My “Busy Mom on the Run” Marathon Training Plan

Bixby BridgeEarlier this week I was given the ok to run again after the x-rays from my ankle injury looked clear! Hallelujah! The very same day I got an email from the Chicago Marathon stating that there were just 18 weeks until race day! Coincidence? I think not! While I feel like I just finished running my first two marathons in Big Sur and Cleveland this past spring, it looks like it’s time to lace up my sneakers and get ready to take on The Windy City! October 11th sounds really far away. I still have an entire summer to survive (ahem) enjoy with my kids home from school. But I know that, just like every other one before, this season will race by and suddenly I’ll be heading to Chi-town to run my third marathon down some of the streets I called home for a few fabulous years after college. Guess I’d better get to work!

315088_197903707_XLargeSpeaking of summer, I’ve been feeling a little anxious about how I’m actually going to fit in training for this race with all three of my kids home from school. All. Day. Every. Day. It’s hard enough to find a few minutes to sneak away to go to the bathroom by myself for Pete’s sake. How will I ever find time to train for my next marathon in between the snack requests, the tattle-tales, trips to and from swim practice, golf lessons and tutoring? That’s not to mention my role as Summer Activities Director and the constant dishes and endless laundry left behind by a potty-training toddler. By the way, whomever called it summer “break” was evidently NOT a mom. Nope! Not a “break” for mommas.

Well, when I am faced with a challenge, I find a way to conquer it. My parents always tell me they thought I’d grow up to be a lawyer because of my relentless persistence. No time to train for a marathon? Says who? Not anymore. I’m proud to announce that I have worked together with well-known running coach, long time Runner’s World Magazine contributor, best-selling author, Olympic Trial Runner and World Masters Champion Hal Higdon to develop a marathon training plan to fit into my time-crunched life. Introducing my…

“BUSY MOM ON THE RUN” MARATHON TRAINING PLAN!

Getting CloserI know there are lots of other busy mommies and daddies (and just busy people) out there who love to run. Some of you have run marathons before and you know that it is indeed a big commitment. Others would like to run their first marathon but just can’t see how they could possibly find enough time to fit in all the appropriate training considering it is difficult many days to find time to even get a shower. That’s exactly how I felt last fall when I first began thinking that my next running goal SHOULD be a marathon, but that there was no way I COULD find the time with three young children at home. Now I can’t tell you what’s right for you, but today I will share my plan for training for the Chicago Marathon over this crazy busy summer.

Surprisingly, training to run 26.2 miles with three small children at home IS feasible. Yes, it takes time and dedication. It means setting aside some of my other responsibilities in order to meet my goal. Training for a marathon requires sacrifices from everyone in the family. (Lots of dishes were left in the sink, laundry baskets were overflowing and toys were left scattered everywhere during the months I was training for Big Sur.) It means spending part of my weekends running instead of playing with the kids (of course I’m always catering to their needs the rest of the day). Sometimes it means running through rain or snow, frigid temperatures or scorching heat. Other times it means logging double digit runs on the “dreadmill” early in the morning or late at night. There is often guilt, but the confidence I gain from meeting such a huge goal that I thought was never possible has transcended every part of my life. Running makes me a better person and a better parent. I can say from experience now that training for a marathon with three kids at home is definitely within reach. Here’s my approach.

RUN THREE DAYS A WEEK… YEP, JUST 3!

Who has six, five or even four days a week to get out to run like many marathon training plans suggest? Not me. Not unless I wanted to run 10 or 20 miles pushing a jogging stroller. But I haven’t seen one made to fit three kids yet. This winter between the illness and the snow days and the bitter cold, I was lucky if I got to run even twice a week some weeks. Yet I still got in enough training to finish Big Sur, one of the toughest courses out there, and then I ran the Cleveland Marathon just three weeks later, finishing in 4:06, beating my previous time by 40 minutes.

By modifying and combining some of Hal Higdon’s plans, I’ve created this schedule that allows for running on just three days of the week while not losing out on any of the miles. Mr. Higdon has reviewed, approved and encouraged me to share my plan with you “for the benefit of all”. It includes one “long run” day (which I plan to do on Saturdays) and two shorter runs (which I plan to do on Tuesdays and Thursdays). Both increase in mileage as the weeks go by except for a few “stepback” weeks to allow you to gather strength for the next push upward.

WEEK DAY 1 DAY 2 DAY 3 DAY 4 DAY 5 DAY 6 DAY 7
1 CROSS 4 m run CROSS 5 m run REST 6 m run CROSS
2 CROSS 4 m run CROSS 5 m run REST 7 m run CROSS
3 CROSS 5 m run CROSS 5 m run REST 5 m run CROSS
4 CROSS 5 m run CROSS 5 m run REST 9 m run CROSS
5 CROSS 5.5 m run CROSS 5.5 m run REST 10 m run CROSS
6 CROSS 5.5 m run CROSS 5.5 m run REST 7 m run CROSS
7 CROSS 6 m run CROSS 6 m run REST 12 m run CROSS
8 CROSS 6 m run CROSS 6 m run REST REST Half Marathon
9 CROSS 7 m run CROSS 7 m run REST 10 m run CROSS
10 CROSS 7 m run CROSS 7 m run REST 15 m run CROSS
11 CROSS 8 m run CROSS 8 m run REST 16 m run CROSS
12 CROSS 8.5 m run CROSS 8.5 m run REST 12 m run CROSS
13 CROSS 9 m run CROSS 9 m run REST 18 m run CROSS
14 CROSS 9.5 m run CROSS 9.5 m run REST 14 m run CROSS
15 CROSS 10 m run CROSS 10 m run REST 20 m run CROSS
16 CROSS 8.5 m run CROSS 8.5 m run REST 12 m run CROSS
17 CROSS 6.5 m run CROSS 6.5 m run REST 8 m run CROSS
18 CROSS 4 m run CROSS 2 m run REST REST Marathon

CROSS TRAINING

My EllipticalI’ve allowed for three “cross” days because those are a little more flexible and can potentially be done at home before the kids wake up or during their nap (If you are lucky enough to have a kid that still naps, I’m jealous.) For me, cross training includes either a 30 to 40 minute elliptical workout, a spin or circuit/”boot-camp” class, strength training or a workout video. I like to mix things up and keep things fresh. My fear is that if I run too much I will get bored or burned out. I enjoy too many other activities to only run and I feel strongly that cross-training helps me run faster. As the miles build and my runs get longer I will begin to stick to “safe” cross training activities that will not leave me feeling sore and unable to properly accomplish my runs.

REST

Mr. Higdon is always a big proponent of rest days.

“Scientists will tell you that it is during the rest period (the 24 to 72 hours between hard bouts of exercise) that the muscles actually regenerate and get stronger. Coaches also will tell you that you can’t run hard unless you are well rested. And it is hard running (such as the long runs) that allows you to improve. If you’re constantly fatigued, you will fail to reach your potential.” – Hal Higdon

You’ll notice I have only included one day of rest here in my “Busy Mom On the Run” Marathon Training Plan. Here’s why. With kids at home, I know that when I get the chance to run or get any workout in, I’d better take it. Because there is no doubt that some unforeseen event will arise on a day when I have a workout planned and that will become an unscheduled rest day. Like I always say, “Seize the Day” or really it’s more like “Seize the Hour” when you’re a running mommy. However, if I have cross training scheduled on a particular day and haven’t had a rest day yet that week and/or can tell my body really needs it, I sometimes use a ‘CROSS’ day for rest instead. One or two rest days a week are very important for me.

FLEXIBLE

As moms we are used to being flexible. We have to be. As a busy mom marathoner, I need a flexible training plan too. That’s why another feature of my Busy Mom’s Marathon Training Plan is that I have not labeled the days of the week. For me Day 1 is Monday. Many people do their long runs on the weekend. That’s what I plan to do this summer. During this past year I actually did nearly all of my long runs on Wednesdays during the three hour window of time where all three of my children happened to be at school. If you decide you want to use my schedule, modify it to work best in your own crazy calendar of kids activities. I don’t feel bad when I have to swap days around a bit. Runs will be missed because of other priorities. Don’t fret. Sometimes I use a “cross training” or rest day to fit it in (just not too close to the long run). I focus on getting in the long runs and the other two runs fall into place somehow during the week.

CARVE OUT THE TIME

Mission AccomplishedSo I realize that even finding three days a week to get out and run for an hour or more is not easy. Many runners I know get up really freaking early and run before work or before the kids start asking for stuff. With my husband’s unusual work hours I don’t have this luxury. I do have him home in the late afternoon though, so often we take turns running and babysitting (he is a marathon runner too). During the school year I used every bit of the three hours that John was at preschool to get in my runs. My plan for the summer is to run in the late afternoons when my husband is home or I am considering running during the hour that my girls are at swim team practice on Tuesdays and Thursdays while having a friend’s daughter play with John for a bit. Multi-tasking! My husband and I will take turns doing long runs on Saturday or Sundays.

It is not easy. If it were, everyone would do it. Just like the roads you will run, training for and running a marathon will have its peaks and valleys. For me, the sense of accomplishment, confidence, self-love, pride, happiness and feeling of physical and mental toughness that results is worth all the time and effort required.

Cleveland Marathon Finish

PLEASE NOTE: I am not an expert. Just an average mommy and an average runner. This is simply my personal blog where I’ve captured my own training plans for myself. Please consult your doctor before training for a marathon or beginning any new exercise routine.

My Busy Mom on the Run Training Program is based on programs by Hal Higdon, specifically his Marathon 3 program. All of his programs are available for free on his website. Hal also posts tips and answers questions on Facebook at Hal Higdon’s Marathon.


My Big Sur Marathon Training Plan

Big Sur Marathon 2014In just 13 weeks, Andy and I will travel back to Big Sur, California to run the Big Sur International Marathon on April 26, 2015. I can hardly wait! It is quite possibly my favorite place to visit on Earth. Well, one of them, at least. I joke that if I go missing sometime, this is probably the first place you should look. I’m excited to get back there, but I have A LOT of work to do between now and then!

We are signed up as a relay team, mostly because the race fills up within minutes of opening for registration. Even though we attempted to sign up to run the full marathon the second it opened, we didn’t make it in. The relay apparently isn’t in as high demand, so we signed up as a relay team of two. There is a lot of flexibility as to how far each team member can run and while only one team member can start the race, there is no rule that that person has to stop running when they hand off the baton to their team mate. So, technically, that person could go on and run the whole thing. I guess you could say we found a bit of a loophole. Of course, they don’t want everyone doing this I’m sure, so don’t tell anyone. 😉 Only downside, is that you only get one time for the team and you don’t get the same medal as those signed up to run the full marathon. But I don’t care about that. I’m there to experience the beauty of this unbelievable place.

Last year Andy finished the entire marathon even though we were signed up as a relay team. He started the race, handed off the baton (a slap bracelet) to me at mile ten and he just kept going. He originally intended to do the full, but during his training developed a stress fracture and had to wear an air cast for the next three months. Once he got it off just a month before the race, he was able to train a bit and made it to a 10 mile long run. During the race, he felt so good he just kept running and finished the whole marathon. I’m still in awe.

The ViewI ran from mile 10 to the finish, about 16.2 miles, the furthest I’ve ever run. This year I want to do more. Now that I’ve run four half marathons, plus this 16.2 miles, I feel like a full marathon is the natural next step for me. When I finish my half marathons, I’m tired, but I feel like I’m capable of more. Since Big Sur is hands down the most beautiful place I’ve ever (or perhaps will ever) run and I have the opportunity to run the whole thing this year, I want to give it my best shot. With only 13 weeks to go, fitting in all that training in cold, snowy weather amongst the business of raising three children, during cold and flu season, may be totally unrealistic, but here is the plan I have mapped out. It’s my “Pie in the Sky” training plan. I’m going to do my best to fit it all in and we’ll see what happens.

At the Start - 2014The other thing I’ve been considering is that the Big Sur Marathon course is no easy, flat race. In fact, I would go as far as to say it could be one of the most challenging marathons out there. You’re running through the mountains and cliffs alongside the Pacific Ocean. It is breathtaking! But it’s also very difficult. Hurricane Point falls virtually in the middle of the race and is a 560 foot incline. My leg of the relay last year started at the bottom of this mountain. I had to stare at it for the two hours I waited to start the race. Looking at the struggle I was about to take on, was a little intimidating, to say the least. This year, I know I need to include some steep inclines in my training. I’m not fully convinced that trying to do a race this hilly is smart for my first full marathon, but I have a tendency to not let anyone or anything get in the way of what I want to accomplish. So, again, I will fit in as much training as I can between the winter weather, the cold and flu season, the craziness of parenting a 7, 5 and 2-year-old and I will reassess things as the race approaches. I’m pretending the occasional foot problems I experience will not be a problem.

I know things will not go as I plan, but here is my very optimistic running calendar for the next 13 weeks. This is adapted from Hal Higdon’s Novice 1 Plan. In weeks 4 and 5, I’ve moved my “long run” to Wednesday because I will be out of town both of those weekends.

MY BIG SUR FULL MARATHON TRAINING PLAN

WEEK MON TUES WED THU FRI SAT SUN
Jan. 26 to Feb. 1 1 Cross Train 3 m run 3 m run or cross 3 m run Rest 7 m run Rest
Feb 2. to Feb 8. 2 Cross Train 3 m run 3 m run or cross 3 m run Rest 8 m run Rest
Feb 9. to Feb 15. 3 Cross Train 3 m run 4 m run or cross 3 m run Rest 6 m run Rest
Feb 16. to Feb. 22 4 Cross Train 3 m run 10 m run 3 m run Rest 5 m run Rest
Feb 23 to to March 1 5 Cross Train 3 m run 12 m run 3 m run Rest 6 m run Rest
March 2 to March 8 6 Cross Train 3 m run 6 m run 3 m run Rest 13 m run Rest
March 9 to March 15 7 Cross Train 3 m run 7 m run 4 m run Rest 15 m run Rest
March 16 to March 22 8 Cross Train 4 m run 8 m run 4 m run Rest 16 m run Rest
March 23 to March 29 9 Cross Train 4 m run 9 m run 5 m run Rest 18 m run Rest
March 30 to April 5 10 Cross Train 5 m run 10 m run 5 m run Rest 20 m run Rest
April 6 to April 12 11 Cross Train 5 m run 8 m run 4 m run Rest 12 m run Rest
April 13 to April 19 12 Cross Train 4 m run 6 m run 3 m run Rest 8 m run Rest
April 20 to April 26 13 Cross Train 3 m run 4 m run 2 m run Rest Rest RACE!

If things begin to fall apart and the weather, illness or lack of time make it impossible to follow the plan above, at some point, I will stop being unrealistic. If that happens I will decide to run only two or three of the relay legs making it a 21 or 16 mile race instead of 26.2. Here’s the half marathon training plan I have followed in the past. It is adapted from Hal Higdon’s Novice 1 Half Plan. I will follow something similar to this except perhaps go up to 14 or 18 miles for my longest runs.

HALF MARATHON PLAN

WEEK MON TUES WED THU FRI SAT SUN
Jan. 26 to Feb. 1 1 Cross + Strength 4 m run Cross + Strength 4 m run Rest 5 m run Rest
Feb 2. to Feb 8. 2 Cross + Strength 4 m run Cross + Strength 4 m run Rest 5 m run Rest
Feb 9. to Feb 15. 3 Cross + Strength 4 m run Cross + Strength 4 m run Rest 6 m run Rest
Feb 16. to Feb. 22 4 Cross + Strength 4 m run Cross + Strength 4 m run Rest 6 m run Rest
Feb 23 to to March 1 5 Cross + Strength 4 m run Cross + Strength 4 m run Rest 7 m run Rest
March 2 to March 8 6 Cross + Strength 4 m run Cross + Strength 4 m run Rest 8 m run Rest
March 9 to March 15 7 Cross + Strength 4 m run Cross + Strength 4 m run Rest 9 m run Rest
March 16 to March 22 8 Cross + Strength 5 m run Cross + Strength 5 m run Rest 10 m run Rest
March 23 to March 29 9 Cross + Strength 5 m run Cross + Strength 5 m run Rest 11 m run Rest
March 30 to April 5 10 Cross + Strength 5 m run Cross + Strength 5 m run Rest 12 m run Rest
April 6 to April 12 11 Cross + Strength 5 m run Cross + Strength 5 m run Rest 13 m run Rest
April 13 to April 19 12 Cross + Strength 5 m run Cross + Strength 5 m run Rest 10 m run Rest
April 20 to April 26 13 Cross + Strength 4 m run Cross + Strength 2 m run Rest Rest RACE!

Want to join in? Maybe you want to do a spring half marathon? Let’s follow each other’s progress and inspire each other to keep running. If you haven’t already, “Like” my Facebook page where I provide running tips and inspiration. I’m also on Strava and Map My Run if you want to “friend me” there and we can see each other’s courses and pace info. I hope you’ll join me on this adventure!

Good luck!

DISCLAIMER: You should always consult your doctor before beginning any new fitness routine. This is my personal training plan.