Great read on marathon training and obsession

I don’t usually do this, but I thought I’d pop in today to share something that I found very valuable. It’s pretty rare these days that Runner’s World publishes anything that really speaks to me, but today they featured a piece on marathon training that I could swear was written just for me.

I learned to chill out during marathon training: here’s what happened” is the story of a woman a lot like me, right down to our ages, PRs, and tendencies to get a little too obsessive during marathon training. I normally ignore anything with a click-bait title just out of principle, but this was worth the read. One of the reasons I went so far as to share it on my blog is that this woman’s story illustrates a lot of the reasons why I’m exploring “minimal marathoning” and how I became motivated to do so.

I’m even having a hard time finding one thing in particular to quote because it literally all spoke to me. But I found it most comforting to read this line: “…I thought I should’ve been doing some pretty heavy volume. I was stunned that I burned out when I tried to PR using a training plan that took me to a 60-mile per week peak.” Even in my base-building I still have an unhealthy tendency toward obsession with weekly mileage. I remember *needing* to peak at 60 for Pittsburgh Marathon training, too. And look what happened to me afterward.

Anyway, I’ll let you check out the article and let it speak for itself – and I’d really love to hear your thoughts and if you can relate. Have you ever been obsessive about time goals to the point of it interfering with the rest of your life? Do you struggle against the social media comparison trap and the urge to constantly do more while training?


9 thoughts on “Great read on marathon training and obsession

  1. Thanks for the tip! I will admit I am definitely in the mode of chasing workouts and mileage. It’s a balancing act, for sure. Training for my first Boston, 60 mpw is my low point and will be getting up to 80 mpw. Its challenging for me as I try to balance everything. I know this isn’t my long term plan, otherwise I will fizzle out.


    1. Thanks for the comment! I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being committed to a goal when life allows, and we all have different circumstances – 60 mpw may be high to some and low for others. I think the problem arises when people just don’t know how to turn it off and feel like they constantly need to be in “on” mode and jump from one goal to the next. It sounds like you have a good head on your shoulders and understand that devoting so much time and energy is fine for the here and now but isn’t sustainable for the long term. Honestly I wish I had figured that out after my 2nd-3rd marathons, I might not have burned out last year!

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  2. Great post Hanna and thank you for sharing. I too get obsessive at times. Its understandable during training I’ll peak out about 60 or 70. But sometimes I don’t have any races planned and I’m doing the same type of training. Thankfully the wife let’s me know when things are getting to be a bit much and I can back off a bit. I like these types of posts because they really help a lot of people.


  3. I just read the article–it’s a good one! When the process stops being fun, it’s time to pull back. Not to say everyday will be fun, but when it becomes too overwhelming. Part of the challenge of the marathon or any goal, is trying to break barriers of some sort. I think when we get to caught up in it all, we neglect to allow for life changes etc. For me, it’s about priorities; and training is important, but not above being a wife or mom or daughter! So if it starts to interfere with those things, I pull back.


  4. Looks like an interesting article. I don’t think I’ve ever had a goal that felt like it was taking over my life or causing to me be obsessed. I’m very much a person though who likes a project or something to singularly focus on – when I was wedding planning it was that, when we were buying a house it was that, when I’m running it’s that, etc. This winter was stressful dealing with some family stuff and it consumed me – hence, my running fell to the wayside – and now that there’s an action plan for that and progressing I find myself looking for something to focus on.

    The comparison trap is a tricky one. That ebbs and flows for me. There are times where I can really separate my training from what anyone else is doing, and other times it makes me second guess myself. We talked about during my last training cycle – there were 2 instagrammers I follow who were running ALL of their long runs a full minute/mile faster than I was. We had the same goals for our marathons and it made me doubt myself – especially since I was struggling through my longs runs, not just running them at “easy” pace.


    1. Yes, I can definitely see where personality differences come into play. It makes a lot of sense how singular focus helps people, but when I try to do that I get bored, and in certain things like running, I have tendency toward obsession.

      As for your point about the comparison trap…honestly, this is why I no longer post details about my paces and workout splits on social media. It’s one thing to document it on a blog as you recap your training for a specific goal, but on Instagram it’s starting to give the impression that everyone is trying to one-up each other and show off how fast they are. I struggle in my criticism of this because I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being proud of your accomplishments or sharing workouts on social media for motivation, but I get sick of the humble-bragging and I do feel like a lot of people are intentionally fueling the comparison trap.

      Also, sorry to hear about family issues – hope everything is ok.


      1. Interesting. I never thought about it being part of a blog vs. on Instagram though I can see how on Instagram you don’t get as much background/story. I can see your point of view on it for sure. In some respects I really like to see everyone’s actual paces and mileage because I find training and what works for people really intriguing. I also liked to look at other people who had BQ’d to see what their training and paces were like to compare (in a non-competitive way) to mine. For me, there are certain people who set off the negative-comparison part of me. Some of it is my own insecurity and some of it would be the way it was written “kept it super easy at X pace” when I could see from their races that that was their (recent) MP. Luckily there were really only 2 of the dozens I followed who I felt like that about. I wish I were still in college – I feel like their could be some fascinating case studies on social media!


        1. Agreed it is fascinating! I can also admit that insecurity plays a role for me too, especially now that I’m out of shape and far behind where I used to be. Hey, I’m human! I also understand that if something annoys me, that’s my problem, and the onus is on me to ignore it or deal, which I am trying to be better at. As for the people who run “easy” runs at MP (I used to follow someone on strava who was a 1:42 half marathoner and would do recovery runs at 8:00 pace…lol nope), I wonder if that has more to do with people inexperienced and not knowing how to properly train. After all, it took me a while to learn that “easy” does not simply mean “not tempo”. So I’m also trying to be better at giving others the benefit of the doubt and just avoiding people whose behavior I find triggering. I’ve been guilty of all the things I just claimed to be annoyed about, so now it’s important to me that my posts and what I project onto social media align with my values and the person I strive to be. Great discussion!


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