The Hotlegs Runner Distance Dilemma | The Hotlegs Runner

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Distance Dilemma

My first full marathon is fast approaching and I am unsure of how far I am supposed to run 3 weeks prior to "the day".  To be honest, I haven't been following my marathon training program to the tee.  It started two weeks ago.  My long run says to do only 12 miles but, I still had some energy left in me, so I ended up doing 13 miles.  For this Monday's long run, instead of doing just 13miles, I did 15 miles.  I wanted to run some more but I was feeling a bit sore and dehydrated already. I finished it in 2:47.

My gut tells me to continue to push myself as long as my body allows it. But rest/taper, when my program states that I should.  Is that right?

The 15 miles this Monday was my farthest so far and I am truly humbled.  First time for me to experience the pain and soreness that followed after running this distance.  And that's only 15! And I still have 11.2 to go!  I felt my body fading a bit already.

So now I'm thinking --- I don't want to surprise myself (and my body) during the actual marathon.  I want to already know what it feels like running close to 26.2 miles.  I want to train my body to get used to the very long distance.

My program says that I peak at 22 miles, 3 weeks before race day.  I feel that that is not enough.  I want to peak at 24 miles.  I now have 7 weeks to go before the race.  The last 2-3 weeks, I start tapering.  Am I making the right decision?  Am I pushing myself too much?

A friend advised me to stick to my original program since it is there for a purpose. But the program is something I just got online.  It doesn't know what I am capable of doing.

Another said to just enjoy the course.  I want to and I plan to.  But that 5 hours 30 minute cut-off is just so much pressure for me.  It's my first marathon and I don't know if that time is enough for me.

And my friend/coach Carina, tells me that I am strong enough to train until 24 miles.

My fear of peaking my training at 24 miles is that I might injure myself.  God-forbid this happens!  So I guess I just have to go with my instincts.  Nobody else knows myself more than I do, right?  I promise to listen to my body and see how far it will take me during my training.

  • What was the longest distance you ran when you were training for your first marathon?

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  1. Hi Julie, congratulations on your upcoming race! I too felt I had to experience the 26 miles prior to racing it and wound up running 26 miles 2X prior to the race. I ran that race very well, but shortly afterwards broke down. I ran 3 more that way each one seemingly more difficult. The last one I had started training with a group and only ran 20 as my longest distance (2 or 3 times prior to the race). It wound up being a VERY hot race, so I didn't PR, but I felt the strongest and the freshest for any of my previous marathons. It really made me decide that I didn't need to do so much! Definitely follow the taper, you want to go into that as fresh as you can! Good luck! ;)

  2. This is a common worry - I have experienced it before my last race as well - not a marathon though.

    I think you will be well-prepared to finish your Marathon. What most of the training plans have is a program to get you to be faster and still finish, while others train you to keep one pace and finish. It all depends on the program you complete and the strategy you will choose for the race.

    Here is were a coach can help. Probably the best way is to go to the blogs that you follow and pick a few people to ask this question of. They could even have some coaching affiliation or certificates to help you out (like RRCA).

    My coach is Jill Parker at

  3. I am prepping for my first one, too, so I am NOT speaking from experience...

    But from everything that I have read, the benefits/gains from training over 20 miles are far less than the risk of injury/stress on the body. The farther you run, the longer it takes to recover from that run. You don't want to toe the line already fatigued.

  4. Listen to your body and do what feels right. That being said, I created my own training plan my first marathon based on sprinklings of a few different ones, I peaked at 20... until I got a certified running coach to look over my plan when I was about 5 weeks out and he cleaned it up and had me run a 22 miler. I was perfectly fine on race day. Fast forward to second training cycle: Under said Coach's direction I ran two 22 milers and three 20 milers. I PR'd on race day. Almost all training plans max you out at 20 milers but some people push themselves further and I think as long as you are smart about it you should be ok. Also I wouldn't push that kind of distance more than once your first go round.

  5. I agree with your friend, stick to the plan.

    Also, most importantly, follow the taper!!!! I can not stress this enough, there has been enough studies done that you will not gain any "noticable" fitness gains in one week. Do what the plan says for the taper and rest up for the race.

    Trust your training and rock the mary!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Hi Julie!! I smile everytime I see your name 'hotlegs" I seriously love it.

    My longest is 22. Hasn't failed me yet. :)

    You're going to rock this race!

  7. i totally worried about this too. my longest LR was 22.2 miles. i don't think you'd want to run more than 22 three weeks out. as hard as it is to do i think you need to trust that you can cover those last ~4 miles. in fact, i KNOW you can do it.

    or if you do want to go longer make sure that it's not wicked taxing. i think there's a training plan that recommends doing 26.2 miles as the longest but it recommends walking breaks so you don't beat your body up and break it down.

  8. Most of the plans I looked at peaked at 20 or 22 and all the books I read said the same thing. Anything over that amount doesn't do much for any physical gains. The plan I used called for 2 20 milers. I had every intention of doing both but by the time I got to that point in the plan, my body started to say No and I listened. So, I only got in one 20 miler - but it went really well. The day of the marathon was tough and the last 6 miles the hardest, but I made it through. Next time, I plan on adding in one 22 miler but I won't do more than that in training.

  9. For my first 3 marathons (which still stand as my PR for that distance on the road) I had only run a max distance of 17 miles prior to the actual marathon. I do think that running longer than 20 is overtraining for a marathon. For most runners it is not the last miles that are the hardest it is the later middle miles that are challenging.
    Stick with a plan. You are getting a bit close to risk injury. As long as you have a good mileage base and consistant training you will do well. Don't allow the mental questioning start derailing you now!
    Believe in your training and your desire to do this! You can do it.

  10. I know you're strong enough to do 24miles Jules so I would say go for it. Three weeks is still a long way. You can still try one more long run and taper the last 2 wks. I also am a true believer of tapering. I find myself performing better with fresh legs.

    However, the best really is to listen to your body. How do you feel 2wks after running your 15miles? Do your legs feel tired? If it does, then maybe you're pushing yourself too much and increasing mileage so close to your marathon debut might not be a good idea.

    Also, do not compare your performance training day and marathon day. IMHO, you will perform better during your race. Just make sure you get proper hydration and nutrition during the race and everything will fall into place.

    A 5:30 for you is a low hanging fruit. I AM SURE OF IT! :) Good luck and enjoy your run!

  11. Hey Julie! Sorry I can't compute in miles, my brain likes kilometers better. :D If you're feeling chronically fatigued after hitting a big mileage milestone, you're overtraining. You might want to ease up on the gas pedal (so to speak).

    For my first marathon I hit a peak of 35km (with rest breaks) three weeks before the race date. (Actually it was 30km, then 35km two days later.) Others were trying to push me to do one more long run, but I felt the stirrings of plantar fasciitis in my feet so I decided to rest and just keep my cardio and immune levels up doing cross-training like cardio dance, yoga, and shorter runs (only up to 15km).

    Long runs of more than an hour depress your body's immune system levels and will make you more prone to catching viruses, like colds.

    You want to be able to perform at your best on race day itself, not before, and a major part of it is getting enough rest before the marathon. And like they say, it's better to be (slightly) undertrained than overtrained.

  12. Hi Julie Hector from 2nd wind told me to run 26km a month before and 32km a week after before tapering down. I am sure you can do it.


  13. it doesn't matter if you do 20 or 22 or 24 miles. what matters is how and when.

    how fast do you recover? if you take a long time to get back to 100% after a long run then you should taper at 3-4 weeks before race day. again, it's you who can answer this. listen to your body.

    trust your program (or coach, if you have one). there's always a reason for the prescribed distances. maybe you can tweak it but not too much.

    lastly, believe in yourself and have fun!

  14. Your problem is you cant seem to stop? Arrrgh! I can't seem to go past 12km these past few weeks! My brain just shuts down and my body follows suit.

    Continue on, Julie-luv! You will enjoy your first marathon as I will in any form of training. :)


  15. ate,

    i know you can do it. im not a fun of following other's training plan because it might not be suitable to me. they key here is to listen to your body because no one can tell what your body feels when running. fine you are following the online training, but what if your body wants more out if it or your body can't take the beating of that training. ate, don't be afraid to go out of your comfort zone. there are times that you might be capable of doing things but the problem is your are not trying it or sometimes where too eager to try things to soon that our skills is not yet equipped to do things. again ate, always listen to your body dont be afraid that your friend will finish and you didn't. if you think you can do it GO for it, but if you felt something not right don't hesitate to STOP cause that might take a toll if you still push. just to share my experience. weeks before the longest and toughest race here in philippines im still injured but i decided to join the race and told myself that anytime in the race im may stop and pull out from the race. fortunately my best friend ITBS didn't run along side with me and i was able to finish it way beyond my target. another one, my first and only FM, i trained hard for it and felt great till KM and i was on target for 3.45 finish but my target was to finish 4.00 but on km 25 i felt pain on my legs and was forced to walk and even lay down on sidewalk. while in pain i told myself that i will not push anymore(there goes sub 4) and i was thinking what will i do next year to beat sub 4.

    SAFETY is the top priority. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY.

    oh lastly


    The Jogging Safety Pin

  16. let's go hotlegs! you can do it! your family is cheering you!!!

  17. i'm so excited i forgot to post my advice, so here it goes:

    yep, its true that you have to listen to your body. and it doesn't mean that you only do the listening come race day. you also have to listen during training. and what you're feeling right now is definitely something worth listening to.

    i've read and learned from john bingham, jeff galloway, and hal higdon that in case you missed a training day, you did not miss the training, only the day.

    what they mean is, rest IS an essential part of training. you have to allow your body to rest and recover, most especially when marathon day nears, or when a peak training session nears. that's why tapering or cutting short mileages every 3 weeks is always present in most training plans.

    i'm sure you'll agree based on experience that after rest and recovery, you feel like you're more energized and ready to hit the road and eat mileages. that's exactly what tapering does. allowing your whole body to recharge.

    bingham, galloway, and higdon also had this philosophy in common: better to be undertrained than overtrained.

    as a parting note, allow yourself enjoy your first marathon. forget time goals. your first will transform you the moment you show up in the starting line. it will transform you again when you're in the marathon course. and it will transform you again after crossing the finish line.

    all the best! run julieway!

  18. My first Marathon is Nov. 14th, and I plan to run a full 26 miles. Is that crazy? I just ran a 24 miler the other day. I want to see what the distance is all about before I actually go do it. Though, I am not running this one for time, I already had my A goal this year. This is for experience points and other stuff planned for next year. Take care. Just listen to your body and take it easy.

  19. I've never run a marathon, the only advice I've ever heard is to run up to 22 miles before but I'm certainly no expert! When I ran my first half marathon I felt I needed to go over the distance before the race so I ran 14 miles before, it ended up being too soon and my body wasn't fully recovered for the race.. What I'm trying to say is if you do go the distance before the race make sure you give yourself ample recovery time as you don't want to run a better pre race run than race, which is what I did. I ran 14 miles faster than I ran my half marathon in the end :-(

  20. Just started following your blog - For my first marathon my longest run was 20 miles. I have completed 10 marathons and dnf one. The longest I have ever ran in the lead up is 25 miles. You need to listen to your body but ensure that you get to the start line in the best possible shape - it is easy to over do it without realising until its too late (the reason for my dnf)and if that means doing 22 instead of 24 then you will reap the rewards come race day

  21. I would go with the 22 miles. That is definitely enough. I always follow the rule: when in doubt about running a longer or shorter distance…always take the shorter distance. Good luck!

  22. You need to listen to your body but also understand that these programs are there because they work.

    I did my first marathon last year and I trained distance wise properly and the most I ran was 20 and I only did that once. I ran 18 twice. Just like your plan I tapered the last three weeks.

    It never feels like enough but it is.

    My biggest problem was my nutrition. It was hot and humid in San Antonio on that day and I just did not get enough nutrition so my suggestion is to practice that while doing your long runs of 18-20 miles.

    Getting that food in your mouth and trying to chew and run was tough. I wound up spitting most of it out but that hurt me in the end.

    I would not run more then 20 miles but that is me and you have to listen to your body.

  23. New follower, sent over from EMZ, I am going to dig deeper later but I think your blog design looks sweet.

  24. First of all, YOU GUYS ROCK! You cannot imagine how much I appreciate your input on this matter. Some day I hope to be able to pay it forward to some newbie marathoners.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    I have decided not to go over 22miles. If need be, maybe I'll just do 20 miles and just trust my training to get me across that finish line before the cut-off time.

  25. I dont have the moral ascendancy to give you any marathon advice, so il just stick to my simple goodluck on ur first FM. hehe.
    break a leg, Julie!! (figuratively not literally)

    Atty Morgan


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