Training Cycle Recap: 2012 California International Marathon

Before moving on to non-marathon related stuff, I thought I’d summarize the training I did for CIM. Being that it was my first marathon, I learned A LOT about what worked and what didn’t. I wanted to document this, not just for myself, but for anyone else who is considering various marathon training regimens. Before I proceed, here’s the “no duh” disclaimer: I’m not a health professional, personal trainer, or expert by any means. If you choose to train for a marathon, you do so at your own risk.

(Sorry, I work tangentially in personal injury litigation, so I feel that one can never be too safe when absolving oneself from liability!)

How did I come up with my training program? I started off with Hal Higdon’s Novice 2 program as a skeleton, then tweaked it based on what I felt confident about from my previous running experiences (a la Run by Matt Fitzgerald). My usual week consisted of 3-4 running days, 2 cross-training days, and 1-2 rest days. I started off creating a tentative schedule on my Google calendar and moved workouts around as necessary. I decided to do 2 cross-training days because I had read/heard many people saying that they wished that they had done more cross-training during marathon training. Plus, I was hoping it would prevent me from injury and burnout.

Another unusual thing I did was that I never went over 34 miles a week during the whole training cycle — and that 34 mile week was the week of the marathon. Conventional wisdom says that 40 miles per week is the *minimum* mileage for marathon success. However, since I had barely run over 20 miles a week before marathon training, I knew that increasing my mileage by that much might lead to injury. Sure, I think I would’ve run a much faster marathon if I had done more mileage, but I made it to the finish line relatively fresh and injury-free. That was more important to me than the finish time, to be honest.

The last semi-unconventional thing I did was to only taper for 2 weeks, not 3. I was restricted by the number of weeks (i.e., my plan didn’t have time for a 3 week taper), but it ended up working out fine.

CIM training

(click to enlarge) Key: yellow – rest days; green – running; blue – cross-training; bold — long runs.

In retrospect, there were things that went well, and others that didn’t.

What worked:
– Having key long runs at various intervals that built my confidence. For example: the Drag-N-Fly 10K in week 5, Healdsburg Half in week 10, and the 22 miler at Lake Chabot in week 13.
– On the same note, doing long runs on routes that were much harder than the marathon course (elevation-wise).
– Another confidence builder: repeating the same workout intermittently throughout the cycle and tracking progress (e.g., Yasso 800s)
– Trying out various fuels, hydration, pre-run meals, and clothing… though not always intended.
– Having a flexible schedule and taking rest days or cutting runs short when I needed them most. (Note: this is not the same as being lazy! I only took rest days for injury/recovery purposes.)
– Variety — in types of runs (easy, tempo/intervals, hills) and cross-training (spin, Zumba, P90X, swimming, weights).
– Being disciplined about diet and rest, especially on weeks leading up to the key long runs.

What didn’t work/could be improved:
– Having almost no running base going into the cycle. I started week 1 having just taken a 3-week vacation, where I ran maybe 5 miles total and ate way too much.
– Slightly more structure in workout types. For instance, it would’ve been good to focus on strength building initially, then as the mileage increased and began to plateau, start working on speed. For cross-training, it probably would’ve been better to sub in functional weights/plyometrics for Zumba, which was a fun but almost zero effort workout.
– Being better about stretching, especially after long runs. I was terrible at this, particularly if I was really hungry or tired after a long run, which was almost always.

What to focus on next time:
– Stretching and strength training — 2 things I think I will always need to work on.
– Starting off with a stronger running base, preferably ~20 miles/week.
– Increased weekly mileage by doing longer weekday runs (i.e., one 8-10 mile run during the week).
– Regular track and hill/stairs workouts.


Howdy! My name is Jen and I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. I like to eat, run, and blog, but not usually at the same time.

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Posted in CIM, Training
6 comments on “Training Cycle Recap: 2012 California International Marathon
  1. Dominick S. says:

    If I were to write a critique of my training program I think my focus section would be identical! Hal’s program called for some strength training after a mid week run but I rarely got around to doing it based on my schedule. Great feedback!

    • Jen says:

      Thanks, Dominick. I think I did core exercises after my short runs on a few occasions, but I can’t imagine doing a set of strength training exercises. Maybe if I ran in the afternoon/evening instead of mornings.

  2. Cathryn says:

    I was thinking (glumly) about strength training this morning. My back often aches during runs of any distance…I think I need to strengthen it. Yawn. Good recap on the training plan.

    • Jen says:

      I know, strength training is SO boring, yet SO necessary. I was having some back soreness too… I went to an ART/neurokinetic therapist yesterday who said my pelvis was all out of alignment and gave me hip flexor and hamstring strengthening exercises to do. Who knew??

  3. Amy says:

    Re: strength training: I was actually pretty consistent (or at least I at least did some exercises every once in awhile) with it during marathon training and I haven’t been as on it this training cycle. I am noticing a HUGE difference. My quads get fatigued faster, and my shoulders hurt all the time. Hal must be onto something! Are you planning on another marathon?

    • Jen says:

      I have no definitive plans for another marathon yet. I’m eyeing the Marine Corps Marathon (if I can register for it — it sold out in 2 hours 40 minutes last year!). If that doesn’t work out, I’ll probably try CIM again.

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4/28/19: London Marathon

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