Torin Doppelt

Scholar | Runner | Dev

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Blogging a Marathon Training Block

December 27, 2021


This is the first of what I hope to turn into a series of posts recording my training over the next eighteen weeks, as I prepare for Around The Bay and the Mississauga Marathon. The Covid-19 Pandemic has been an interesting time to be a distance runner. On the one hand, in-person races have been largely postponed or cancelled for the better part of two years. On the other hand, these conditions have led to many, including myself, renewing a commitment to running. In my own case, I have always been a runner. But, like so many others, after high school, this part of my identity has tended to be intermittent.

My first foray into marathon running occurred back in 2015. This was a half-baked exercise that started out with a promising, albeit middling, result in my first Half Marathon:

Scotia Toronto Waterfront Half-Marathon (2015-10-18)

I don't recall the specifics of my training, but I do know that at the time I was mostly using Nike+ Training Club on my phone, I did not own a GPS watch, and I didn't have a good sense of the role of mileage in training for races longer than 10K. As a result, I excitedly ran two marathons in 2016: the Goodlife Fitness Toronto Marathon in May, and the Scotia Waterfront Marathon in October. These went predictably poorly. I didn't train consistently, or build up enough mileage. I ran through some injuries. It was disappointing and led to some time away from running and a return to shorter distance races.

The pandemic served as a motivator to build mileage, learn to train properly, and see if I could improve upon my early-30s self's relatively mediocre attempts. I recieved a Garmin Forerunner 245M as an early birthday present. This, combined with some research into different training plans, led me to build up my base-mileage into the 85-100km/week range (using Pfitzinger and Latter's "Faster Road Racing" and "Road Racing for Serious Runners"). From this mileage alone, in 2021 I ran a solo 5K PR during a longer run, of 18:42, a 10K solo time-trial PR of 39:26, and eventually a Half Marathon solo time-trial PR of 1:29:20. Amazingly, I managed to stay mostly injury-free.

The next step is, obviously, to take these improvements and try to translate them into a breakthrough in the Marathon. After finishing the Half Marathon plan, I planned to transition relatively quickly into a mileage buildup before attempting a plan that tops out at around 137 kilometres / week. Unfortunately, though somewhat predictably, I started to run into some nagging injuries. These ultimately led to seeking out some physiotherapy. Luckily, these injuries all seem to be caused by the effects of some old skateboarding injuries (a badly-broken left big-toe means some bad overcompensating on that side). What I feared was an Achilles tendon issue turned out to be retrocalcaneal bursitis. The good news is that I can continue to run, albeit with an attenuated plan, while working on the underlying issue through some exercises and stretches. Still, given solid mileage put into my legs over the past two years, a slightly lower-mileage training block should be just fine.

The Plan

Originally, the plan was to begin today, December 27, 2021, with an eighteen week plan that begins at 70 miles / 113 kilometres per week and peaks at 85 miles / 137 kilometres a week. But, since I took so much time off over the past month and a half, there is no way to safely follow that plan. Instead, my new plan is to spend the next six weeks working on my left-leg issues while relatively slowly building mileage, and then beginning a twelve-week plan that starts at 55 miles / 88 kilometres and peaks at 70 miles / 113 kilometres. This plan is found in Chapter Nine of Pete Pfitzinger and Scott Douglas's Advanced Marathoning.

The base-building phase will follow the last six weeks of the ten-week base-building plan (to 60 miles / 100 kilometres) from Chapter Eight of Pfitzinger and Philip Latter's Faster Road Racing. One of the benefits of both this base-building plan and the marathon plan is that they are relatively high-mileage, but low enough not to require double-workout days, and Mondays are reserved for either rest or cross-training. During my previous Half-Marathon training block, I had been running seven days a week and incorporated relatively frequent doubles. After that experience, this training plan should in some ways feel much easier (though not the race-pace long-run days -- these are always tough).

So, today is a rest/cross-training day. The first base-building run will be tomorrow. The plan for this week is to hit around 49 miles (~79 kilometres), with a classic mid-week medium-long run of 11 miles (~18 kilometres) and a half-marathon-distance (13.1 mile / 21.1 kilometre) Sunday long run.

I plan to use this blog as a way to document this training block both as a way to keep myself on track, and to have a more detailed record for future reference, but also as a way to play around with some statistical / data-visualization ideas that I've been working on in my more academic work.