Marathon Training Week Zero: What Have I Gotten Myself Into?

 Eric Ryan Anderson

In just about 16 weeks, I will travel from New York City to Washington, D.C., with my wife and two daughters. We’ll go to museums, check out the monuments, and drink really delicious beer at Bluejacket Brewing.

And if all goes according to plan, I will run 26.2 miles at the Rock ‘n’ Roll DC Marathon. In less than four hours.

After running somewhat seriously off and on for the past five or so years — with a bunch of 5Ks, some 10Ks, and a handful of half-marathons under my belt — it seems like as good a time as any to take on a full marathon. It’s something I’ve always known I’d do at least once, but I’ve been hesitant to make the commitment because, well, it’s a really big commitment, and it’s really easy to find reasons not to. But as with so many other major events in life, at some point you realize there’s no such thing as the perfect time.

So with that said, let’s discuss what the present time looks like for me right now. I’m 38 years old, married with two children — daughters, like I said, ages two and six. I work full-time, as does my wife. My morning routine entails driving my wife to the train station, dropping my oldest daughter off at school, then dropping my youngest daughter off with my mother-in-law, who helps us out while my wife and I are at work. From there I walk to another train station, endure a 30-minute ride, then jump on the subway for a couple stops, ultimately arriving at my desk at around 9:30. The whole process takes close to two hours, which doesn’t even account for the time spent getting everyone out the door in the first place. In the evening, we repeat roughly the same charade in reverse, usually getting home somewhere around 7:30. There’s dinner to be made, homework to be done, baths to be given, and a bedtime routine that takes anywhere from one to a million hours.

So finding time for the 20, 25, 35 miles per week that marathon training demands is a challenge, to say the least. But I’m also fully aware that my situation is far from unique, and in fact I’d bet it’s pretty typical, which is the main reason I’ve decided to document this whole process here on this website — to answer one big question: What will it take for a married father of two with a relatively demanding job, a small amount of talent for the sport, and as strong a penchant for obsessively completing things as for quitting them entirely, to fulfill his potential and achieve a longtime goal that, while not terribly lofty for more skilled runners, is still something of an indicator, however arbitrary, that you’re a serious runner?

Over the next 16 weeks, I'll be updating every Monday to discuss the previous week's training — highs, lows, and everything in between. With race day falling on March 11, 2017. I'll be training through winter in the Northeast (there's a reason so many major marathons take place in the fall), so there will be weather-related challenges, holiday-related challenges, and of course the challenges everyday life will throw at me — like, how will I manage to make sense of the fact that my job requires me to write about and drink lots of beer, even while simultaneously having to wake up at the crack of dawn to get in however many godforsaken miles are on the schedule for that day? (This last factor, I realize, is not likely to win me much of your sympathy.) 

Along the way, I'll be working with a running coach named John Honerkamp, whose list of accomplishments in the sport is longer than I have time or am inclined to list here. Three relevant facts about him, though: He went to the Olympic trials for the 800-meter in 1996; he started the New York City chapter of the November Project, and he just paced Nev Schulman, host of MTV's Catfish, to a 3:21 at this year's NYC Marathon (Honerkamp is a 2:44 marathoner himself). He also has no idea how many times I'm going to email him over the next three and a half months. 

So yeah, if you're in the same boat, or if you've been considering signing up for a marathon yourself, or even if aren't at all interested in running but think you might enjoy watching a grown man write about his suffering, check back every week. You can also follow me on Twitter, where I suspect I will complain quite a bit. 

Also, spoiler alert: I had my first official training run yesterday, and it was so windy my hat fell off twice. This is going to be great. Really great. See you next week!

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.