In the childhood story, Goldilocks enters the home of the three bears. She tastes the porridge on the kitchen table only to find one bowl too hot, one bowl too cold and the third one, juuust riiiight! And when she lays down for a nap after eating (like many of us on a Saturday afternoon after a really long run), she finds one bed too hard, one bed too soft and the third one, juuust riiiight!
Each of us is Goldilocks. We have embarked upon our marathon training a different athlete (or non-athlete) than we were in our youth – invariably, each of us used to be younger than we are today. And, we are not the same athlete we will be on October 10 when we traverse the streets of Chicago in the Bank of America Chicago Marathon.
Our selection of schedule and our pace per mile on the training runs should not be what it was “X months or years ago” when we last ran on a regular basis. If you have taken some time off from serious running and training, don’t expect to pick up the training at a level you were at before a break in training (even if you ran a marathon last fall!).
Typically, runners set a preconceived notion of running a prescribed pace per mile (in training and on race day) or have a desire to finish in ‘x hours and y minutes’ all without having an honest assessment of their current abilities. Instead, train the athlete you are currently – based on tangible measurements like how you feel during the training runs and shortly after the workouts - not the athlete you think you are, were or will be. Over the course of the 18-week training period, our fitness level improves and we are able to run or run-walk longer distances and usually at a faster pace.
During the long run and the easy pace runs during the week, you should be able to speak in complete sentences during the entire run. When finished, you should feel as though you could run at least another mile or two at the same pace as the training run. These measurements will guide you in pacing.
This is not to say training should be easy. After all, if training for and running a marathon were easy, everyone would do it. Training is a challenge of both mind and body – there will be and should be times when our training feels difficult. But as we move through these phases, we realize that being outside our comfort zone makes us better athletes.
The first several weeks of training are a time when we search for balance in our schedule and the proper paces on each of our workouts. Often, we find that our first choice is either too hard or too easy. And like Goldilocks, we need to find the schedule and pace(s) which are juuust riiiight!
This is a great time to assess the progress made so far in training. After 3 or 4 weeks, we have a better idea of (i) our current condition; (ii) how training fits into our life commitments (work, family, nutrition and sleep); and (iii) tolerance – how our body responds to the training. If we have started too aggressively, we likely feel extra tired or sore – and perhaps a bit frustrated that we are unable to train as the athlete in our mind.
If we started too conservatively, we are at a point in training where we recognize the tolerance level and based on the results, may be ready to move to a more aggressive schedule.
Be honest in your assessment of training so far. Goldilocks was happiest when she found the porridge and the bed which was juuust riiiight! Follow her lead in training.
“Good form will carry you through”®