12K in May lead to my first 1/2 marathon 3 weeks later and then making a commitment to run my first marathon that fall. From there, the rest is history. I caught the marathon bug and haven’t stopped since!
Anyone is capable of running a marathon. Don’t let the distance scare you! The sense of accomplishment you get when you cross the line of your first marathon is something that you will never forget. On race day- run your race. Don’t focus on the people around you. Remember to have fun and enjoy the moment!
Marathon Training Plans
There are a lot of different training plans out there. The first training plan I ever used was from Runner’s World. It was a great starting plan for me to utilize and it was free. I was able to download a 16 week plan that was easy to understand for a beginner.
I ran my marathon PR using a plan from Run Less, Run Faster. I really liked the approach that they had to training because I was really busy at the time and was just getting back into running from taking almost a year off. I liked how I only had to run 3 days a week. I felt really rested going into race day and never experienced a lot of training aches and pains.
I currently have a running coach who develops training plans based off my lactate threshold. I have been working with him for the last year now. I opted to hire a coach for a variety of reasons, but the two main reasons were:
1. I want to train for a sub 3 hour marathon and I don’t think I can do it on my own without someone pushing me
2. I need someone to keep me in check because I have the tendency to over train
Whatever training plan you select, just try to follow it as closely as you can. I understand that life happens, a run might get missed or swapped for another workout. By following your plan as closely as possible you are giving your body ample time to recover in between workouts. If your plan calls for an easy run, run easy. Don’t try to push the pace when it isn’t necessary.
Tips for Long Runs
Long runs are the best indicators on how well you will perform on race day. My best advice for long runs is to try and treat them how you would approach your marathon on race day. Stay hydrated the day before (I like drinking Nuun) and get a good night’s rest. On the morning of your long run wake up with plenty of time to eat a light breakfast. I usually have a small bowl of oatmeal about an hour before I head out the door. Have all of your gear ready the night before and a route planned out. If you can simulate the course elevation that is an added bonus. For example if the course has quite a few hills in it, try to run a route that also some hills sprinkled throughout. If your race is on Sunday morning, complete your long training runs on Sunday morning also. Following your long run, make sure that you stretch out good, use your foam roller if necessary, take an ice bath, and get some food into your system. Compression products will become your best friend after a long run. I even wear them on most of my long runs because I find that I recover faster by using them.
Fueling Your Run
For fuel on the run it really is trial and error for most people. What works for some people, won’t work for others. It has taken me a while to get my race day nutrition down and it still isn’t perfect. I would look on the race organizer’s website and see what type of hydration and nutrition they will be offering along the course. Use that during your long run if possible. I already know what works best for me and that is Nuun and honey stingers. On all of my training runs, I only drink Nuun and I only use honey stingers for extra fuel. The honey stingers are easier on my tummy which has the tendency to get really angry with me during long training runs.
If I eat oatmeal for breakfast prior to my long training runs, then I eat it for breakfast on race day. Nothing new on race day, ever. The same thing goes for clothing. On race day I never, ever, ever wear anything new. I usually pick out some shorts and a sports bra that I have worn during long training runs and that are comfortable to run in. Last year when I was training for the Eugene Marathon I used a couple of my long runs to test out some outfits. I was glad I did that because halfway through I could tell that some outfits were not the “one”.
Your diet will change a lot when you are training. You will be hungry (I like to call it “rungry”) all of the time. This feeling is normal! It is important when you are training to have a balanced diet. You need to be putting in good fuel so that your body can train to its optimum level. I follow this pretty loosely, but I try to intake 60% carbs, 30% protein & 10% fat (give or take) on a daily basis. Every once in a while I will use my FatSecret account for a week just to see if I am in the ball park of those percentages. Some of my favorite foods are:
Breakfast- Oatmeal with honey
Morning snack- Greek yogurt, grapefruit
Lunch- Black bean patty, string cheese, rice crackers & hummus
Afternoon snack- Picky Bar or some reduced fat wheat thins
Dinner- Green beans, quinoa & salmon
Dessert- Skinny Cow ice cream or Fage Greek yogurt mixed with mini chocolate chips & honey
I love my red wine, but when I am training for a big race, I definitely limit my intake. I pay much more attention to what I eat on a daily basis.
Best & Worst Marathon Moments
I have a couple of good memories from marathons. The first one was at the Portland Marathon in October of 2008. This was my very first marathon. The race conditions were awful, but typical of the pacific northwest. It down poured for the entire race- I was drenched. Even though the conditions were less than ideal, I still BQ’d and I was ecstatic. My aunt, high school mentor, and my parents were all there to watch me cross the finish line. When I finished I said I was never running another marathon again….until I decided to run 3 more and then sign up for my 5th. Never say never! The marathon bug got me bad!
Another good memory was from CIM in December of 2011. This was my third marathon after taking almost a year off from running due to burn out. I trained my tail feathers off for this race and I ran a huge PR of 3:21:35, taking 16:17 off of my previous marathon best.
Along with the great memories, they are always some not so great memories too. What I like to tell people is that marathons happen. You never know what you will get on race day!
My 2nd marathon was Boston in 2010. I did not properly train for this race. Actually, I didn’t train at all due to a random illness I got in February. My longest run was the first week of February and it was only 18 miles. I had already paid for my trip to Boston and didn’t want to miss what was said to be an experience of a lifetime. It was an experience all right, just not a fun one. I hit the wall at mile 8. Literally, mile 8. The last 18 miles were the most painful miles I have ever run. I remember seeing my husband around mile 21 and I just burst into tears. Not my finest running moment.
Another not so found marathon memory was from the Eugene Marathon this last April. I had trained for a sub 3:15 marathon. Every workout I nailed either right on target or faster. I ran an awesome 24 miler and was ready to knock the race out of the ball park. Everything started to unravel for me around 18 miles and from there it was a fight to the finish line. I was incredibly disappointed in my performance on that day, but I also wasn’t aware that I had a serious undiagnosed injury that I had been fighting on and off with since I had finished CIM in December.
Benefits of Running
Running has had such a positive impact on my life. I have met so many inspiring and talented people over the last couple of years. I have been able to travel and watch some of my favorite athletes compete. Meeting Desi Davila at the Olympic Trials in Houston was one of the most amazing experiences. Physically, running has pushed me further than I thought was I capable of. It has become an outlet to relieve the daily stressors I encounter at home and at work. There is no feeling better than nailing a hard training run or getting a shiny new PR from a race. Sure training is hard and not always fun, but the races are so rewarding!
After suffering from compartment syndrome this last year I have a new outlook on competition and running in general: “I don’t have to run, I get to run”. Every day I am thankful that I can lace up my shoes and hit the pavement with a smile on face.
Tasha @ Healthy Diva