Marathon Training Begins – Unofficially

This is my official unofficial announcement that I will be doing my first marathon this year – The New York City marathon.

Why is this officially unofficial? Because registration for this race isn’t even open yet. They have a lottery system which opens on January 17. Those selected by lottery will be notified on March 2. If I don’t get selected in the lottery, then there is the option of  being part of a charity.  Why jump the gun and throw my shoes across the starting line so soon? After all, there are 43 weeks before the marathon.

Because my training has to start now. To you runners out there that might sound ridiculous. Most training plans are 16-20 weeks long. What are the extra 24 weeks for? It’s all because of my lungs. With 40% of the lung capacity of a healthy person my age, I need the extra time to work up to that distance. My logic is since my lung capacity is 2.5 times less than most people out there doing a marathon, I need 2.5 times the time to get ready. 16 weeks x 2.5 = 40 weeks. So official training starts the first week of February.

That means the unofficial training is going on now. Most plans have you starting at a fitness level of 25-30 miles a week. While I can do that now, the next four weeks are about consistently getting 30+ miles in each week, coming up with the 40 week marathon training plan, lifting weights and adding in the cross training that will make a difference in my endurance.

After all, I’ve been “running” for over two and a half years now. I might be able to run for a minute or two at a time, but that is a lot of effort and I can’t sustain that for even a 5K. My typical run is for 15-20 seconds and then I walk the rest of the minute (40-45 seconds) and repeat. I need to punch it up a level though. I’m planning on cross training by doing a spin class once a week. I’m also going to incorporate two high intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts that include jumping rope, other jumping exercises and boxing.

So January is about getting these supplemental practices into place so when the marathon training starts in February everything is on schedule and planned out.

The other reason for starting so soon is because it is 99.9% guaranteed that there will be training issues starting in September. This is because every year for probably the last 25 years I have gone on IV antibiotics in the fall for an exacerbation of my Primary Ciliary Dyskinesia (PCD). The schedule varies based on antibiotics, but usually runs 4-6 weeks. And there’s the probability of needing IVs in the spring too. While the IVs won’t stop me (I’ve completed 5 or 6 races with a peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC)), it usually slows me down because the schedule is such that it’s disruptive to a good nights sleep, at the very least.

With all this in mind, I want to be proactive. I want to go into my first marathon feeling I trained my hardest and did everything I could to prepare. It would be nice to say I want to finish in a certain time or keep up a certain pace, or run half/walk half. But my only goal right now is to train as hard as I can, and give it everything I have on race day.

That’s also why I won’t be pursuing my goal of racing in all 50 states with my usual annual goal to add five new states each year. Although as luck would have it New York will be a new one, so I’ll at least have one new state this year. The New York City marathon is my focus for this year. Part of the reason for the narrow focus is because of the time commitment. You may be saying “So don’t start training so soon and long if time is an issue.” The problem is I’m slow.

Everyone says pace doesn’t matter and a mile is a mile. While all that is true, an hour is also an hour. I might be covering the same 26.2 miles as everyone else on November 5, but I won’t be finishing it anywhere close to last year’s marathon average pace of just over 4 hours and 30 minutes.

There is a process of adjusting finishing times of older, or masters, runners to account for slowing down as they get older, called age grading. I figure why shouldn’t times be similarly adjusted for those of us with lower lung capacity? This will also help to keep my pace in perspective. That means if I multiply last year’s average pace by 2.5 (the amount less lung capacity I have compared to the average person my age) I should be considered average if I finish the marathon in 11 hours and 15 minutes.

While I won’t need that long to finish, my point is right now a 16 mile run will take me about the same time it took the average racer to finish last year’s 26.2. And that means a much bigger time commitment for me if I did 20 weeks of training, let alone 40 weeks.

While I hope my training will increase my speed and therefore lower my time involvement, I’m not holding out hope for a huge difference. My almost three years of running with a portable oxygen concentrator (POC) has taught me that I have to fight for each breath and each mile. There are no easy runs for me. It has also taught me that pushing past the pain, embarrassment and vulnerability is far more rewarding than hiding and making excuses. I’m ready and committed to take on the marathon. When I cross that finish line in November I’ll know that ten months of hard work paid off and pushed me to be more than my doubts and fears. I look forward to calling myself a marathoner.

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