Marathon training plans typically last between 16 and 18 weeks, which means four full months of training before race day. Holding myself accountable to each day’s training is something that I have struggled with for each of the three marathons I have completed. I promised myself that this training cycle would be different because I knew that it would be the only way to get the results I want this time around.
The first marathon Robert and I ran we held each other accountable by obviously doing most of our training together. I also had started blogging back then to try to have an audience keep my accountable as well. This was my first marathon and I got sick a few times during training, but all in all I did probably about 75% of the training I was supposed to. However, the only day of cross training I completed was the first week when Robert and I tried to walk a lap of our usual route. It was so utterly boring we could not bring ourselves to attempt it again and therefore cross training fell off the wayside. Our goal for this marathon was simply to finish it without having to walk and we did so. I was happy with myself, but I wondered what would the difference have been if I would have completed full weeks of training instead of simply ensuring I got my long runs in.
Last spring I ran the Buffalo Marathon over Memorial Day weekend and my training got off to a great start. I had written down all the mileage I was supposed to complete in my daily planner and would highlight the mileage when I completed the run. This was useful, however I only saw the weekly runs so it was great for getting me through each week, but did not give me a visual sense of my complete progress. Then on one of the first days in March last year I slipped on black ice during an early morning run and cracked a bone in my elbow and wrist and messed up my shoulder. Training obviously fell to the wayside for a few weeks and although I got back to it I really only did about half the training I should have for the marathon. Oddly enough I PR’d that race (although the last 2.2 miles were a struggle). This again made me think about my possibilities if I could just be better about getting in all the training I was supposed to during the months leading up to my next marathon.
This past January Robert and I ran during Disney Marathon weekend. I ran the Goofy Challenge which included the half and the full marathon on consecutive days. Training for this marathon was lax at best. I did not have anyway to hold myself accountable besides the fact that Robert was running each day. I never even looked at a training plan- I just went off what Robert was doing during his own training for the Dopey Challenge. We had been running a lot of trail races as part of the fall race season and I felt like getting in decent runs on trails at race pace would be more than enough to get me through the flat course at Walt Disney World. I knew that this was going to be a very different race for me because of the fact that I would be running more mileage in one weekend then I ever had before, but at the same time I was not too concerned because I knew that I would be motivated by running through the Disney theme parks and seeing all my favorite characters. Although this was yet again an extremely different training experience I still was able to complete both the half and full at times I was content with when factoring in stopping to take pictures with characters.
This year my goals are different and holding myself accountable has become a priority as well. Robert and I have both made a commitment to actually cross train this year and to incorporate time after our runs to actually stretch properly and work on our core. We also have a way to cross train after my DIY husband fashioned a way for us to now have his mountain bike act as a stationary bike in our basement. This is the first time in my training history that I can say I have yet to miss a week of cross training. Before training officially started this time around I created monthly calendars simply for my training schedule and wrote inspirational phrases around the outside of each calendar. I keep them by my bedside and each day I complete that day’s training I color in the box for that day. As simple as this sounds it is such a motivating force for me I am almost ashamed to admit it. I do not want to see any white boxes on that calendar and get angry about the fact that I missed days of training in February because those white boxes stick out so much compared with the colors of the other boxes. The blank spaces are unknowns, how much better could I be on race day if they were colored in? At the bottom of each month’s calendar I also wrote in a place for my total mileage completed for the month, total days run, total days cross trained, and total days skipped to provide myself a time to sum up the month at the end of that section of my training. Writing in the fact that I skipped 0 days in January felt awesome, however in February that was not the case. March is off to a great start, and I think part of that is because I do not want to feel the way I did when I had to record my skipped days for February.
Another way I am holding myself accountable this time around is by using my Garmin Connect account to post myself weekly and monthly goals for my mileage. Garmin Connect allows you to post whatever type of goals you want- mileage, time, calories- for whatever time period you want- daily, weekly, monthly, annually. Then each time you sync up your watch with your computer it updates your goal progress for you. There is a a bar that shows a visual display of the percentage of the goal you have left to complete as well as the amount of days left to complete your goal. I have set up weekly goals for each week of my training, and also an overall monthly goal. This accountability has got me running circles in my driveway at the end of my runs just to ensure that I am at 6.00 and not 5.99 because otherwise the mileage will be off on my completed distance and I might not reach my goal. Although it is another very simple way to hold myself accountable, it is also helping.
At this point in my training I think a huge part of what is continuing to help me get out of bed each day, complete pace runs to work on my speed, and put in the extra 15-20 minutes of core and stretching post run is that I am actually seeing results. Recovery runs have not been as much of a struggle. The last few pushes up a hill on the trail were not as debilitating. My legs are not as sore the next day. Pace runs are more doable and my long run the next day is still at a decent clip. I feel like I could have a really great racing season and another PR that I could really be proud of in Vermont. I guess I could say that at this point I am also being accountable to the work I have already put in and the possibility of a great race season. I am so close to having a great race season and I am the only one who can prevent that at this point. Hopefully I can keep up this work ethic. I have completed 6 weeks of marathon training, 1/3 of the way done. Hopefully come Memorial Day I will be just as proud of the last 2/3 of my training.
How do you hold yourself accountable? How do you set up your training plans? I’m aways open to new ideas!