How This Time’s Different (Marathon Training, That Is.)

I‘m training for my third marathon right now. (Gratuitous recaps of first two: Chicago Marathon, New York Marathon.) Before I started running marathons, I never gave thought to how one training cycle could differ from another. I mean, don’t you just run lots of miles every time?

In short, yes, but there’s a few ways that this cycle is different than the first two.


Time. This is the biggest difference. The first and second times around, I had so much more time, even if I didn’t realize it then.

The first time around, I was working at a less stressful job and was out by no later than 6:30 every night. I had less going on after work and less of a commitment to Junior League.

The second time around, I had been laid off and any time I wasn’t searching or interviewing for jobs, I had free to do whatever I wanted. I threw myself into my marathon training because it was a great escape, and because I could.

This time, I’m working more than ever and I have taken on a tremendous Junior League commitment. Time is not on my side, but I’m still making it work.

Commitment. Looking back at the first time, I was not as committed to my training as I should have been. I got my long runs in, but frequently skipped or cut short my during-the-week runs. No wonder I wasn’t ecstatic with my time.


Last year, I stepped up my commitment majorly. I was going to come in under 4:30, come hell or high water. I nailed at least 90% of my workouts and nailed them good. I came in at 4:19, so I’d say this paid off.

This year, I want so badly to break 4 hours. I think about some other things sometimes, but I’m usually just thinking about the marathon right now. Even when I don’t get all my miles in as planned, I find a way to close that gap as much as possible and make sure to get my quality workouts in.

Run more. From reading speed demon blogs, I’ve realized that if you want to run faster, you need to run more. I’m running 5 days a week now and way more miles than I did the first two times around. I’ll occasionally run a double if I need to get miles in. I’m also running back-to-back days a few times during the week, and my legs are totally fine. I know this doesn’t work for everyone, but it’s working for me right now.

Flying solo. Well, sort of. The first time, I was still working out with a trainer, and he helped me design my plan and alter it when necessary. Last year, I worked with a coach. This year, I’m participating in the RW Challenge program. I have access to their coaches to ask questions when necessary, but I’m finding that with my third time on this rodeo, I have fewer questions and need less one-on-one interaction. I know what needs to be done and am more comfortable with shifting workouts when my plan doesn’t fit my schedule. It’s not rocket science.

Morning running. I finally just broke down and started doing it–most of the time. It’s getting much easier to get my runs in now, and I am so happy when I get to work.
What lessons have you learned after your first marathon (or half, or 5K), and what have you changed?

14 comments on “How This Time’s Different (Marathon Training, That Is.)

  1. fiona

    I’m so impressed with your ability to manage time and run more miles. That’s by far my biggest challenge. Thanks for inspiring me to make it work 🙂

    1. Theodora Post author

      Thanks! And I am inspired by other ladies! I keep telling myself, if other people can get in 60 or 70 MPW, I can get in my damn miles.

  2. kelsey @ somuchlifetolive

    Agreed! I’m so inspired by how you’re able to stretch your 24 hrs in a day to fit in your runs!
    I’m about to run my 3rd half marathon, and this time around I’m not stressing about the missed workouts as much. The 2nd half marathon was during a really busy stage of life, and I ended up missing a lot of my runs, so I felt guilty all the time. But the race was still fun! I’m trying to enjoy the running and do what I can, and not be so hard on myself when I mess up.

    But if I ever run a marathon, you can bet that I’m gonna do my best job to stick to that training program!

    1. Theodora

      @kelsey @ somuchlifetolive: That’s definitely why I started running in the morning–I do feel like I have more hours left in the day and can then get to my Junior League meetings or do fun stuff after work.

      And it’s easier for me to stick to a marathon plan than a half plan, since the idea of being undertrained for a marathon is TERRIFYING to me. A half I can gut out if I have to, a full, not so much.

  3. Meghan

    I have more time on my hands this time around, and unfortunately, it’s making me do the opposite! I thrive when I have to cram things into every hour of the day, otherwise I put things off.

  4. Kathy Q

    This is my second round of marathon training, and I *thought* I took it seriously the first time, but this time I am doing a lot more. Running 5-6 days/week instead of 3 (what was I thinking the first time with only 3 days?), incorporating hills and intervals, etc…but, then again, I was still relatively new to running the first time and I just wanted to complete the distance without injury.

  5. Jen Correa @ Mom's Gotta Run

    Like you, this is going to be my third marathon. The first two were in 2004 and 2007, so some time has past. And some kids. Like you, time is not on my side. I trained for my first marathon with Team in Training – lots of help, support, training and TIME. I trained for the second one alone with 1 child at home. This time I have 2 kids, oh and the full-time job. – read: no time. I am trying to stay committed and get all my runs in, but it is what it is.

  6. Jess

    To me that’s what’s most interesting about running and training — just how DIFFERENT each run, each mile, each training cycle can be and usually IS. I love how your goals have changed, your focus has changed with each race. I’m excited to keep following along for this one, I have a feeling you’re going to run a GREAT marathon this fall!!

  7. Cathryn @ My Heart's Content

    I do half marathons, and am training for my sixth and training hard as I want to break sub-two for the first time. My first three were about 8 years ago when I just ran at the same pace all the time. This year, I’ve started doing tempo runs and have definitely got faster. And I’ve started doing hill repeats and feel much stronger. I’m so excited about the changes I’ve made and the results I can feel. Having said that, I totally failed to get out of bed this morning to run. Grrr.

  8. Liz S

    I am currently “training” for my first one. I put training in quotes because with only 2 months left until the NYC marathon I feel I could have done better. I can only do the best that I can from this point forward and I will take your advice and run more than 3 times a week from now on. I can’t wait and hope that I too will soon say “my 2nd and 3rd marathon training were much better.”


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