Richmond Marathon Reflections, Year Two

I learned a lot last year during training for my first marathon. This year I took those lessons and applied them to my training and outlook for my second marathon. Below is a summary of how I incorporated some of last year’s lessons into this year’s training. I’ve added in some additional things I learned doing this for a second time around. IMG_3705

Go with the flow. You can’t control everything.
Last year, I had trouble dealing with my calf strain and didn’t have patience to let it fully heal (leading to another calf strain). Luckily, I didn’t have any injuries to deal with this year but I did try to keep a more relaxed perspective throughout training this year.

A training schedule is just a guide.
This year, we used Asics training plan and chose to do the plan calling for 3 days of running/week. This was much more manageable for Mike and myself and allowed more time for yoga and rest. But we also didn’t obsess about the training, we tried to get in the runs and hit the paces, but if we were feeling ill or tired, we took some time off. It’s important to choose a training plan that works for you and your schedule.

It’s important to stretch.
Before marathon training last year, I didn’t stretch and hated yoga (lack of stretching likely led to calf strain #1). That’s changed dramatically. I’ve realized the importance of stretching and yoga not just for injury prevention but for increasing mobility and, therefore, speed!

Taking a yoga class in the Yards Park

Taking a yoga class in the Yards Park

It’s important to cross-train.
This year I tried to build up my hip and glute strength and stabilization by incorporating more squats and lunges into my routine. As training picked up, I pretty much just did P90X YogaX, but that has a lot of strengthening moves for legs, hips and glutes. Also, I worked on my core strength through yoga and Ab Ripper X, helping me to maintain my running form and prevent injuries.

Enjoy the journey. The marathon is just one day.
I loved marathon training. I love the routine and structure it gives my week. I love the long runs with Matt and Mike, which I find relaxing, decompressing and a time to really get lost in my thoughts. I also have loved listening to the Serial podcast each week on the long run!

A very hot, long run

A very hot, long run

Ibuprofen and running 26.2 miles is not a good combination for my stomach.
Last year this really messed up my stomach but I was concerned my tendonitis would flare up. This year, I avoided taking ibuprofen before, during or even after the marathon. And my stomach was 110% better (likely due to diet and less stress as well).

Make sure you train for the terrain.
This year, we incorporated much more hill training. We ran several long runs on the Custis Trail in VA. I not only knew what to expect from the course this year, but felt more prepared by having trained on hilly terrain. Additionally, building up my leg and glute strength with yoga and cross training helped me conquer the Richmond Hills this year.

Hilly in Lake George, NY

Hilly in Lake George, NY

Electrolytes are essential.
I ran with my Nathan hydration pack this year, filled with water and 4 Nuun Kona Cola tablets. It worked out great! I love having water with me at all times and Nuun is the best. Kona Cola is my new favorite flavor; it also has the added benefit of having caffeine!

Hydration packs!

Hydration packs!

And some new lessons:

Get lots of rest, especially the week of the marathon.
I slept literally 10 hours two nights before the marathon! I tried to go to bed early the entire week before the marathon.

Watch your diet the week of the marathon.
This was super important for me since I have IBS. I took Miralax and upped the fiber in my diet Monday-Wednesday before the marathon. Then I cut out fiber, including veggies for the rest of the week, and upped the carbs and protein. I also ate very little dairy and sugar the week before.

Relax and be confident in your training.
I went into the marathon this year feeling pretty relaxed. I knew what to expect but I also felt confident that I had trained well and could run a strong race. Stress contributed significantly to my stomach problems last year.

Remember your strong training runs!

Remember your strong training runs!

Download some new songs to listen to.
It sounds silly and simple but listening to new music on my iPod shuffle helped the time go by fast, especially when Megan Trainor’s new songs came on around mile 23.

Try out some different energy gels.
Last year I just used Accel but this year I tried all different kinds during training runs. I discovered that GU works really well for me and fell in love with the Salted Caramel and Caramel Macchiato flavors! I actually looked forward to having them during the marathon (I know… kind of weird).

I'm not sure why I look so full of energy here - must be the 40 mg of caffeine!

I’m not sure why I look so full of energy here – must be the 40 mg of caffeine!

Be positive and play mind games.
A lot of running a marathon is physical but a lot is also mental. I had to play some mind games at parts in order to keep perspective. I’ve found that recalling training memories and previous race memories can instill confidence and endurance. When I had 6 miles to go, rather than think, “wow that’s still a 10K,” I thought about how much I enjoy my 6 mile training runs to the Lincoln Memorial and back home. Even though it was the end of the marathon and I was feeling tired, I pictured myself running to Lincoln and back, feeling strong and refreshed.

Why didn’t I include this last year? I read an article once about how smiling can make running feel more enjoyable. I was enjoying the race this year but, at the end, when I was feeling nauseous, I tried to keep smiling at the Marathonfotos and the crowds. I think it helps!

Smiling during the Dulles 10K race

Smiling during the Dulles 10K race

Mix up your runs.
Whether you attend some run clubs or try out a new running route, mixing it up adds variety and takes out the monotony. We did many different long run routes this year, making the training more fun and more interesting. We even did a run in the shape of Lincoln’s profile!

Lincoln profile run

Lincoln profile run

The Post-Marathon Blues exist.
Last year I wrote that running a marathon isn’t incredibly fun. This year, it was actually fun! I’m glad I gave it another chance. I probably sound a little crazy but I definitely experienced/am still experiencing the post-marathon blues. It’s a real thing. I miss the schedule, the routine, the training and the build up. I miss having a big goal and working towards it. The feeling of running a marathon, of crossing the finish line, is incredible. Of course I am proud and happy of my, of our, accomplishment. But a part of me too is a little sad it’s over. I’m pretty sure there will be another. And I hope to qualify for Boston!
Right after we finished!

Right after we finished!



  1. I volunteered at the last water stop this year, first time volunteering; previously completed the Richmond Half years ago but with difficulty. Congrats on making the 2nd time around a worthwhile experience; I don’t aspire to long distance running anymore, preferring 5 or 8k but I admire those who pursue the lofty goals — especially on days like our 2014 Marathon with a greater chill factor!!

    1. That’s awesome you volunteered at a water stop this year – must have been exciting to be at the last one (I can’t even remember where that was – the end was a bit of a blur!). Richmond is not an easy course; congrats on having completed the half a few years ago! Agree that 5Ks and 8Ks are fun but also not necessarily easy – also probably better on one’s body!

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