On the March to 42.2km in Ottawa

Are you ready for March? It’s one of the most important months in the training program for the Ottawa Marathon. We’re just over 12 weeks away from race day on May 29, 2016.

As March begins, Sunday runs are about to get very serious with a rapid escalation in distance from the 16-19km runs of the past few weekends to 23km, 26km and beyond. Here’s hoping you’ve been keeping up with your weekday runs so you have a solid foundation to run up that ladder to 30km by the end of the month.

This just might be possible!

Assuming you’ve put in the training miles thus far, March is the month where you start to think that this whole marathon thing might be doable after all. The thought of running 29km (or 30km if you are heading to Hamilton for the Around the Bay Road Race) in a single run may scare you now, but by the end of the month you’ll feel ready, willing and able to run that and more.

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Hill repeats start in March. Don’t skip them…they are important.

Seasoned veterans are probably looking forward to the super long Sunday runs. First timers are probably dreading them. Having done many 25km or longer runs in my life, I can tell you that as long as you’ve put in the work in training, you’ll likely find these runs more enjoyable than you might have expected.

Pro tips for Rookies

I’ve been through this many times, but I was a first-timer myself back in March of 2010. Here’s my pro tips as an eight-time marathoner on how marathon rookies should approach March:

  • Slow down on Sunday: these are long training runs and there are no medals for racing them. Take it easy, run them at the conversation pace and enjoy. That includes Around the Bay 30km if you’ve incorporated that race into your training. Take it easy, and remember the real goal is the marathon in May.
  • Figure out your nutrition and routines: these fairly long runs are a chance to experiment with carb-loading, breakfast choices and also with what gels or drinks do and don’t work for you. Better to get a good idea now so you’ll have things figured out for the super long runs in April, and for race day too.
  • Don’t skip the hills: repeats aren’t fun to do, but if you skip out on the Wednesday hill repeats, you won’t build the leg strength and cardio that you’ll need on race day. Who knows? Maybe you’ll actually enjoy the challenge.
  • Get any pains checked out: make friends with a physio if you are feeling any pain or dealing with an injury. Long runs put more stress on your legs and body so if you are already dealing with an injury, all this running in March isn’t going to magically make it better. Go get it checked out now.
  • Stay positive and don’t get discouraged: you’re pushing your body and mind this first time up the training ladder to 29km. It’s supposed to be hard and you will likely be asking yourself how you could possibly go another 13km at the end of your first 29km run. Trust me. By the end of April, you’ll know you can do it.

Keep it rolling

The biggest piece of advice for any runner training Ottawa is that the focus in March is the same thing you’ll focus on during the Ottawa Marathon in May. It’s also the same thing you’ve been doing since January: Just keep on running.

Pull out your training schedule every day and run what it says to run. When you are tired and you don’t want to run, go for a run. When you are 25km into your first ever 29km run and your legs feel dead, just keep putting one foot in front of the other and finish it strong.

The 31 days of March are a fantastic part of the marathon training journey. You’re going to learn a lot about yourself this month both as a runner and as a person. Enjoy!

Going Beyond 21.1km

A month and a bit into training for the Ottawa Marathon, and things are about to get pretty serious.

Up until now, Sunday runs have been in the 13-16km range which should be old hat if you’ve been up the training ladder for a half marathon or two. With that base in place, the Running Room training program escalates pretty quickly with 19km, 23km and 26km Sunday runs. Even if you’ve run multiple marathons, that rapid increase is a test of the body and the mind.

Building on a strong base

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The bridge in Toronto that we cross on runs longer than 21.1km

Heading into the next month, you’ll want to be sure to stick to your weekday runs and continue to build that strong base of training. Without the weekday runs to provide a foundation, these long Sunday runs will take a toll.

Slow it down

If you’ve never run more than the half marathon distance before, the 23km and 26km runs can be intimidating. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t be running these at your half marathon race pace. These are easy runs at conversational pace.

Keep that pace in check and you’ll cruise through 21.1km and easily add on the extra two or five kilometres to complete these runs. Once you’ve broken through into the mid-twenties distances, the 29km and 32km runs will seem less intimidating.

Good luck and keep it moving forward!

Running Injury Prevention and Management

Marathon training puts a lot of stress on your body. As a result, injuries are fairly common, especially in the early stages of the training program.

While injury prevention should be a key part of your strategy to get to the start line, the truth is that injury management will likely also become important at some point during the 18 weeks of training.

Not if, but when

It would be great if we could all avoid getting hurt while ramping up to be able to run 42.2km. But that’s not all that realistic given the amount of running required. Whether it’s an overuse issue, or something like a twisted ankle or some tendonitis, something will likely come up that will need managing and treatment.

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Athlete’s Care in Liberty Village…where I seek out advice and treatment.

Many marathon runners will be able to tell you the name and phone number of a good physiotherapist from memory. That’s because when training is underway, they are likely making a few visits here and there to get help.

Treatment could be some deep massage for shin splints or a pulled hamstring. Or it might just be some advice on how to deal with some foot soreness that is getting in the way of regular running.

The smart runner knows when to seek out that advice to keep a small niggle from becoming a serious issue that shuts down training and puts their race plans in jeopardy. If something crops up that is not the usual soreness that comes with lots of running, then don’t hesitate to have a physiotherapist check it out.

Most times they’ll advise you to take it easy for a few days, do some specific stretches or exercises and you’ll be on your way again. Other times they’ll tell you to shut it down for a bit and will come up with a treatment plan to get you back on the road again as soon as it’s safe.

Know your body

Another trait of experienced marathoners is that they truly know their bodies. They know which injuries they can run through, which ones are actually helped by running, and also when to stop and take a break to heal. They’ve learned the difference between a little soreness that is nothing to be concerned about and a sharp pain that tells them to stop running and seek help ASAP.

While stubbornness is also common in runners, it’s a trait that can be both a blessing and a curse, depending on the circumstances. Stubbornly pushing through when rest is the proper strategy isn’t smart and can be a ticket to a stress fracture or some other sidelining injury. On the other hand, gritting your teeth and running through some minor aches and pains is sometimes the right thing to do to build strength.

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Acupuncture to treat shin splints.

Knowing when to rest and when to continue comes down to experience and knowing your body well.

Eye on the prize

The goal of any marathon plan is to get to the start line ready to attempt 42.2km. That means your body needs to be capable of making it to the finish on race day. Approaching the start line with a bad case of shin splints that are on the edge of a stress fracture isn’t going to end well.

Absolutely, the focus should be on injury prevention. But if you do suffer from aches and pains, don’t hesitate to seek advice on treatment options. The sooner you start to treat an injury, the faster you’ll recover. Often times you can easily manage an injury and continue to train as usual or with some modifications to mileage or speed. If rest is required, take it and don’t panic.

Good luck!

Back to Running

Last time I ran was January 30th. The following morning I woke up, hopped out of bed and was greeted by some bad foot pain.

A visit to my physiotherapist Adriana at Athlete’s Care on Monday confirmed that I’d annoyed the fascia on the bottom of my foot…the dreaded plantar fasciitis.

I'm a Pepsi fan, but these little plastic Coke bottles filled with water and frozen solid are pretty perfect for rolling your feet.

I’m a Pepsi fan, but these little plastic Coke bottles filled with water and frozen solid are pretty perfect for rolling your feet.

The good news? It was relatively mild. The bad news? No running for a bit. The first few days were easy since running was the last thing I wanted to do on a foot that was angry about just participating in any activity.

Slowly, but surely

But by Wednesday, things were starting to look up. On my second visit to physio on Friday, things had improved quite a bit. Still no running, but at least I was walking normally and thinking about getting back into the training plan.

Sunday I felt like I could have run 5km and been fine. But with another physio session scheduled for Tuesday (today), I held off and took the extra rest.

Today things feel pretty good. The deep massage across the bottom of my foot that was tough to take last week was fine today. Adriana said, “go ahead and run” today, suggesting it would probably flare up a bit, but that it should be manageable going forward with regualr icing, stretching, and rolling of the bottom of my foot.

Back at it

Tomorrow afternoon will be the real test when I lace up my shoes and run the 6km from the house over to Ginny’s work to get the kids. Here’s hoping that things go fine and I don’t find myself hopping on a new streetcar down along Queen’s Quay.

If all goes according to plan, I should be back on track in a week or two. While I missed a pair of long Sunday runs, the good news is that they were 10km and 13km respectively. Considering I’ve been running 16km regularly on Sundays, it’s not a big loss.

That said, things do get serious pretty quickly from here, so I’ll be hyper-focused on making sure I’m stretching, rolling and icing both feet now throughout the week.

Fingers crossed.

An Early Setback

I haven’t run since Saturday thanks to a sore right foot. The diagnosis is a bit of plantar fasciitis and the treatment plan is rest, ice, deep massage, acupuncture and some ultrasound.

What, me worry?

Here I am in week two of my marathon training and I’m already side-lined. This is the first time I’ve had an injury that’s taken me completely out of the game. Am I worried? Yes. Not being able to run is pretty problematic when the goal is to be able to run a fast 42.2km at the end of May.

But it’s no time to panic. There’s lots of time to get back into the swing of things. I was already a week or two ahead of the game and missing a few runs at this early stage is just a minor setback and easily overcome.

The goal now is to get the foot better, then to ease back into the program and get back on track.

I’ll hit the physio again tomorrow for some massage, acupuncture, ultrasound and advice. I’m fortunate to have a therapist I trust who also understands that runners want to run.

Each day it’s getting a bit better, but the one thing that I don’t want to do now is to rush back and re-injure or irritate things.