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Marathon Training vs. FIRE

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By justpatrick
April 19, 2002

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I have been thinking about writing a little blurb about this for a while (which means that it is likely to turn into more than a little blurb). I suppose there is some sort of poetic justice that since a marathon is long, a post about a marathon should be long.

About 6 months ago I decided that my lifestyle during my working career had been in a steady decline. I had stopped working out, stopped playing sports, was working long hours and had generally my dog was starting to think that I was a new automatic scratcher attached to the couch. So, I decided it was once again time to try and get into shape. I've tried before and hadn't done very well at sticking at it.

So, what were the issues? I tried working out with friends. They would stop, so I would stop. I would try group sports, but if the group had a different schedule than I did I was out of luck. I tried doing stuff on my own, but found that without a reason or goal for exercise I quickly became bored and quit.

My solution was to start running. I could do it wherever I went for work and I could control the things that had stopped me in the past. For example, getting a treadmill meant that I could run either inside or outside, pouring rain was no longer something that would keep me from running. The only goal that I could think of was to run a marathon. It seemed like a good thing to do, a challenge that I could be proud of.

My next step was to start doing some research. I started by going to the website of the Pittsburgh marathon (May 5th race, sounds like a good target). From there I went all over the net. Lots of great information, sample training programs, diet, shoes, what to do, what to not do. Even some great info and help from the Running Fools board.

[Also, for anyone who is interested one of the regulars on that board ran the Boston marathon Monday. Many of us followed her times as they were posted on the web and are anxiously awaiting her race report post.]

The first problem that I had was that I wasn't ready to do the training program. The schedule didn't start for about a month, but it has lots of miles 6 days a week. 3 miles Monday, 4 miles Tuesday...and 5 or 6 miles on Sundays! So, I had to start training for the training.

Now I was starting to have all sorts of other issues. Blisters on my feet. Trying to learn to eat and run. Drinking enough fluids. Time management. Of course, by this time I'm starting to realize that running 26.2 miles is a damned long way to run. However, the research that I'd done started to pay off and I was learning from the problems I was running into.

December rolls around and I enter a race to help me with my training. 5K (3.1 miles), a short run, but I sure learned a lot. (3.1 is 3.1 not 3.0...and that will be important to remember 26.2 is 26.2, not 26.0).

The months roll by and my miles keep piling up. I'm doing a long run on Sundays that started at 5 miles, then 7, 8, 9, 10. Holy cow, 10 miles. Tired and sore define my Mondays, but I'm feeling much better in general and I'm running 6 days a week.

11, 12, 13, 14 miles. There is no way to deny it now. I have to plan my weekends around my runs. We are talking about a couple of hours to run and then a lot of time to recover. My wife now has a theory that I am running so that I have the right to moan and groan.

March is here. 15, 16...19 miles. Now we are into what runners talk about as long runs. I'm amazed that I can go out and run for 3 or 3.5 hours (I do take walk breaks!!) and starting to gain some confidence that while I know how long 26.2 miles really is, I also know that I can do it.

April comes and I have signed up for a 30k(18.6 miles) race to help with my training. I'm feeling great, totally prepared. The race starts and I follow my race plan for about the first 1/2 mile (nice and slow). Then something happens. I am feeling really great so I pick up the pace and end up going way too fast. By the 12th mile I can no longer run and have hurt myself in the process. I end up walking the rest of the way to finish the race. People barely running were passing me.

This brings us up to now. The marathon is May 5th, about 2.5 weeks away. My training is pretty much done. I have two weeks of tapering so that I will be rested and healthy for the marathon. Along the way, I've told a number of friends and family that I'm going to do this and while they have been doubtful at times, I feel that I have a lot of support.

Why not wait until after I do the race to post my story? Well, to run that far (26.2 miles) for that long (it will take me at least 4.5 hours, if not 5 or 6), I think you have to believe more than anything that it will happen. I know that I will cross that finish line (if something happens and I get hurt on the way, it might have to wait a year, but I will cross it!) I hope I don't run into a bear during the race, because if I need to wrestle a bear to finish I'm damned well going to do it.

Wait a minute. I thought this post was about FIRE (hey, if you made it this far and you are still interested, I'd better make it worth your money). I think that everything I've written about training for a marathon is very similar to what you need to do to attain FIRE.

Do your research, you are the one who gets all the credit when you are done so make sure you know what you are doing. Put your time and effort into the saving/training and do it early and often, don't sprint and be patient, it is a long road. Also, take your time recovering from downturns in your portfolio (injuries) trying to recover too quickly might only make things worse. I've found that in the last miles of a long run it isn't your legs that keep you going, but your mind. As you work towards FIRE, don't let the short term get you down this isn't a sprint.

Finally, if you don't have fun along the way, you are never going to make it. Enjoy the journey!


Disclaimer: I've discovered that running a marathon is a very serious activity. It is not an activity that should be taken lightly or you risk serious injury. Much of the material that I've read suggests running for at least a year before you start to train for a marathon. Also, the risk of injury goes up significantly with any dramatic increase in exercise and as the number of miles per week goes above the 20-25 range.

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