Marathon Training Take Two: A New Plan

Where else? At the physical therapy office.  

Back in November, MensJournal.com Senior Editor Mike Conklin started training for his first marathon, and he was documenting it with weekly blog posts. Then he got injured. Here’s where we pick up…

You know what is a really shitty way to spend a Saturday? Obsessively checking social media to see how everyone’s making out at a race you were supposed to be running — one you spent 12 weeks preparing for, only to get hurt and then spend the next month trying to figure out if there’s any way in hell you could possibly participate, before deciding that, no, there was not.

This, you probably realize by now, is how I spent this past Saturday, as nearly 17,000 people braved frigid temperatures to run the Rock ‘n’ Roll DC Marathon — the race I spent three months training for and writing about in this very space. As I’ve mentioned, I sustained an ankle injury during a 17-mile long run little over a month ago, and after visits to a whole bunch of doctors and a few weeks of physical therapy, I decided I just wasn’t ready. The last thing I wanted was to line up for my first ever marathon and have no idea if I could actually finish, let alone achieve any of the goals I’d set for myself.

If I’m being honest, once the reality of the situation set in, it was a pretty easy decision. I can be sort of a competitive asshole, even if only with myself, so the prospect of failure was unappealing enough that I pretty quickly came to grips with the fact that I’d have to come up with a new plan. In fact, I started looking at it as a way to hit the reset button — to make up for all those weeks when I skimped on my long runs, or when I just totally ignored strength training altogether, or when I drank too much or ate like shit.

So I started researching May marathons within a reasonable driving distance from New York City. I considered races as far off as Cleveland and as nearby as Long Island. Ultimately, though, I decided on The Gate City Marathon in Nashua, New Hampshire, a race I knew nothing about, in a state I think I’ve only driven through one time in my whole life. There’s not a whole lot of information about it on the internet, but what little I’ve found makes it seem pretty damn perfect: It’s a small-town race with only a few hundred runners (for the full marathon, anyway; there’s also a marathon relay and a half), and it’s by all accounts a great course for spectators — it’s comprised of five separate loops, all of which begin and end at the starting line, so there’s ample opportunities to recharge and see some smiling faces. Which I suspect I will desperately need.

Race day is May 21, which leaves me roughly 10 weeks to complete my training. I don’t have a specific program anymore, and will thus be sorta winging it, which I’m weirdly looking forward to. The goal is to run three to four days a week — a speed workout, an easy run, maybe another mostly easy run with tempo portion built in, and, finally, a long run — but to focus on two other all-important elements I failed to adequately incorporate first time around: strength training and cross training. For the former, I’m committing to two solid days of strength exercises, one of which will take place at my weekly physical therapy appointment at the great Finish Line PT here in New York. As for cross-training? Well, I recently acquired a road bike, which I will attempt to ride without immediately falling off. We’ll see. 

I’ll be talking more about all of this in the coming weeks, and I’ll be back with weekly updates starting next Monday. In the meantime, if you’d care to join me in New Hampshire, register here and use the code MENSJOURNAL2017 at checkout to get 10 percent off your entry. And if you aren’t already, feel free to follow me on Twitter and Strava for regular updates.