Living, Breathing the Marathon Training

Ambassador and Blogger Libby sports her SF Marathon singlet on the beautiful Northshore Trail in Grapvine, Texas.

Last week’s recap: I ran 31 miles. This was my 2nd stepback week before I jump up my long run again. I took 2 weeks stepback after my first 20-mile run so that I could start a pretty intense strength training workout program. I needed some time to adjust.

Giving the Marathon the Time It Deserves

The past couple weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about the time that goes into marathon training. It was even recently the focus of an upcoming article I wrote for a regional running magazine in which I regularly have a column. A lot of training program dropouts and injuries really come from a lack of understanding, and then sometimes a lack of acceptance, of the time that’s required to properly train for a marathon.

Time Investment for the Workouts


Many marathon training programs start in the early weeks with about 30 miles a week and end before a few weeks taper with a couple weeks at 50+ miles a week. This is way more feasible at a faster pace. An 8-minute miler needs to devote a total of 6 hours, 40 minutes to running 50 miles in one week. However, a 13-minute miler (my long run pace) has to invest 10 hours, 50 minutes to achieve the same number of miles. Most people who count themselves as 8-minute milers really race at 8 minutes per mile. This means those people should still be doing their basebuilding runs and long runs at a slower pace, maybe 9-11 minutes per mile. So sometimes I think this is a place people who feel pressed for time compromise on, because finishing each run 20-30 minutes faster certainly sounds attractive in the short term.

And then you add cross-training or strength training. Again, this is another thing people compromise on. I declared at the start of my marathon training that, while I knew cross-training once a week can be a great help, as the mom of 2 small kids, I just did not conceive that I could find the time. Now that I’ve seen that postpartum my core muscles have not recovered as quickly as I need them to, my view on this has changed. And now strength training feels much more of a necessary component of my training plan than simply something to make me a little faster or stronger or to make my training program more well-rounded.

For my 31 miles run, I ran 7 hours and 18 minutes. And then I did 3 hours of intense strength training with this personal trainer I’ve started working with. So that’s 10 hours, 18 minutes of just working out.

The Unspoken Time for Marathon Training

This is the time people forget to talk about. But it’s a big part of the commitment to marathon training. One big piece people overlook is the commute to and from the run. If you are a social runner or in a program, then you are traveling somewhere to run with a group. Most of us aren’t starting every run from just outside the front door of our house.

Last week, I did 8.4 miles Saturday with friends at Northshore Trail in Grapevine, which is 45 minutes from home. Sunday, I met a friend at Oak Point Park in Plano to run 5.6 miles on trails, and this was 20 minutes each way from my house. There’s 2 hours, 10 minutes in commutes right there.

And then there’s the simple action of the grooming after the run. Ladies will have more of this than men, reapplying makeup or hair washing/drying/styling.

I typically, if not training, wash my hair every other day, but with how hot and humid it has been in Texas, that’s daily hair washing and drying. And believe me, if you could see me, you’d know that I have given up styling my hair (an easier compromise as a stay-at-home mom). But for hair washing and drying (I have very thick hair), that’s about an added 1.5 hours a week that I wouldn’t do if I was just leisurely running a few times a week.

Don’t forget the simple time of recovery for all these miles and core strength exercises. Ice baths, Epsom salt baths, icing, foam rolling, and stretching all take time!

Total It Up

So when training for a big race, please consider the total time at your pace that you will spend working out (and not just running when I say working out) throughout the program. Then add in at least a fudge factor for the other time that the program will require that isn’t reflected in the prep and recovery throughout the week. If the time doesn’t work for you, figure out the things you can compromise on a little, don’t compromise on the big things that could lead to injury, or decide that maybe this isn’t the right time for that goal or that program.

For me, I feel like all I’m doing is living and breathing marathon training because it’s that kind of time consumption for me on top of watching two kids all day. But I’m okay with it for now, and with 9 weeks to race day, I’m not thinking any giant compromises on time commitment are going to come up!

Later this week, I plan to try to add up on my personal blog the time in the last week that running “cost” me, like the 10hr18min running, 2hr10min driving time, 1hr30min hair washing & drying, etc. It should be an interesting pie chart.

What’s Up This Week: Some miles here and there throughout the week with a focus on this weekend’s 31st Birthday Running Challenge. I turn 31 years old on June 6, so I’ll be rolling my needed 20-miler into running 31 miles over the weekend of June 4 and 5. Here’s all the info on the challenge. I invite DFW runners to come out and join me!

Libby Jones has been running for 5 years, is a self-described “serial half-marathoner”, but has never attempted the marathon distance. She is also an active part of the Dallas-Fort Worth running community.  She is the Founder and Race Director of the New Year’s Day Half Marathon in Allen, Texas; the Executive Race Director for Heels and Hills, a non-profit geared towards getting women fit and active; the North Texas State Representative for the Road Runners Club of America; past Dallas Running Club President & 2008 RRCA Scott Hamilton National Outstanding Club President Award Winner; and an RRCA-certified running coach. She’s also a wife to Steve and a mother to Marissa (3 yrs) and Sophie (3 1/2 months).  Read her blog “The Active Joe” and follow her on Twitter @libbyruns

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