Catch up:  The Road to Chicago (i.e. what to expect from this series)      |     Marathon Base Building 

One week down, 15 more to go. As I mentioned in my last article about base building, I’ve been in a form of training for months now. This past week though became more structured and my accountability became even more important if I really wanted to improve my marathon performance in October.

I headed into Monday with all the mental preparation I could based on what I remember at least of my last 16-week cycle. What I lacked was the actual training plan I needed to get me to the Chicago finish line in a better state than my last 26.2 finishes.

What I Look For In a Training Plan

What I love about the training plan is similar to what I love about going to OrangeTheory: I just have to show up and do the work. Someone else has told me exactly what to do to achieve to the goals I have set and so there is no need or planning or figuring it out on my own.

As an entrepreneur, every single decision about DCM Communications is my decision. That is a heavy load to carry my friend. Then add in the fact that I am (currently) a single woman and all of my household and social decisions are also 100% my decisions. I sit on multiple nonprofit boards and have never shied away from a leadership role if I think I can truly make a difference.

So basically, that means I am constantly making a LOT of decisions on my own and as a result I am more than happy to pass off decision making to someone else, in this case the coach who made the plan, and just be a worker bee who shows up to do what they are told.

There are SO many resources out there for marathon training plans it easily became overwhelming.

What’s the right one for me?

Could I really run a sub-4 hour marathon?

Do I have the time/drive to work hard enough to get there?

Am I a beginner or a novice? I mean, I’ve run 2 marathons before. It’s not 10 but it’s more than a total novice? But I run more than 20 miles a week already so maybe that’s too beginner for me.

Do I have to do hill repeats in order to get faster? There must be another way!

These are just some of the thoughts that ran through my head on Monday and Tuesday as I really dedicated myself, albeit late in the game, to finding a plan.

I knew marathon training would be hard, it always is, but I didn’t expect choosing the plan to be one of the hard parts. And I surely didn’t expect to be overwhelmed by the training. After all, I’ve done this before. I can run 30-35 miles per week and I’ll get across that finish line.

Well, I may be able get across, but as they say, “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten,” and quite frankly, I want better. I can do better.

So many searches later I found myself circling back to a coach recommended by an experienced marathoner and Ironman in my running group. Sure enough, Hal Higdon’s Intermediate 1 plan seemed like my Goldilocks moment. I’d reviewed so many with higher mileage and less mileage and this one seemed to fit me juuust right. It would push my weekly mileage outside of my 30ish comfort zone, but not so high that training becomes a full time job rather than a part time one for the next 15 weeks.

My Daily Reminder

If you look left when walking through the door between my kitchen and dining room, you will see a paper peeking out below my hanging wall calendar on the side of the cabinet. This is where my first marathon training plan lives. If you lift up the calendar you will see the total scratched up mess it turned out to be.

I left it here for the past year as a simple reminder that things change and we have to roll with it. The plan served as a recommendation to get there, but life doesn’t always happen along our plans now does it?

Many times I had to change days or distances of a workout in order to accommodate runs with friends, stormy days (I didn’t run in rain last year – that has since changed), travel, work, etc. I recorded every change though and still gained such pleasure in ticking off each workout. I found it made it more manageable for me to get to the 26.2 without anxiety or fear.

So after I chose Hal’s plan on Tuesday (after I had done a 7-mile run with a friend no less), I put it into my own Excel sheet and began formatting it to make it more exciting rather than intimidating for me.

In truth, the mileage totals each week intimidated the heck out of me when I put it up. I mean over 40+ miles per week?!? That’s a lot more time dedicated to training, sweating, changing to dry clothes, getting home, fueling (before, during & after the run), showering and all the other super-time consuming things that come with running that much in summer.

And on top of that additional time and laundry, Hal’s plan has back-to-back Friday/Saturday runs. Saturdays are always long run days (long = double digit mileage) and now he wants me to do those on tired legs.


Mental Gymnastics

As I formatted the sheet my anxiety grew with each row I color coded, winding me up further and further until rational thought once again crept in and I  focused on talking myself down from the self-defeating thoughts. Thankfully my therapist and I have worked out a variety of mental exercises over the years that I can employ in such moments.

In this case, that mean stripping away the emotional brain’s reactions and focusing on the black-and-white logical facts (with a little bit of trusting my gut in #3):

                      1. This Friday/Saturday approach is precisely what one of my best friends from high school recommended I try. As a 2x Ironman and runner who used to“race marathons to place in his age group, he’s a pretty solid source of advice to follow.
                      2. Hal clearly states the goal of these back-to-backs is to learn to run on tired legs – and that’s a “learn” on the physical and mental front. It’s not about speed. It’s about covering the distance.
                      3. I CAN do this, I just need to take it the same way I did last year: one week and one workout at a time.


With a clearer head, I tacked up the plan, checked off the Monday/Tuesday workouts I had already done and got back to DCM to dos. I am sure I’ll have to make some adjustments to make the plan work for me as the weeks go by and life will inevitably get in the way at some point. Even so, with a plan that feels like a reach (and not a stretch) and friends who are interested/willing to train with me on those long Saturday mornings, I can do it.

Wednesday had 2 workouts, a habit I’ve unintentionally developed the past few weeks in order to get my OTF classes of strength/cross training in AND a group run on Wednesday nights with friends for funsies. This led me into a MUCH needed rest day Thursday with a full 9 hours of sleep the night before and followed by 3 miles Friday and wrapping up the week with 10 very humid miles yesterday morning.

two sweaty runners post-10 mile runThat long run wasn’t pretty. My pace was all over the place from one mile to another, which I will now focus on correcting in the coming weeks, but plain and simple: it got done.

I picked up my Saturday training partner, Casey, at Mile 5 and together we ran along the river talking, hydrating, and sweating our peaches off until my watch clicked 10 miles. It may not have been my best performance, but done is done on a long run and that one is DONE!

Up Next

Honestly I can only remember two parts of this week’s workouts because they are the two that are currently intimating me:

Friday – 6 Miles
Saturday – 11 miles

Let me be clear, it’s the individual miles that intimidate me. It is 100% doing the Saturday distance without a rest day right before. I know I can do it. I have no idea how it’ll feel. We shall see. I’ll report back.

Until then….


Channing Muller is an award winning marketing & public relations consultant and the principal of DCM Communications, based out of Chicago. She works with event professionals and business owners to grow and scale their businesses with refined marketing strategies developed through one-on-one and group consulting, customized marketing programs and public relations. She has been named a "25 Young Event Pro to Watch" by Special Events magazine and "40 Under 40" by Connect Meetings. Channing is an avid runner, lover of Labrador Retrievers, good food, delicious drinks, and an advocate for the American Heart Association.

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