My name is Dave, and I’m an engineer.
Though that may sound like an admission of some horrible affliction (and I’m sure there are a few people who think it is), it is really just an explanation of the way I think and how I approach problems. Engineers are logical beings with a tendency to overthink things. I have been called “brutally logical” by a professor who wasn’t entirely pleased with the frank assessment of his class I provided. I’m not sure what part of “I don’t like this class, but I was required to take it so I will do the bare minimum required to get a B and move on with my life.” he found offensive, but so be it. That’s just part of what it’s like being an engineer. I’m not trying to be rude, I just have a hard time engaging in something that makes no sense to me.
Another major part of being an engineer, is overthinking things, or as it’s more commonly called “over engineering” things. Here’s a perfect example. The first trip my wife, then girlfriend, Stephanie and I took together was to southeast Asia. We traveled to Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia. As you can imagine, four countries offers a lot to see and when you are on a time limit it is hard to pick which sites to see. As an engineer, my response to this was to make a spreadsheet (a trusty tool of the trade), assign a numeric value to each site based on how important the site was, assign another value based on how hard it is to travel to said site, and then combine the two numbers to form a ranking of which sites to see. Doesn’t every one do that when planning a trip?
So that’s a little glimpse into what it’s like to be an engineer. Now that I’ve covered that, I can now move on to what this blog is all about: my attempt to train for and run a full marathon. I have run many races: lots of 5Ks, obstacle runs, a 14K, two 15Ks, and two half marathons, but I have never run a full marathon. Stephanie and I ran the Disney Wine & Dine half marathon in November 2013 and during that experience, I began to wonder if I had what it took to run a whole marathon. Disney even has a race called “The Dopey Challenge” that is a 5K and 10K on day 1, a half marathon on day 2, and a full marathon on day 3. I thought it would be cool to attempt that race some time before my 40th birthday. But to even attempt that I should probably run a marathon by itself first.
Physically, I am in good not great shape, but definitely above average. I have been working out regularly for over 10 years and I am confident that I know what I am and am not cable of. I know that if I completed a marathon training program, I could run the race no problem. But here’s where the engineer in me takes over. Have you ever seen a training program for a marathon? You are basically committing to 3 days of running a week with one of those runs being a long run on the weekend. Stephanie travels for work during the week and we value our time together on the weekend, so why would I want to go running for 2-3 hours on a weekend when I could be spending that time with my wife? And who has the time to go running 20 miles on week night? Not me.
Another thing that bothers me about the traditional training program for marathons is that you do one long run a week but the farthest you ever run is 20 miles and that is two weeks before the actual race. I have a few friends that have run marathons and they have all said “miles 20-26 are the hardest.” Are we starting to see the problem here? Why would you undergo months of training under a program that doesn’t even train you for the hardest part of the race? And more importantly, why would you give up precious weekend time to do it?
The engineer in me decided to start an experiment. Can I find a way to train for and complete a marathon without doing the long runs or weekend runs? This blog will track that experiment.
The marathon I will run is The Flying Pig, the most popular marathon in Cincinnati. This year it is May 4th. It is a notorious race for the amount of hills on the course. Runners will not use this race to qualify for bigger races like the New York or Boston marathons because the hills result in much slower race times. I have run the Flying Pig half marathon before and know full well what it feels like to run something like 6-7 miles in a row up hill.
The training program I decided on is of my own creation. Basically, I wanted to make a plan that would focus on running multiple days in a row and during the week only. Here is my thought process for how I decided on this plan:
1) A marathon is tough because you run and run while your muscles grow increasingly fatigued.
2) It’s running in this fatigued state that makes a marathon harder than any other race
3) What if there is a way to simulate the fatigue of a marathon during a shorter run?
And here is the plan I decided on:
1) Run 5 days a week and at least 4 days consecutively. The traditional plan has recovery days in between running days but I propose that this is not the best way to prepare for a race that allows you no recovery time.
2) Start at a low mileage per run but increase the distance every week
3) Never run more than 13 miles during one run.
4) Mix in days of heavy leg lifting at the gym. This will help fatigue the muscles prior to running.
The plan goes like this. Week 1 = run 2 miles on 5 days. Week 2 = 2-3-2-3-2. Week 3 is all 3 mile runs. You see where I am going with this? Basically, two weeks before the marathon I intend to run a 12-13-12-13-12 week. I feel that if I can complete that, then a one time 26 mile run should be no problem.
As I write this opening post, I am already at week 6 of my plan (4-5-4-5-4) and have yet to fail to complete a week. This includes running through some pretty adverse weather conditions. In case you live in a box and don’t watch the news, there was little “polar vortex” thing that hit us not once, but twice, and lucky me, it coincided with running days of 2 miles and 4 miles. Running in -5 degree temperatures feels a bit like trying to breath with a cactus crammed in your mouth. In addition to the cold weather, we are also on pace for one of the snowiest winters ever in Cincinnati which has made for some less than ideal running conditions.
So that’s my plan. Hopefully it is a success and doesn’t result in me crumpling at mile 15. I am cautiously optimistic it can be done.
Thanks for reading!