2013 Pittsburgh Marathon training progress since signing up three weeks ago: finally coming up with a plan!

Today, I finally started creating an actual training plan for myself for the 2013 Pittsburgh Marathon, three whole weeks after signing up!

Why so late in the game (the marathon is just two months away, basically), and is it too late to start serious training?

Why late

My excuse is that life seriously got in the way this February.

I was out of town for days at NE Scala [during one week]((/blog/2013/02/10/ne-scala-2013-my-first-scala-conference/). Then immediately after I came back, Abby broke her foot, throwing our lives into considerable disarray for about two weeks.

So I never actually formulated a marathon training plan until today.

My running status so far

I have been tracking my total weekly mileage from Monday through Sunday. I have mostly been trying to build up a base by running slowly, doing only short spurts of faster running to stimulate some strength and efficiency.

Week of February 4

Got in only 10 miles, including one session of early morning hotel treadmill running at the conference.

Week of February 11

Got in 18 miles, while dealing with the situation of Abby’s broken foot; long run was 8 miles.

I skipped the Steel City Road Runners 15-mile Saturday training run because I simply was not in any shape to run that long.

Week of February 18

Got in 13 miles, while continuing to spend much of time helping Abby; long run was 12 miles (I managed to squeeze in no other running this week besides a 1 mile treadmill run).

I skipped the Steel City Road Runners 10-mile Sunday training run (it was Sunday because of the Spring Thaw race on Saturday) because it just didn’t fit in my schedule for today, so I did my long run on my own yesterday instead.

The plan for the Pittsburgh Marathon

Now that Abby and I have adapted sufficiently to her situation and she is regaining mobility, I finally have the time and energy to gather myself and try to figure out how to proceed with marathon training.

I casually mentioned when I signed up that it would be nice to finish close to the “completely arbitrary magic number of 4:00:00”. I now believe that is very unlikely, and therefore it is no longer really a goal. My goal is to get enough training in so that I can actually survive the marathon experience without doing too much damage to myself. There is no way I can build up either huge mileage or a lot of fast training in the time that I have left, so I’m going to focus on ramping up both bit by bit and monitoring myself, watching out for overtraining.

Also, I want to finally start making it to some Steel City Road Runners training runs, in order to better simulate the experience of running with groups of people on roads in the morning, since that will be the situation on race day.

Hansons Marathon Method

The plan I have created is my own not-enough-time modification of “beginner program” in “Hansons Marathon Method”, something I’ve heard about over the years. The primary “renegade” idea behind the book is that the super-long-run that is advocated by “traditional” training programs is not ideal. Sometimes the training philosophy is oversimplified to being about the 16-mile long run, but really what it’s about is not the number of miles, but the amount of wear and tear on your body during long runs that leaves you less ready to bounce back immediately and continue training. The Hansons method focuses on building “cumulative fatigue” by avoiding cycles of training so hard that you need a lot of down time. So my focus will be on running more days per week, while keeping more runs shorter and easier, while putting in an honest long run per week.

So actually, this is, relatively speaking, a high mileage training method, rather than a low mileage method: instead of doing a whole lot of hard work in fewer days, you spread out the work over more days and run more. So I am in fact deciding to back away from what I thought I would experiment with when I signed up, and I am substituting a different experiment: choosing not to do any long runs of more than about 16 miles (in practice, since the toll on the body is really about time, this means that I don’t really want to run for longer than about 2.5 hours in training; it was these kinds of runs that ten years ago really left me worn out).


I plan to run the Steel City Road Runners 5K race in Schenley Park as a way to gauge my current level of fitness (and also count it as a tempo workout).

I also figured out my tentative weekend schedules for the next nine weeks till marathon day, to make sure I can get in the training I need. When training for a marathon, you kind of have to arrange your life around your training! I will be so happy when the marathon is over.


Sometimes we face setbacks of various kinds when trying to achieve some goal. We have to bounce back by adapting: changing up our expectations as well as the details of our plans. The way I’ve done this is to go back to my original motivations and priorities and examine how to modify them. It’s easier to deal with setbacks when you already decided up front, before the setbacks, what your priorities are. In my case, finish time was the least of my priorities, and the easiest to let go of.

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