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November 29, 2008

The Marathon Bug

On the Monterey Peninsula, most runners’ race calendars are anchored around two premier events: the Big Sur Half-Marathon On Monterey Bay each November, and the Big Sur International Marathon at the end of April.

While most local marathon runners typically do both events, only a small percentage of half-marathon runners go on to do the marathon the following spring. There’s nothing wrong with this, of course; for many people, a half-marathon represents the longest distance, and the largest time commitment, that they are compelled to complete. And that’s absolutely fine.

Each year, however, a certain number of half-marathon participants get filled with wide-eyed ambition, and start thinking about continuing down the road towards distance running’s holy grail. The following Monterey Herald article was written for them.

Running Life “The Marathon Bug”

Let’s say you’re one of the thousands of runners who finished your first half-marathon this fall. By now, your body is reasonably well recovered, and you’ve got a great sense of accomplishment from running 13 miles.

Maybe you look adoringly at your finisher’s medal – and perhaps, every so often, you squint your left eye closed so that the word “half” is obscured. Maybe you find yourself wondering what it would take to get a medal like that. Sometimes you talk yourself out of it, but the idea lingers, and preoccupies your thoughts with each passing day.

If this is you – congratulations! You’ve caught the Marathon Bug. Chances are, it probably won’t go away. The only question now is what to do about it. How do you make the leap from 13.1 to 26.2?

The answer isn’t as hard as you may think. In fact, you can probably have yourself ready for a marathon by next spring. You’ve already got a foundation, and there’s plenty of time to build upon it.

Your first, most important step is to commit yourself NOW to reaching the goal. Go online and register for the race. Your motivation to train will be much greater after you’ve officially signed up. Where your money goes, your body is likely to follow.

Between now and springtime, you’ll gradually progress your training towards your marathon goal. At first, you don’t have to change the number of days, or the number of miles you ran to train for the half. The most important adjustment is to reserve one day per week for a marathon-specific training run.

Starting in January, your overall mileage will gradually build, as the length of your training runs increase. Long runs should increase by 1 or 2 miles every other week, and marathon pace workouts can be anywhere from 5 to 12 miles. Many runners will raise their mid-week mileage as well, but this is depends on how your body responds to the longer weekend runs.

Your longest run should be three weeks before the race, and should be at least 22 miles. Let’s say you’re training for our hometown race – the Big Sur Marathon at the end of April. Working backwards, your long runs in March should be 18 to 20 miles, in February should be 16 to 18, and in January should be 14 to 16. If you ran a recent half-marathon, and you keep training through December, starting a 14-mile long run in January shouldn’t be too intimidating.

Finally, don’t hesitate to enlist some help. Find someone who runs marathons and pester them for advice. Visit websites and read the blogs of experienced runners, and absorb their knowledge like a sponge.

Yes, the road to 26.2 is hard sometimes, but the rewards are worth it. If you thought the sense of accomplishment from running 13 miles was great, the pride of a marathon finish will blow you away. And it’s available to anyone who wants to make the leap.

Don’t be afraid to take a bold step and scratch that Marathon Bug. Chances are, it will never go away unless you do.


David 11/30/08, 10:29 AM  

I like that bug. It keeps infecting me.

Legs and Wings 12/1/08, 12:14 AM  

"Where your money goes...your body is likely to follow". So true. That's a great bit. I've been bitten.

Cliff 12/1/08, 8:09 AM  


Great article..i passed on to my friend who is running her first marathon.


Dave 12/1/08, 9:46 AM  

Donald, Does the bug ever leave you?...I don't think so..?

Formulaic 12/1/08, 10:03 AM  

Great article. Just what I needed!


robtherunner 12/1/08, 4:31 PM  

Sound advice and a push in the right direction, I think.

Rainmaker 12/1/08, 6:40 PM  

Do they offer medication for such bugs? It's really rather costly, this bug.

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