running marathon race

Running in groups is one of the best ways to train for any type of distance race. Groups provide a social aspect to a sport that can be isolating, and members can provide support and encouragement to fellow runners.

This year, as we prepare to help you train for the Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon or UPMC Health Plan Half Marathon, we’ve 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.

This month, we asked the bloggers to discuss their progress over the month of March as they prepare for the upcoming race.

Interested to see what else they’ve been up to? Read about their progress from February.

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Joe A.

March brought more of the same as far as training goes.

I’ve been averaging about 35 miles per week this month with my longest run being 18 miles. I felt really good on that 18-miler even though it took place on a rainy Saturday while it seemed like everybody who wasn’t a runner was gearing up for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. When I got to 18, I thought about staying with my friends who were going for 20. But discretion took over and I stopped and kept it at my planned distance. I’ll get a 20-miler in sometime over the next couple of weeks, but everything in its time.

Speaking of the weather, we’ve really been teased by some comfortable temperatures only to wake up on the last Saturday of March to find it was 17-degrees out. Ugh.

Nicer weather is on the way, and with that I’ve been incorporating more speed work into my runs. Recently, most of my shorter runs during the week are done at race pace. Some are tempo runs done faster than race pace. The long runs on the weekends are at about 30 seconds to one minute slower pace than my planned race pace. Although, I did a 16-miler at 15 seconds faster than race pace this past weekend. I felt really good and strong, so it gives me confidence that my training is paying off.

That includes the strength training at UPMC. They have been mixing up the workouts so that we don’t get too used to any one exercise. They’ve also been increasing in intensity with fun stuff like sprinting 15 yards and jumping 10 times up and down the field, towing around a weighted sled, and monster walking.

One of the ways I treat myself is visiting a massage therapist every few weeks. On her advice I’ve been using my foam roller to keep the knots out of my muscles, especially my quads, calves, and glutes. It hurts so good!

I’m looking forward to this last month of training. As a final tune-up, I signed up for a half marathon a couple of weeks before the Pittsburgh Marathon. After that it’ll be time to taper.

Good luck to everyone with their training!

Read more about Joe’s training prep.

Dakota B.

Training over the last month has been filled with ups and downs. I had a scare with a bad case of shin splints that I thought were going to end my training after completing a 16-mile run. After seeking advice from my runner friends, they all told me the same thing, “Do not run.”

Three words no one training for any race wants to hear. How was I supposed to train to run 26 miles if I couldn’t run past 16? Luckily, my body is more stubborn than my mind, and after trying a 2 mile run, I realized I needed a break. I took a break and used anti-inflammatory medication and ice for about a week, I was then able to push on and get back to training. After this scare, I started making an effort to stretch before AND after my runs. I have not been brave enough to try the full on ice-bath yet, but I just might have to after my 20 mile run in two weeks.

Despite my minor injury, this month has also been filled with many “running highs.” I completed my first 18-mile run and had never felt more proud of myself in my life. There is something about running a new distance that brings about new and great emotions out of a runner. I think that is one of the first times I have actually referred to myself as runner!

I also have noticed that my longer runs always occur in stages. In the first part of my run I am full of energy, getting into my pace seems effortless. After the first big hill or so, I start to realize that I am going to have to use a little more energy than I thought. Then around mile six, I start to get the why-did-I-let-anyone-talk-me-into-this feeling, which stays for about a mile.

After this, I get my second wind, which could just be from my running gel. During this middle-half I almost forget I am running. Then I usually get a what-am-I-doing feeling again. It is the last stage, however, that keeps me coming back for more. It’s an on-top-of-the-world, unstoppable feeling that makes me go on online to search other marathons I can sign up for after I complete Pittsburgh. It is that feeling that makes running “addicting” for me.

Next month I have a few “short” runs and my 20-miler left. The fact that I am referring to a 12-mile run as short, amazes me. I plan to do everything for this 20 mile run as I will on race day, down to the same outfit. One piece of advice I keep getting from fellow runners is to not try anything new on race day. You do not want to realize you don’t like the way something feels, or have a new energy gel not work well with your stomach when you have 26 miles to go.

While I am nervous about running 20 miles, I know I have prepared for this and I am ready for it. I will say, there is no way I would have gotten this far if it were not for my amazing support group. From my aunt texting me every day asking me if I ran, my boyfriend getting me ice when I can’t move after my weekend run, my mom sending me notes of inspiration, and my friend for getting up early with me to go on group runs with, I have surrounded myself with some pretty great people. I still continue to run with the Steel City Road Runners (SCRR) and have been lucky to have met many inspirational and motivational runners through this group.

BRING IT ON 26.2 miles I am coming for you!

Joe M.

March was tough. Aside from ending with being sick, I had all sorts of troubles along the way. I’ve been looking for a shoe replacement for my previous running shoes that have racked up a solid 700+ miles since training for the Pittsburgh Marathon last year. Between a pair of shoes that ended up just not working for me and switching footwear a couple times, I’ve finally ordered a new pair. Hopefully I’ll be able to get back on the horse and get those final miles in before the race.

The good news through these minor difficulties is that my long runs have continued and I’ve already built up to the half-marathon distance on the weekends and I’ve been able to keep my pace quicker throughout my runs in general. I was also able to win my third “fastest athletic trainer” award in the last four years at the annual Athletic Trainer River Run 5K. While I wasn’t incredibly happy with my time, I was happy I didn’t have much discomfort or trouble maintaining a faster pace.

As I’ve read some of the other posts, I’ve noticed that it seems like everyone runs with a group of people. While I’ve had a lot of fun running with other people through high school and college, there’s nothing like a few lonely miles to really allow you to concentrate, and I’ve found that since I’ve picked running back up after college, I haven’t had the nagging injuries because I’m able to listen to my body rather than the person running next to me.

In that same vein, the one thing I’ve made sure to do this year that I didn’t last year throughout my marathon training is to take days off when my body tells me to. I know I’m going to wake up sore a lot, but I haven’t had any real problems with my feet, knees, or hips that I experienced last year during my marathon training. I think the base I’ve been able to build up, as well as eating better, and the integration of a more complete total-body and core strength program has helped me drop both my times and a few extra pounds.

With April on the horizon, I’m pumped to finally get back into running outside without the snow. As soon as I’m over whatever kind of bug I caught this past weekend, I’ll be back at it and hopefully getting into some long runs of 14 or 15 miles prior to the half. One hard month to go before race day!

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