Today I completed my first marathon (26.2 miles) with a time of 5:03:36 (hh:mm:ss). Not quite the original estimate of 4:45 (hh:mm) I made back in December. But when I consider that less than 1% of the population ever completes a marathon, it is something I can be proud of.
To train for my first marathon I chose Hal Higdon's Novice Training Program. The program is 18 weeks long, consisting of four training runs a week, ranging from 15 to 35 total miles per week. This was the first time I used any kind of program to train for an event. My half marathon training program was more of a just run as much as you can and as often as you can system. Overall, I liked having a schedule. It helped prevent me from over training in the first weeks, and under training in the final weeks.
The hardest part of my marathon training was the time of year I chose. Michigan had some record setting snow fall this winter, many sub-zero degree days, and I am an outdoor runner. Fortunately, I spent twelve years living in Fairbanks, Alaska and have experienced much worse weather conditions. But it still takes a lot of dedication to get up on a Saturday at 5:00AM, with three inches of fresh snow on the ground, -10 degrees Fahrenheit (-25 if you include the wind chill factor), and go out for a 15 mile run.
Despite the early reports of bad weather (rain and a couple inches of snow), race day was beautiful. It started out around 30 degrees and reached a high of 50 degrees with lots of sunshine. The course was a mostly flat, out and back run along Hines Drive, with a start and finish at Dearborn's Ford Field Park. There were aid stations every few miles with water, Gatorade, and GU Energy Gel. If you like a marathon that is somewhat secluded and feels more like a run through the park, I would recommend it.
In the end, what helped me the most with my first marathon was having a running partner, and an awesome group of running friends. If I had tried doing this on my own it would have been far too easy to skip a training day just because it was cold outside or just because my legs were sore. But when you have someone to train with, well it's not as cold out, and the pain is only half as bad. So you get up and do it, because your friend probably feels the same and needs your support.
Now that my first marathon is done, the big question is would I do another? YES. My plan is to do some smaller races over the summer (10Ks and half marathons), and find a marathon for the fall. Right now I am signed up for the half at The Trail Marathon on April 26, 2009. It’s a tough course with a lot of hills, so I don’t expect a PR (personal record). But it will be a lot a fun. :)
Hal Higdon's Marathon Training Guide http://www.halhigdon.com/marathon/Mar00index.htm
Martian Marathon http://www.martianmarathon.com/
Trail Marathon http://www.trailmarathon.com/