There is only one way to become a marathoner – through complete commitment. You need to really want to do it.

When you embark on the long training journey that takes you from being a runner into being a marathoner, the one thing you’ll need above everything else is a deep-seated desire to make it happen; a commitment to seeing it through to the finish no matter what.

It all takes commitment

Running when you are tired and don’t feel like running takes commitment. Running 30km on a Sunday morning the week after you ran 30km on a Sunday morning takes commitment. Giving up your evenings or weekends to get your runs in takes commitment. Eating differently takes commitment.

It’s that complete commitment that will get you out the door after a long day at work or at 5am when it’s cold and dark. It’s commitment that will keep you running after 25km when your legs are aching and you want to quit and take a bus home. And it’s commitment that gets you to the finish line on race day when you’re running farther than you’ve ever run before.

Without commitment, you’ll find yourself sitting on the couch instead of getting out to run. Without commitment, when you have a choice between running the hill repeats on your schedule or grabbing some wings and beer with your friends, you’ll choose the latter. Without commitment, when the runs get hard and your body starts to complain, you’ll skip a run or two xand justify an extra few days of rest.

Ask yourself…

So before you decide that you want to run a marathon, ask yourself if you are fully committed. Do you know what it takes? Are you willing to do what it takes? If the answer is “Yes!” then go for it. Otherwise…

Marathon Training on Vacation

We’re back in Hilton Head Island for March Break. It’s a yearly pilgrimage¬†for our entire family, and I’m almost always in the midst of marathon training.

Getting my full compliment of training runs in, along with two long drives presents a few challenges, but nothing that can’t be over come with some planning.

Compromise and fit everything in

I ran this morning in Huntersville, NC, where we stopped for the night on our 1,600km drive south. My normal Saturday run is about 6km, so getting in just over 5km while the kids and Ginny were getting ready to roll was a nice solution.


Yes, you can run here. Seems crazy, but that’s a bike/pedestrian lane.

Tomorrow I have a 26km run on my schedule. I actually moved the training up a week a couple of weeks ago so that I’ll have a step-back run of 19km to do next weekend instead of 23km and 26km long runs. That’s part of the pre-planning that goes into fitting it all in.

26km isn’t all that easy to map out on an island this size. Looking back over my logs, I used to run out and back routes of up to 30km when I was here, but last year I discovered that you can run up and over the Cross Island Parkway Bridge which opened up some new roads to me.

Tips to make it all happen

With a little give and take, and some planning, getting your training in while traveling is more than possible. It can actually be quite enjoyable to have some different roads to run on those long Sunday runs.

Some of my tips if you find yourself training and traveling:

  • Don’t sweat it – if you can’t get all your runs in, that’s not the end of the world. Do what you can and you’ll be fine.
  • Plan in advance – look at your running schedule and your vacation schedule and fit the two together. Figure out when you can run, and when you can’t and modify your training to fit.
  • Check out some local routes – Strava, MapMyRun and other training sites can help you figure out where it’s safe to run. Don’t forget about the local running stores too – look them up on the web and drop in for a visit or check their website to see if they have favourite routes.
  • Be ready for warmer weather – if you are traveling south, keep in mind it may be warmer than you are used to. Don’t forget the sunscreen, and make sure you pack that hat and a bottle of water or gatorade. If it’s much warmer than usual, ease back the pace too.
  • Pack smart – bring your usual energy drink, some gels, a variety of running gear for different weather. Of course, make sure you bring your running shoes too, and your Garmin or GPS watch so you can show off where you’ve run
  • Enjoy it – a change of scenery is often just what the running doctor ordered. New sights to see, and new roads to run…it can make the time and miles pass more quickly when you are out on your long runs.

I’ve done long training runs in Amsterdam, Germany, Texas, Florida, South Carolina, California and other crazy places. Running around while on vacation seems like it’ll be a waste of your precious relaxation time. But if you love running, then you’ll love running in different places even more.

Have fun, and good luck with your training.

Hill Training Tips for New Marathoners

It’s time to start hill training! With about 11 weeks to go until the Ottawa Marathon, it about the time when the Wednesday training runs in the Running Room marathon training program shift from 10km at tempo pace to the dreaded hill repeats. This phase of the program runs for the next seven weeks, starting with four hills and ending with a ten hill repeat session!

Hill repeats matter!

Hills are a key part of the training program, so even if you think you’ll hate them, it’s important to get out and do the work. I’ve grown to appreciate hill training over the years and while I wouldn’t say I enjoy running hill repeats, but there is a certain satisfaction that comes along with completing these workouts.

poplar plains

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

Some tips to get the most out of your hill repeats:

  • Find a good hill – look for a hill that’s about a 5% grade or a little more and about 400-500m long. It should be a challenge, but not overwhelming. If there’s nothing around that’s suitable, the treadmill can be a good alternative solution.
  • Warm up and cool down – get two or three kilometres in to warm up before you run the hills. And plan to run a couple kilometres after your repeats too so you give yourself a chance to see what it’s like to run on tired legs.
  • Don’t over do it – the goal here is to build strength and cardio, not to kill yourself. You should be running at a pace that puts some stress on your body, but you shouldn’t be huffing and puffing to the point of exhaustion. Remember that you should be able to run a consistent pace up the hill for each repeat, and maintain that pace for all the repeats. Consider wearing a heart rate monitor (if you have one) and make sure you don’t blow over your max heart rate which is a sign you are pushing the pace too much.
  • Focus on your form – resist the temptation to lean into the hill. Instead, stay upright, get your legs turning over quickly and run like you’re riding a bike. At the top of the hill, run through the crest of the hill and ease up the pace to bring your heart rate down after the exertion phase.

You might be surprised at how quickly time passes when you are doing repeats. Think about how the work put in on the hills now will make a big difference on race day. While the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon course isn’t especially hilly, there are a couple of good sized inclines to deal with in the first half of the race.

Good luck and enjoy your repeats!