Running Update: HALP!1!!


Ahh, the best-laid plans. After piddling around with zero motivation for the first three months of 2017, I ran-walked a half marathon on the first day of April and walked away feeling like I had finally regained my motivation to train. The weather has gotten better, the days longer, and I was ready to start lacing up more than twice a week so I could have a good half marathon in June and an even better marathon in October. It’s spring and I’m ready!

But then we closed on our house last week, and the week that followed has been jam-packed with work getting ready to move in. Between going to the new house right after work and staying there painting well past my bedtime, and being too mentally and physically tired to get up the next day at 5 AM to run in the morning, I only had time to run twice last week and this week is not looking any better. Actually, this whole month isn’t looking any better, because we won’t be moved in until late April.

2017 is just not my year for running. For the first three months I had tons of time but zero motivation, and now, I have the motivation but no time!

So my running update is really that there is no update, except for the fact that with every week that goes by I am sinking deeper into the quicksand of self-doubt. My mind has been going to some pretty dark places about the Chicago Marathon. The race is just under 6 months away, which sounds like a lot of time, but it’s already mid-April and I haven’t been able to run consistently this whole year. This marathon is one of the only things keeping me from just straight up quitting for a while. If this were any other race, I’d seriously be considering dropping it so that I can take the rest of the year easy, get settled, regroup, and focus on a 2018 marathon instead. But it’s Chicago – if I did that I’d be throwing away $200 and I don’t have the option to drop to a shorter distance. And since I entered via a qualifying time, not the lottery, I don’t have the option to defer my entry (and even if I did I’d still be throwing $200 bucks away).

I really do want to run Chicago but I’m just so behind and I’m not sure how in the world I’m going to be able to pull off a good training cycle/race. We are so busy with moving and getting the house ready that I’m not sure how consistently I’ll be able to run until May – which only leaves me with 5-6 weeks to build a base! I’ve already been such a slacker with running in January-March that I don’t feel like I can just take this month off at this point; I have no fitness built up, so with every missed run and empty week, I just feel like I’m digging myself into a deeper hole.

Not one to pontificate on problems without at least attempting to find solutions, I’ve been mentally compiling a “damage control” checklist that could help me get on the right track for a strong marathon:

  1. Switch to a shorter distance for the Rock n Sole run.
    It very quickly became obvious that I’m not going to be able to log half marathon training mileage in the next couple months. And, frankly, I don’t really want to either; I would much rather wait on those 10-12 milers until I actually need them for marathon training. My current sweet spot of 3-6 miles on weekdays and 6-9 on weekends isn’t quite enough for a half, but is perfect for a quarter marathon, and would still build a decent base for marathon training. Awesome. Done.
  2. Lengthen my training cycle.
    I have been planning on a 16-week training cycle for Chicago, partly because I thought I’d have a decent base built up this spring. 18+ weeks is just such a long time to train for a race, and I don’t want to get bored and burnt out again. But now that I’m so behind in my base-building, I don’t see any other option, so I may be moving my training start date up from June 19 to June 5. The training plan I’m considering is 20 weeks long, which I’m not going to do, but shortening it by 2 weeks seems a lot more legit than trying to take 4 weeks off of it.
  3. Let go of time goals.
    Despite all of my doubts and frustrations, I’m not quite ready to give up on my PR hopes yet; I may be behind, but 18 weeks of structured training is a lot of time to get in shape and regain my speed. I also have the advantage of running on a much easier course than my current PR was set on. But, on the other hand, I need to be mindful of how much I have lost. I haven’t taken another big chunk of time off running, but I am still going 6 months strong on time off from any sort of structured training and fitness-building. So it could take me a long time to get back into a groove with fitness and training, let alone regain my old speed. Now more than ever I am going to have to emphasize qualitative over quantitative goals, process over results, and internal over external motivation. I have to remind myself that all of the things I really want out of this experience – to have a strong race; to get my leaner body and healthier lifestyle back; to see myself making gains and improvement as a result of my hard consistent work – are things I can achieve no matter what my running pace is.


So, that is where I’m at. I don’t typically like to write these complainy, pity-party posts, but I’m also just having a crap day in general today, and it feels kind of good to vent a little.

I really do want to run a great Chicago Marathon and can’t wait to do so, but I am starting to freak out a little bit about this training cycle and it hasn’t even started yet. If you’ve been in a similar position and have any advice, I’d love to hear it.


Have you ever balanced training or base-building with another big life event? How did you make it work?

Have you ever come back to train for a marathon after time off?



31 thoughts on “Running Update: HALP!1!!

  1. Training for my first marathon coincided with a big move for me so I lengthened the training cycle. I was definitely glad for the break from running after the race but I made it through healthy and in one piece!


  2. You can totally do this! Chicago is incredible and by mid May/June you’ll be ready to do the thing when everyone starts sharing more of their training. My suggestion would be to get in what you can when you can. If you have 10 minutes then do something for 10 minutes, do squats while you brush your teeth, etc. All that strength work will keep you from burning out and make you strong for the miles. You’ll be surprised at how you will want to try to fit more in and soon enough you’ll be running again. For the last couple weeks I’ve been in a total rut with my marathon training, but I’m coming back. So can you! I’m taking the “field of dreams” approach and it’s working. If I do it, it will come. You can do this!


  3. Ah, I not-so-fondly remember the days of spending every ounce of “free” time working on the house. It’s not just that it takes up all of your time but painting is a workout! I was really surprised by the way my legs and feet felt trashed after a long day of painting. I definitely didn’t want to run on those days. It wasn’t until Adam and I moved into the house that I was able to really think about training again.

    I did spend a lot of time while we were getting the house prepped stressing about not training though. There was lots of anxiety and lots of broken promises to myself. Isn’t it funny how it’s easy to wake up and say “I’m going running this evening no matter what!” but after 8 hours of painting you’re just like “um, by running I meant take a shower and go to bed.”

    My suggestion is to just go with the flow until you’re moved in. You’re going to save yourself a lot of anxiety that way. You may have to do a longer training cycle but it will be better for your overall physical and mental health if you find balance.

    Also, right now I totally get that a big part of you just wants to take it easy for the year but that’s because you’re in the thick of house stuff. Once it eases up you’ll be itching to get into a training cycle and Chicago will be there for you!


    1. I KNEW you of all people would totally get it – I still remember you going through the frustration of trying to balance training and new homeownership. I think you are right that I just need to chill out and work with my situation instead of against it. As much as I beat myself up for not having the discipline to get up at 5 AM or squeeze in a run during my commute home, I have to remember that forcing myself to run when I’m overly tired and stressed isn’t going to benefit me, let alone result in any fitness gains – it’s just going to leave me more stressed and more tired and more prone to injury and burnout. I’d hate to look back on this time in my life and wish I hadn’t spent so much time worrying about running instead of enjoying the new chapter. There will always be other races.


  4. I definitely second Kristina’s comment about going with the flow for now. If house stuff is stressful and finding time for running is stressful, then by the time your training cycle comes around, who knows if you’ll want to run or if you’ll be looking at it as just one more chore? Do what you can with where you are and when your time opens up more, reset your priorities to get those consistent, base-building runs in so you’re ready when it’s time to start training!


    1. Yes, that’s a good point – after everything that’s happened this past year I definitely do NOT want to go in feeling like running is a chore!


  5. Take some pressure off yourself, friend! You don’t know how long it’s going to take you to come back until you actually start coming back. Six months IS a long time and 6 weeks is enough time to build up a nice base. In an 18-week training cycle, the first month is really just building base fitness so technically you’ll have 10 weeks to build up a base before you start really ramping stuff up. You’re not new to running, so I think you’ll be just fine! Yeah, maybe you’ll have to let go of your big goal, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still have a strong, PR-worthy race. Let yourself enjoy April knowing that in May, the work really has to begin!


    1. Thanks! Yeah, you’re right, maybe I am getting ahead of myself. Besides, I don’t want to be in *too* good of shape starting training anyway – hello, early peak! Haha


  6. I’ve done 18 week marathon plans when I want to build up my speed and mileage more – they work, especially if you vary them (some weeks earlier on more focused on base building or speed, then later weeks focused on marathon specific training).
    My best advice? Don’t think too far ahead. Assess your goals as you go throughout training and focus on the experience. No one knows what shape they are in for the marathon until those final peak weeks. It’s impossible to tell so far out and you may just surprise yourself! But regardless, Chicago is more than a race – it’s an experience.


    1. You know, it’s ironic – when I first signed up for Chicago I was actually of the mindset that I wanted to train as minimally as possible and not care about time so I could enjoy *the experience*. And then somewhere along the way I got it in my head that the only way I could truly make the most of the experience was to have the race of my life. I think, in addition to realistically assessing goals as I go along and what I’m capable of, I need to think about what my priorities are and how this race fits into where I’m at in my life right now.


  7. Don’t freak out! Just give yourself a little credit. I went through this same situation when we bought our house and my running wasn’t there. I thought I would never come back, but I ended up coming back stronger and more motivated than ever. Now I finally feel settled and like I can be consistent with my running. I know you’ll get there too. Maybe you won’t have the race of your life in Chicago, but there will always be another race but you can’t get back the experience of owning your first house.


    1. Thanks Gretchen! This comment was actually very helpful for me. You’re right. I’ll look back on these first house memories very fondly one day, and I’ll probably laugh at how silly I was being worried about training the whole time!


  8. While this is not quite the same thing, after a few months of not running because of school/stress/busy I knew I needed to do something different this semester. It was you actually that helped get me where I am not! You shared with me this RW article ( and suggested running in the morning so I could spend the evening doing homework. I knew I would never get up and run in the morning but I also knew that the time to run was there, I just had to prioritize running (without slacking on school work). So I changed my routine and instead of setting into homework after work, I went straight out for a run. If I didn’t feel like running, I ran through a couple questions to see if skipping the run was a valid choice (Am I injured/sick? Is the homework due tomorrow? Will I have enough time to finish it after my run? etc). I rarely had a valid reason to miss a run. My days were often long and exhausting, but I got a lot better at managing my time on the weekends so that during the week I was able to run more and study less.

    But I will also say that my drive to get back to training was largely due to the fact that I don’t want grad school to turn into 4 years of hardly running. I think buying a house is a little different because it is a one time life event, not an ongoing thing that you need to balance. So remember to be kind to yourself and be flexible. Running will still be there once all the walls are painted and the furniture is moved in 🙂


    1. Yeah, I know this setback is only temporary, it just concerns me because it’s so close to the start of training. I really don’t want to go into my first week of training feeling like it’s a struggle to get through 4 easy miles! Maybe I’m overreacting and come May things will be peachy, but I’ve gotten a lot of helpful feedback by posting about it.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. The beginning of Boston training last year coincided with our move. I really worried about not getting in too many runs. I was able to improvise, and the only thing I made sure I did was the long run. Luckily, it was the beginning so those were only 8-12 miles!! I can say that all of the activity with the move (liftng boxes etc) was good strength training, and in general, I was very active. The biggest thing was “quieting” the worrying mind. I didn’t PR, but it wasn’t terrible either. I don’t believe my time was due to the lack of training, I think it just wasn’t my day. I think an 18 week training cycle will work out for you!


    1. Yeah, I am counting my lucky stars that we are going through all of this BEFORE training even starts. If we were closing on and moving into a house in the middle of training I seriously don’t know what I’d do.

      Yeah, that’s what worries me: the training, not the race. No matter how in shape I am, it’s always possible to have a bad race or have it not be my day. But at least if I’m able to train well I can go in feeling confident and fit and go out feeling like I gave it my best shot and at least my fitness was there even if race day sucked. That’s why I’m so worried about not having a good training cycle – Chicago is an expensive race to just phone it in.


  10. So one observation I have here is that your desire for this PR in Chicago seems to be the thing that’s causing you the biggest stress in all this. You want that to be a good race and all your anxiety seems to be stemming from doubting whether you’ll be able to have a good, strong race there. I don’t think it’s wrong to want a PR (don’t we all secretly want one all the time?! lol) and while I still think you have it in you to do it, I would caution you against making that your goal. You have a lot happening in your life and you risk seriously losing yourself in the training (or burning out very quickly) if that’s your major goal. In the past when I’ve felt a little prone to burnout, I’ve made a goal range instead which helped with training a lot because you can start off on the slower end (without feeling too stressed about your paces) and gradually start to see some improvement. I do think that an 18-week plan might help you out at this point because I know having a concrete plan helps you to prioritize the running and will ultimately make you more comfortable in building up to Chicago.

    And as you know, when Oliver and I bought our house, I was training as well. I think already having started marathon training helped me to prioritize the running more but I’ve basically been a zombie for the past four months…and I’m looking forward to a nice long break after this!


    1. I do feel a lot of pressure to perform in Chicago because it’s OMG CHICAGO, a pricey World Marathon Major that will probably be one and done for me, so there’s this feeling that I can’t “waste” it by having a so-so marathon performance. It’s different than doing the local Lakefront Marathon where if I don’t have a great race I can just shrug my shoulders and say “oh well, I’ll be back next year!” So I do feel like I really have to do well, even if it’s not a PR, which means I have to train well. I can’t justify spending all that money on a race that I walk away from feeling disappointed and underwhelmed with myself. I’m more worried about being able to train well than being able to race well: I mean, a bad race is always possible no matter how fit I am, but if I can’t train well then I don’t even get to go in feeling strong, confident and excited.


      1. Aw I definitely get that, but there’s a fine line between wanting a good race and then stressing so much about having a good race that the training becomes completely un-enjoyable. I know the balance is hard to find and it’s so different for everyone I don’t know how to give advice on that really. I know for me, meeting other runners and creating a big running group has helped tremendously – there’s often someone running in the range of paces I need. Every once in awhile I have to suck it up and run solo, but most of the time knowing that someone is waiting to meet up with me makes it a lot harder to skip my run. What’s that factor for you that will get you to that strong point and being consistent again? It might be creating a long, rigid training plan that keeps you motivated to do it (and if that’s the case, make sure to pencil in some rigid structured recovery weeks too!! lol).


        1. It’s funny – none of those things would really work for me. Rigid training plans are not for me. And the social aspect of running has never appealed to me (except blogging!). I’m an introvert and part of the appeal of running is the time alone with my own thoughts, plus I really prefer to follow my own schedule and routine. I don’t have an issue staying motivated during marathon training, my worry is that my fitness won’t be where I need it to be at the start of training due to the setbacks I’ve had this winter. I don’t know how much work you and Oliver needed to do on your house but frankly, I’m amazed you were able to balance all of that with a heavy training load even if it did make you a zombie. I barely manage 10 miles a week right now.


  11. As someone who had done four 18 week marathon training cycles, I can promise you that it really isn’t that overwhelming of a commitment. Yes, it’s four and a half months of your life, but chances are you were going to be running in some capacity during those four and a half months anyway. While the end goal of your running may be a marathon, if you figure you were going to be running during that time anyway, I think it’s a little less intimidating. And yes, while of course you want to PR, and it is a big race, the fact is, the race isn’t going anywhere. The lottery isn’t even half as difficult as New York’s lottery, so that’ll always be an option for you in the future if the race doesn’t go the way you want it to this year. One step at a time – you’re going to be ok! 🙂


    1. I have done 18 week cycles – two of them – which is where my concern comes from. It just felt soooo long, but part of that was really on me, because I rushed into things and started doing harder workouts way earlier than I probably should have. I think that doing almost all of my runs easy on the first 4 weeks (and doing more easy running in general throughout the whole process) will go a long way in helping me avoid burnout.


  12. You just bought your first house! This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Just enjoy it–the work, the stress, the pride. You are a homeowner! Marathons will always be there but you only buy your first house once.

    That said, I understand your feelings about possibly not being able to put in the time to train for your fall marathon. Several years ago (I’m old) I was finishing grad school and working part time. I had to spend so much time writing my thesis. I could not manage school, work, and marathon training all at the same time. Something had to give. So I didn’t run the marathon that year. It practically killed me! But you know what? Getting that grad degree had so much more positive an effect on my life than running that one marathon could have. And I ran many more marathons after that, including my PR and several Bostons.

    Whatever you decide, I wish you the best.


    1. Thank you so much for this awesome comment! I’m glad you and others have reminded me to put things in perspective because you’re right – even though this race is expensive and important to me, there will be other marathons, and these things that are competing with my ability to run and train well are very positive things in my life. I really think things will get a lot better once this month is over, so hopefully this is a lot of worry over nothing and my training this summer will be just fine! Thanks again for sharing!


  13. I’m late to the party so don’t have a lot more to offer that hasn’t been offered except this: forget about the $200. Yes, it’s a lot of $, but that should be the least of your reasons for deciding whether or not to run Chicago. I do think that you aren’t out of time for a good training cycle, and your plan for next steps is great. But if you decide for whatever reason to take the year “off” and tackle a 2018 marathon, that’s okay too! What matters most to us changes as our lives change, so do Chicago because you want to, not because you feel like you have to because you wanted to last year.


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