Running in groups is one of the best ways to train for any type of distance race. They can provide a social aspect to a sport that can be isolating and members can provide support and encouragement to fellow runners.\nThis year, as we prepare to help you train for the Dick\u2019s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon or UPMC Health Plan Half Marathon, we\u2019ve brought together a virtual group of runners. Covering various ages, race lengths, and running experience, these runners have agreed to share their training with us over the next few months.\nThis month, we asked the bloggers to discuss their progress over the past month of training for the upcoming marathon.\nDakota B.\nThe last month of training has been rough, to say the least!\u00a0 Between the short hours of sunlight available and the freezing temperatures, I have had little motivation to want to go outside for anything, let alone a run.\u00a0 Despite these struggles, I have advanced slowly in my training program.\nWhile I do not like running on the treadmill, I have resorted to this option for a lot of my runs this month.\u00a0 One activity which has really helped to beat these winter blues are group runs. I completed my first group run with the Steel City Road Runners club during one of their kick off marathon training programs and really enjoyed it.\nI also just finished the Spring Thaw Race in North Park with many of the same runners.\u00a0 During the Spring Thaw, I completed my longest run to date of 15 miles!\nWhile I am not one to hold a conversation during a run, these group events have been really fun and have helped me learn how to pace myself. Since starting my program I have made a few changes to my diet and know I will be making some more closer to the marathon.\nI have cut back on nights out on the weekends and have found that this has really helped to keep my mind and body focused during my workouts.\nI have also reluctantly cut out a lot of sweets from my diet.\u00a0 This was partially for Lent and partially because I know the chocolates my coworkers bring in are not going to help me cross the finish line.\n \n \nJoe A.\nAfter getting my foot checked out by my doctor, I was very happy to get the OK to resume training!\nSo, I eased back into it on February 10 with some short runs that week. It felt REALLY good to get back out there again! Honestly, seeing folks out there running while I went about my daily business was tough. Training has become a routine and I\u2019m a creature of habit. That said the two week break from my last marathon on January 25 did me a lot of good.\nA normal training cycle, or at least the plans I\u2019ve followed in the past, is 16 weeks. As I write this, there are nine weeks left until the Dick\u2019s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon. I spoke with Dave Spell, one of the coaches at Steel City Road Runners Club, to help me come up with a plan. He made a great point that I\u2019ve already built up my cardiovascular fitness so my job is to maintain that and not overtrain.\nOrdinarily I\u2019d do two or three long runs of between 20 and 22 miles prior to a marathon. Last year I ran the Phoenix Marathon on March 1 and then ran three 20-milers in the two months between that and the Pittsburgh Marathon. I also jumped right back into training without a break. On the day of the Pittsburgh Marathon I felt very confident, but I suffered a lot in the later stages of the race.\nI\u2019m convinced that I over trained and I don\u2019t want to make that mistake this time around. So on coach\u2019s advice, I\u2019m going to build up my weekend miles gradually. I plan on doing a single 20-miler before the race, for the sake of my confidence as much as anything else.\nDuring the week, I\u2019ve been working on increasing pace. I feel like that\u2019s one area that I could have done better during my training for the New Orleans Marathon.\nAnother area I need work on is strength training. I joined Total Body Cross Training for Runners to build up my core strength. The workouts are a lot of fun – we do an exercise circuit at the Steelers and Pitt football indoor training facility on Wednesday evenings.\nThere\u2019s also homework, which is just about as much fun as I remember homework being from high school. But it\u2019s good stuff that\u2019s already making a difference.\nHeading into March I\u2019m hoping for the weather to break soon. February was a tough month to be a runner. I don\u2019t so much mind the cold days, but add wind, ice, and driving snow and it\u2019s not easy to get motivated to get out there and train.\nDays like these are when it\u2019s great to have a group of friends to run with. So if you haven\u2019t already found a group, well, what are you waiting for?\nJustine G.\nWell, February was a tough one for me!\u00a0 I ran my first 14 miles on snow covered trail, which was a win and a loss for me.\u00a0 Shortly after my run, I started having shin pain.\u00a0 I have had shin splints before, and have suffered through them, but my condition wasn\u2019t improving.\nI finally went to see a specialist who in turn sent me for an MRI.\u00a0 Next week, I\u2019ll be three weeks in a boot from a stress fracture.\u00a0 I haven\u2019t given up on my May marathon yet.\u00a0 I have been cycling (indoors) to keep my cardio up and paying a great deal of attention to keep ice on my leg and rest it as much as possible.\nI am scheduled to go back next week.\u00a0 If I get the ok to run, I will have seven weeks to train.\u00a0 If I do not, I will have to readjust when I run a marathon.\u00a0 So lessons learned here\u2026.the fracture could be a multitude of reasons or all of them combined.\u00a0 I ran 14 miles on snow and ice.\u00a0 The temperatures were so low, I did not stop to do my normal stretch after a mile in.\u00a0 I was wearing shoes that were fairly new.\u00a0 None of these were great ideas for a first 14 mile effort.\nI am hoping the cross training of cycling will keep me on track and also improve my running efforts.\u00a0 It pains me to write this month\u2019s blog, but if someone reads this, maybe they will pay more attention to these details and enable them to run their best and safest run.\u00a0 Don\u2019t count me out yet!\nJoe M.\nMy last month has definitely been an adjustment back into training and fitness in general.\u00a0 Following the Pittsburgh Marathon last May, I stopped most running (probably because of a bit of burnout), but I noticed throughout January that it was a lot harder this year to get back into the groove of training.\nFebruary went by very well and I’ve found I’m actually a bit ahead of where I’d like to be as far as my long runs are concerned.\u00a0 I ended the month with a nice 10 miler that felt really good and my only complaint was the sleet that day.\u00a0 I’ve adjusted my diet overall to include more whole grains and upped my protein intake as well as decreased my sweets\/snacks and alcohol intake as well as regulating my sleep a bit better.\nI’ve been happy with the weather for the most part because even though there have been some really cold days, the lack of snow has been great for footing.\nLooking ahead to March, I plan on hitting the weight room harder and concentrating on speed work.\u00a0 The sooner the weather breaks and I can get on a track that isn’t completely iced over, the better.\nI’ve been able to build a better base than the last half I ran in 2013 and I’d like to focus on hitting those last 3-4 miles at my pace rather than completely falling apart crossing the Birmingham Bridge like last time.\u00a0 Hopefully I’ll see a result come May 3rd!