MensJournal.com Senior Editor Mike Conklin is running his first marathon, the Rock 'n' Roll DC Marathon, on March 11, 2017, and he's documenting his training here with weekly posts. Here's last week's. You can also follow him on Twitter and Strava.
So here I am, writing about week 10 of marathon training in the past tense and fondly scrolling through my posts about week one and week two, when the stakes seemed so much lower and every single mile felt distinctly like a win. I've got six weeks to go, and I'm starting to think I'm in a whole lot of trouble. Not enough strength training, too much skimping here and there, and not enough respect for the Long Run. Speaking of which…
Honestly? I don’t even remember why, but before I even set out to run on this day, I’d already decided to cut back my prescribed Long Run distance of 14 miles all the way down to 10. These are the decisions that will ultimately be my undoing, I’m sure of it now.
But anyway, the fucked up thing about marathon training — I’ve said it before, but it continues to wreak havoc on my life — is that you can wind up having a really great run, and if it’s not exactly what your program calls for, you feel like a massive failure. I started this run intending to run 10 miles at a conservative Long Run pace. On such runs, I often start out at or above 10 min/mile pace and then work my way down to a comfortable 9:30-ish. This time, I never quite felt like settling into that slow pace, and instead ran my first mile at 9:22. I continued getting faster throughout: 9:11, 9:00, 8:54, 8:43, 8:48, 8:42, 8:33, for a total of eight miles — not blisteringly fast or anything, but far faster than I’ve been moving of late, with no stopping. It was more of an extended tempo run than a proper Long Run, and it felt amazing. But did it do me any good? How badly did I fuck up by not doing my Long Run as prescribed? I do not know, but I’m not real excited to find out.
Nothing at all.
After months of aimless searching for a strength program that worked for me, I’ve settled into doing as many of these as I can. I aim for twice a week and generally only manage one. I skimped on this shit for a long time, and… again, have no idea if I have time to make up for it.
Today’s prescribed workout was a six-mile tempo run with a mile each of warm-up and cool-down. I was supposed to run miles two and three at 8:51-9:05 pace, followed by a one-minute rest and then miles four and five at 8:23-8:51 pace. My bullshit version of the workout? Warm-up at 9:14, mile two at 8:28, and mile three at 8:13 — faster than prescribed, and I felt fantastic. Took a quick breather, and realized I ran out of time because I woke up too late like an idiot. Ran a half a mile home at 7:46 pace and had to call it quits. Again, it felt like a good workout, but not the right kind of good, probably, and not enough of it. So… yeah! This is fun!
I do not remember a single thing about this run. Not one thing. I ran a whopping 3.2 miles at 8:59 pace. My Strava tells me I ran all negative splits, so I guess that’s good? Finished with a solid 8:38 mile. Look at me go.
On Friday, I did something I literally never do — I ran with another human being. My old friend Don took up running after I did, and has since become way faster than I am, the son of a bitch, but I’m totally ok with it. Totally. Ok with it. After stashing our stuff at the new NYRR Run Center, an invaluable (and completely free) resource for anyone looking to log miles in Central Park, we did just that: We set out to do the full six-mile loop around the perimeter of the park, which I’ve never done despite having lived in New York my entire life and working about six blocks from an entrance to the park. It’s a beautiful setting, of course, but also a hugely challenging course, and I was left with a deep respect for the people I see on Strava who run it every day. It’s an endless series of rolling hills — most of them fairly minor, except for two giant, horrible monstrosities I never want to see again for the rest of my life: Cat Hill and Harlem Hill. Cat Hill is steep but manageable; Harlem Hill, for me at least, was just barely manageable, as it seemed to go on forever, consistently winding around a bend so you can never quite see when it will end. It totally got me and I had to take a breather not long after it.
A note about running with someone else: It really is as enjoyable as everyone always says it is. Conversation helps the miles go by a little faster, and it’s nice to have someone there to pull you along when you don’t think you can go any farther. I stopped a few times during our six miles, and, truth be told, probably would have stopped a few more times had I been by myself. This is not rocket science, of course: Receiving encouragement from another person is a good feeling.
But there’s also this weird part of me that thinks, you know, running with other people just isn’t in the cards for me right now. I don’t live particularly close to anyone else who runs, and because of my schedule I generally can’t make it to any organized group runs. So instead I try to take some pride in the solitary nature of the whole thing — which becomes increasingly difficult during the moments when you’re positive you’re destined to fail.
Anyway, we finished our six-mile loop at 8:56 pace, and then I drank a 32-ounce Founders All Day IPA on the train ride home. That was pretty awesome.
Nothing. I planned to do a regular five-miler at a relaxed pace, but between having a bunch of stuff I needed to get done, and my legs feeling like absolute rubber from Central Park, I wound up ditching it altogether. A fine way to end the week.
Week 10 at a Glance…
Total Miles on the Schedule: 31
Total Miles Completed: 20.7
Skipped Workouts: My standard answer to this question… none in their entirety, but portions of most of them. Which is becoming a pattern and, most likely, a problem.
High point: Again, despite the fact that Sunday's run was supposed to be 14 miles and wound up only being 8, it felt pretty amazing. It's the longest I've been able to maintain the mid-8 pace in quite some time, which felt really promising.
Low Point: Oh, how to narrow it down?!
Key Piece of Gear: My go-to shoe selection for the week was a fresh new pair of the Mizuno Wave Sayonara 4 (pictured above, below my pale-ass legs), which is another one of those shoes that delivers on all fronts: cushion, responsiveness, fit, and flexibility. I wore them on the aforementioned eight-mile tempo-ish run, and they were more than up for the challenge. Also, I managed to snag one of those Ciele hats from another editor here, and I want a million more of them.
Next Week: 31-34 miles
For more info about the United Airlines Rock ‘n’ Roll Washington DC Marathon, follow them on Twitter or Facebook, and to join in the conversation, use the hashtag #RNRDC. And if you want to sign up to join me on March 11, use the code RUNNINGDC to get $15 off your race fee.