Reflecting on Training for SFM

As I was training for The SF Marathon this year, I was pretty quiet about it on the blog about my training. After being so vocal on my training for the LA Marathon last year, I consciously made an effort to keep my goals and training to myself (and my closest friends & family, who inevitably are affected by my training). I have a couple of reasons for doing this. One is that I tend to over analyze and stress myself out about races and by constantly posting about my training and goals, for me, is basically insuring a stressed out Meg on race day. Second is that we all train very differently and I am hesitant to put my training out there as it might work for me but not for you, and I’m not a certified coach. However, now that the race is over and was successful, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on some of the training. (If you are really into following my training, I do post my runs to Strava and sometimes to dailymile.)

Got to enjoy the company of these runners for the last part of one long run! I'm definitely a social runner, and if I can coordinate runs with friends, I will!

Got to enjoy the company of these runners for the last part of one long run!

I had originally planned to use the Pfitz Advanced Marathon training as it has worked really well for my gal Erin. But as the time drew closer to begin training, I started to worry about relying on a book – fearing that what if something went wrong in training, would I modify correctly? Would the mileage work for me? So, I decided to work with my coach again. He had helped me secure a 5k PR in March and I like his way of approaching marathon training. I have wrote about it before, but one of the benefits of working with a coach is that s/he can help you to modify your training as it progresses which a book or online plan can’t do.  For me, in this case, I was getting a little speedier during training, so my speed workouts got a little quicker as the weeks progressed. Another nice thing about working with a coach is you have someone to touch base with if/when a workout doesn’t go as planned. For example, when I was in SoCal I had some tempo work that just fell apart. I knew mentally that it was likely due to traveling and poor diet, but emotionally I couldn’t really convince myself. I doubted the work I had put into my running. So I emailed the coach and he also felt that it was traveling and diet, and just to focus on the next workout. And you know, my next workout went great.

My mileage is different from many marathon training plans and I would not recommend it for first time marathoners or runners who don’t run a lot of mileage normally. But I only have two 18 milers during my 12 week training period and I don’t go over 18 miles. But I still high mileage weeks, have many mid-week runs in the 9-10 mile range – including my speed workouts. Some of the philosophy here is about time on my feet, thinking more about time than mileage. Also, many of my long runs (while shorter than some plans), included many race pace miles. And it is important to use these runs to practice race-day fueling (an important lesson I learned from not successfully fueling at previous marathons!). That being said, I think for a first marathon having at least one 20 miler in the training is important, if only to get it in your head that you can run that far because you will doubt it come race day. (That being said, I totally did not do this for my first marathon and still survived, just slowly). My weeks’ mileage ranged from around 48 to 54 miles. My lowest week was the week before the marathon: 39 miles. Race week I ended up with just below 50 miles.

Action shot on a group run

Action shot on a group run

At the beginning of my training, I did a lot of track workouts: 200s, 400s, 800s, etc. But my last month or so of training, had less of these and more longer, road workouts: longer tempos and many mile repeats. I actually think this was very helpful in my training. I run these type of workouts on a stretch that is fairly flat but not track flat, so it feels more like race conditions. Nailing the longer workouts really helped me mentally feel prepared for race day. Again this was what worked for me and really was helpful when I was traveling because I didn’t have to find a track but rather just get out on the road. However, it can be hard if you don’t live in a place where there are long stretches without stop lights or intersections.

Lots of hills in my training to prepare for 26.2 miles that looked like this...

Lots of hills in my training to prepare for 26.2 miles that looked like this…

Finally, I included a LOT of hills in my training. Every week I had a least one run dedicated to climbing but I also tried to include some hills in my long runs. This was as much for physical training as it was for mental training. While I was in Washington, I included a 5 mile run that had a 1 mile climb of about 500 feet. As I entered my taper weeks, I included one last run on the Wilder Loop (a climb is challenging but is rewarding with its awesome views) with my SCE teammates. It was the strongest I had felt on that route and I was able to keep up with some of the guys. This was the run I kept in my mind as I got closer to race day, it was what I needed to believe I could conquer the SF hills. The choice to include all this climbing was to try to best prepare myself for the race course. If you are beginning your marathon training soon (say for CIM?) you probably don’t need all that hill work. Rather find what runners have found challenging about the course and try to replicate that on some of your training runs.

To wrap up, I’m including the screen shots of my training calendars for my 12 weeks of training.

Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 7.54.53 AMYou can see in May and June, I had multiple days with multiple runs. This is a little deceiving as for three of my long runs, I had a race in the middle of the mileage. While I did not include any double run days in this training session, it can be a way to build endurance – especially if you don’t have one large chunk of time to get in some longer runs.

Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 7.55.05 AM


You’ll see that post race I took a solid week off, no running and not even cross training (although I was going to go to Body Pump that week but life got in the way). I know many people return back to running sooner (and some told me to take more time off) but you should do what’s right for you, so listen to your body!

Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 7.55.18 AMFinally, as evidenced by the photo at the beginning of this post, I love running with friends. I was lucky to enjoy the company of many of my teammates from Santa Cruz Endurance, and especially to those women who modified their workouts to join me or even paced me on some of my speed work – you know who you are and I’m so grateful for you!

Running friends make the best friends :)

Running friends make the best friends 🙂

And if you haven’t read enough about the SF Marathon. Here are some of the race caps I’ve been enjoying over the past week (in no particular order):


2 thoughts on “Reflecting on Training for SFM

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