Here we are, dear readers: my last (for now) Chicago Marathon training cycle. After two years of threatening to quit and not actually following through, this time I mean it. Barring major, bad, unforeseen circumstances, I do not plan on running the Chicago Marathon (or any other fall marathon) in 2020.
I think this is a good time for my Chicago Marathon victory lap for a few reasons. Running the Chicago Marathon has largely defined my post-college life, but the chapter of post-college life I’ve lived since June of 2012–that chapter, in the Book of Bethany’s Life, being titled “Chicago”–will start to come to an end in a few weeks when I move to the suburbs. While I don’t expect that my life will change as immediately and dramatically as it did when I moved from Michigan to Chicago seven years ago–after all, it’s much easier to commute back into the city from the suburbs on a regular basis than it is to commute back to Michigan from Chicago on a regular basis–I know that things are going to change as a result of the move. Not having the marathon as the center of my life anymore will help facilitate that change, I think, as will continuing to have the marathon be the center of my life for the next 18 weeks. I hope that will make leaving the city more of a gentle transition.
Beyond that, as I said after the marathon last year, I am perfectly satisfied with what I accomplished during last year’s race. I was (and still am) very proud of my 4:42:49, and if I never run a faster marathon than that, I won’t feel like I’ve still got something left to accomplish.
With those things in mind, this felt like an optimal time to wrap up my Chicago Marathon-ing for the moment. I’m going into this year with zero goals other than to enjoy myself as much as one possibly can while dragging themselves out of bed before 6 a.m. multiple days per week (including Saturdays) in order to run for hours in hot, humid conditions and, ideally, not let my plantar fasciitis get noticeably worse.
This upcoming move will require several things to change from my past couple of years of training:
1. I will no longer be able to run commute, due to the distance between my new apartment and my office.
2. I anticipate that my entire schedule will be upended for at least five weeks during/after the move, because about a month after I move, my office is moving, too. Popular year for relocating, I guess!
3. I am quitting my current gym (because it’s located near my company’s city office location, and I’ll be switching to our suburban location after I move [the suburban location is the one that’s moving]), which will throw a small monkey wrench in my strength training. My new apartment and the new office both have gyms, so I’m not worried about having access to training–it will just be a matter of figuring out when I can train, based on my aforementioned upended schedule.
Obviously, life is going to be a bit bonkers for me until about mid-August (just in time for marathon training to become a bit bonkers! Woo!). I know this is going to require a LOT more flexibility in my training than I’m used to as I figure out my new commute, my new running routes, my new area, my new schedule, etc. To that end, I’ve actually written two marathon training plans for myself: my ideal plan, which is basically identical to last year’s training plan, and my if-needed plan.
My ideal plan has me running high(ish) mileage three days per week, following(ish) Hal Higdon’s Marathon 3 program for weekday runs and his Novice I program for weekend runs, per CARA’s training plan. This is what I did in 2017 and 2018 and I loved it–but I loved it because I discovered run commuting. I’m hoping to work remotely on days I run high mileage to solve the commuting-takes-time-and-so-does-running-10-miles-on-a-Monday issue that plagued me pre-run commuting. On the occasions that that’s not possible, however, I also have my if-needed plan. My if-needed plan has me running the same total mileage each week, but spreads those miles out across four days rather than three. With both plans, I also avoided assigning particular runs to particular days–instead of saying “10 miles on Monday,” for instance, I said, “10 miles for run of this week’s runs.” I know I struggled a lot with feeling guilty if I deviated from the plan in the past, even if that deviation was as minor as swapping Wednesday’s and Monday’s workouts, so I’m hoping this will solve that problem. All about that flexibility.
All about that flexibility…except on Saturdays. I signed up to group lead for CARA this year, which means no more taking CARA’s long runs as suggestions rather than requirements. Because I’ve committed to group leading, I won’t be fast finishing any long runs this year, nor will I be skipping them in favor of doing a race instead. I don’t plan to race at all during this training cycle, in fact. I’m both excited and nervous to group lead. It feels like a lot of pressure, but at this point, I don’t even know if I’ll have anyone to lead, so I’m going to try to not get too worked up about it until I have a better idea of how many/if any people are in my group.
My last order of marathon training business is this plantar fasciitis situation that, surprise surprise, has not magically resolved itself as I’ve continued to do the things that led to it in the first place. I don’t expect it to go away during marathon season (though I’d be fine with that!). Over the past few months, I’ve noticed the #1 thing that seems to help it is not running, which is a pretty risky way to train for a marathon. While I don’t expect it to go away while training, I’m hoping to keep it from getting worse by doing the following:
1. Switching shoes. The ones I ran in when I got plantar fasciitis are dead anyway, so I’ve moved on to Asics Gel-Nimbus 21s. I ran in the 20s all of last marathon season without issue, but then got plantar fasciitis in a third pair of 20s, so *shrugging emoji*. I started wearing them yesterday and plan to wear them for two weeks before making a final decision. If my PF gets worse, I’ll return them to Fleet Feet and start back at square one.
2. Getting back into my foot stretching/strengthening routine. I kept up with this while training for my half, then quit once I crossed the finish line and didn’t care anymore. Now that I care again, I’m going to try very hard to remember to stretch and strengthen the soles of my feet daily, and use that blue super calf stretcher thing after every run (this thing, which my podiatrist made me buy after my first bout with PF years ago).
3. Wear my night split to bed on days I run, and my arch sleeve to bed on days I don’t run. I really hate my night split, but I also really hate waking up with a foot that hurts. I haven’t really given the night split a fair shake (it’s uncomfortable, so I’ve never worn it more than once or twice in a week), so I’m going to make more of an effort to use it and see if that helps. I also have a compression sleeve I wore around my arch during the winter that’s less bulky (and thus more comfortable) than the splint, but doesn’t do as good of a job at keeping my foot from flexing.
4. Wear supportive footwear at all times. That means wearing my OOFOS when walking around the house, my SuperFeet flip flops on weekends, and my work-appropriate SuperFeet sandals I ordered the other day at the office/church – if I wear sandals at all, that is. Choice #1 will be tennis shoes when possible.
5. If I haven’t seen noted improvement by the time I move, start physical therapy. Honestly, I should’ve done this months ago. I just didn’t want to. I didn’t need one more commitment, and the pain usually wasn’t that bad anyway. Well, it’s been four months now, and I need to cut it out with the excuses. I’m going to wait until I move so I can go to a PT closer to my new place, since that’ll be more convenient than anything by my current house. But this is going to happen if I’m still in pain, darn it!
So that’s the plan for this year. Happy marathon season!