Not long ago, I wondered what I could do if I became more serious about training for and racing the marathon. In the three years since this this shift in training, I have been able to take nearly 19 minutes off my marathon PR. One of the biggest factors in my improvement has been discovering higher mileage training. As a guest blogger, I will be sharing my story in the hopes of inspiring others to test their limits and experience the rewards!
I stood at the starting line of the Olympic Trials marathon this January in disbelief. Can this be real? Can I really be racing alongside these amazing women?
There is good reason for my disbelief. Although I enjoyed some success at Gustavus Adolphus College, a small D3 college in Minnesota, I was not a standout runner. I never finished All-American, most of my 5ks races were around the 18:30 range, and my 6k cross country races were done around 6:05-6:15 pace.
After graduating, I took a couple years off to focus on my career and pursue an MBA. I was sometimes motivated and often unmotivated when it came to running. It wasn’t until a hip injury early in 2010 that forced three months completely off that I decided to seek coaching help. In the back of my mind I wondered what I could achieve if I trained harder and focused on the marathon.
My fitness was close to zero when I started to train; the first two weeks I was running just 5 miles a week (mpw) and cross training for a total of 3-4 weekly training hours. I remember doing two miles all-out at the end of the first month in 13:30. Gradually I increased my mileage and cross training hours, trying to stay healthy, and within two months I was running 40 mpw. That was as much as I had ever done in college. By month three, I was consistently running 55 mpw and by the fourth month had logged a couple of weeks at 75. I would not have thought it possible to increase mileage that quickly, without injury. The key was consistency, strategic high and low mileage weeks, and the addition of strength work.
I was amazed at how my body handled the mileage. I became stronger, more efficient, and faster. To my surprise, I cruised to a 2:51 finish at Twin Cities Marathon that fall, a mere four months after starting to train (keep in mind many of those first few weeks were not even 10 mpw!). Just 3 months after my 13:30 all-out 2-mile effort, I was able to hold 6:30 pace for 26.2 miles.
I tested my endurance even further during the next training cycle, where my max mileage was 95 and the majority of the weeks were between 70 and 85. I again found myself gaining strength with each week (although there were “tired” weeks as well!). I was rewarded with an Olympic Trials Qualifier. I ran a 2:44:46 at Grandma’s Marathon, well under the 2:46 “B” standard. I was absolutely elated!
I’ve continued to explore higher mileage (this cycle my max was 115 mpw), learn more about my body, and what kind of training works well for me. My love for running and competing is as strong as it has ever been. I truly look forward to every workout, love testing myself, and love working as hard as I can to find my true potential as a marathoner!
Next Stop: NYC
Five weeks from now I will find myself in disbelief yet again as I toe the line for NYC Marathon’s professional women’s division with a goal marathon pace faster than the 6ks I ran in college. Unbelievable, really! I am so excited to see what I can do on this incredible stage. I hope this story inspires you to test you limits and to dream big! Until then, Run Happy!
About Nichole Porath
Nichole is a full-time finance manager from Northfield, Minnesota. She is constantly trying to learn more about training, racing, proper fueling, and mental training in a journey to find her potential as a distance runner. In only 3 years she has been able to bring her marathon PR down by nearly 19 minutes to 2:44:12 at the 2012 US Olympic Trials. To learn more about her journey, look for additional guest posts on the Brooks Blog, or visit www.nicholerunning.blogspot.com.