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Marathon Coaching for Busy Folks – Run Quick. Eat Gradual.

What I discovered whereas coaching for my first marathon

By Elyse Kopecky

I at all times knew I might run a marathon sometime, however by no means anticipated that I might practice for my first marathon throughout one of many busiest durations of my life. I suppose when you grow to be a father or mother there by no means can be a good time to coach for a race. However in the event you dive into it with the correct mindset, you’ll be glad that you just lastly took the plunge. To have the correct mentality, it is advisable to set lifelike targets, be versatile, take heed to your physique and thoughts, and create a coaching program that works along with your life-style and already full schedule. 

Right here is an outline of the coaching program and exercises that labored for me. I hope this may encourage you to set huge (and enjoyable!) working targets in 2022. 

After pushing aside working a marathon for years as a result of busyness/infants/life/and so on, I lastly set a aim to run my first 26.2 in honor of turning 40. I chosen the NYC Marathon for the reason that race day was only a couple weeks earlier than my birthday. Plus, my bestie and coach extraordinaire, Shalane Flanagan, informed me it’s probably the most iconic marathon on the planet (she was proper!). I adopted Shalane’s 14-week coaching program that she developed for Rise & Run, however I wasn’t afraid to customise the exercises to go well with my wants. Full disclosure, I didn’t full many of the pace/observe exercises, however I did do all the Lengthy Runs (extra on this under). Shalane’s program is geared in direction of veteran marathoners with a selected time aim. My fundamental aim, as an injury-prone runner who had not raced since school, was to get to the beginning line wholesome. 

Throughout the 14-week build-up to the NYC Marathon, I launched our 3rd cookbook whereas additionally parenting two younger youngsters throughout covid (which implies they had been at dwelling with me lots!). Subsequently, my mantra was QUALITY OVER QUANTITY. I by no means ran greater than 5 days per week. I targeted on the standard of my runs versus making an attempt to run on daily basis. Parenting throughout covid is exhausting! You don’t have as many choices for playdates or babysitters and I had very restricted assist outdoors of faculty hours. I at all times run early, in order that I can full my work earlier than the youngsters come dwelling from college. Fortunately for me, cooking is my job, so I used to be capable of sustain with the diet calls for of marathon coaching, which is a large time dedication. 

Able to set a brand new working aim? 

The LONG RUN was the cornerstone of my coaching. I adopted the Lengthy Run build-up schedule precisely as outlined in Shalane’s 14-week Coaching Program in Rise & Run. My longest run was 20 miles, 4 weeks out from race day. At first I scheduled my Lengthy Runs for Sundays, however as soon as I received into the thick of this system I noticed I most popular squeezing them in early on Fridays. It’s exhausting to entertain young children all day after a tough run! By shifting my run to Fridays, I may run, eat, stretch, and bathe in peace whereas the youngsters had been in school. 

RECOVERY is important whenever you’re coaching on your first marathon at age 40 (or actually any age). I discovered that after my Lengthy Runs received above 10 miles, I really wanted two days to get better earlier than hitting the pavement once more. I took the day after each LR fully off after which often cross-trained the second day (yoga, biking, swimming). 


After the beginning of my second child adopted by a yr of nursing, it took me awhile to get again right into a constant working program. I’m glad I gave myself loads of time to get again into working form earlier than I really began the 14-week program.

The very best recommendation ever from Shalane, “You gotta get match to get match.” Translation: You want a base health stage earlier than you start coaching for a marathon. We dive into this extra in Rise & Run. Growing your mileage too rapidly is the quickest option to find yourself injured. In January (10 months previous to race day), I began persistently working 5 miles 4 days per week—with no extra excuses for skipping runs! 

I bear in mind texting Shalane about how a lot it harm to get again into form. I felt exhausted after my “lengthy runs” which had been not more than 8 miles. I ran decrease mileage, however with devoted consistency for a number of months. About two months into constant working, it felt like I abruptly turned a nook and 10-mile runs started to really feel very easy. By summer time, I used to be prepared for mountain adventures, which gave me an excellent greater base earlier than I began the precise marathon coaching. 


I actually get pleasure from mixing up my coaching to keep away from burn-out and accidents. I wasn’t nice about sticking to a energy coaching program, however I did comply with the short and simple at dwelling energy workouts in Rise & Run. I additionally swam and/or mountain biked as soon as every week. I don’t really like swimming until it’s outdoors, however I did get into the pool for 30 to 40 minutes of laps about 8 instances throughout my 14-week coaching cycle. Swimming is an incredible cross-training exercise for runners. 


Hills are my particular sauce. I like working up something steep. I really feel most alive after I’m working within the mountains and I’m of that uncommon breed that enjoys the heavy respiratory/burn sensation. Hill exercises provide the most bang on your buck—a severe cardio burn with manner much less pounding on the ol’ physique! After constant mileage by means of the winter/spring, I used to be prepared for many enjoyable mountain adventures as soon as the snow thawed. Path working gave me a very wholesome base since it really works your physique in methods totally different from highway working. Because of all my hill coaching, the NYC marathon course felt flat to me—I barely seen the uphill on the bridges. 


I’m a talker and working is my social hour so I prefer to run at a snug tempo the place I can maintain a dialog. Once I began the true coaching, I found I’m really a fairly lazy runner. Put up-college, I received used to solely working at a snug tempo. I had forgotten what it feels prefer to push your self. Subsequently, I’ll admit I skipped many of the pace/observe exercises in Shalane’s program, however I did decide to a weekly tempo run at a tempo barely quicker than marathon tempo. My favourite tempo exercise was the next: 2 mile warm-up, 3 mile tempo, relaxation, 2 mile tempo, relaxation, 1 mile tempo, relaxation, 2 mile cool-down, for a complete of 10 miles. I did should work my manner as much as this successful exercise. I additionally did full a number of of the observe periods (8 x 400 repeats), however not as typically as I had hoped. 

ACTIVE RECOVERY. On my days off, I’m nonetheless energetic. I stroll the canine, experience bikes with the youngsters, paddle board, mountain bike, do a 15-minute at dwelling yoga routine, or go to a 60-minute yoga class. I imagine it’s extra vital to maneuver your physique on daily basis than to run every day. 

NUTRITION was my secret weapon to a profitable first marathon. Extra to come back on this in a future weblog submit! I’ve lots to say on this subject (excited to share a lot go data in my stay cooking class this Sunday). 


I achieved my greatest aim—no accidents and attending to the beginning line wholesome. I’m additionally tremendous happy with my time of three:32 which was quarter-hour quicker than my aim time (I attribute this to a very good race day fueling technique due to Coach Shalane). 

However what I’m most happy with is that this: I had enjoyable the complete race! I’ve had some actually depressing and painful racing experiences previously (debilitating aspect stitches as a result of main digestion issues in highschool and school), so to run 26.2 miles with none points felt like a HUGE accomplishment.

Able to set huge working targets in 2022?

I hope you’ll learn Rise & Run, which is loaded with considerate and approachable recommendation for each stage of runner. I’m tremendous grateful for the knowledge shared with us from our staff of sports activities therapists and particularly Coach Shalane.

For extra marathon recommendation, try the next chapters:

Chapter 3: Subsequent-Degree Coaching

Chapter 4: Play On:  Thoughts and Physique Resiliency 

Learn these two chapters after which skip to the muffins! 

Comfortable Coaching,






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