I started this blog to document the quest to answer a simple question: is it possible to run a marathon using a training plan that calls for no runs longer than 16 miles? At the finish line of Sunday’s 30th running of the California International Marathon in Sacramento, the answer is an unequivocal YES! I crossed the line in 4:08:10, a PR of more than 13 minutes. AMD finished in 4:09:58, a nearly 9 minute PR. And another friend of ours who followed the HB plan BQ’d with a 3:38:42. And this was on a day when Sacramento broke a 71-year-old rainfall record with 1.32 INCHES of rain by noon Sunday.
There’s lots of details about the race I’d like to share/document, but I’ll start by summarizing my thoughts about why I believe we succeeded with the H-B plan. First off, I ran nearly 650 miles since July 17, 428 of them since Sep 24. Never before have I logged a 50 mile week, yet in weeks 14-16, I ran 50, 51 and 53 miles. Removing the stress/burden of the 20 mile runs enabled me to run more miles because I didn’t need the usual recovery time and I didn’t sustain any serious injuries. I feel like the constant running also taught my body to be more resilient. I did get a couple of minor tweaks along the way, but a bit of compression and some ice usually solved things within 24 hours. During the last 6 miles of CIM, this resiliency manifested itself in my ability to work through and overcome the quad cramps that have debilitated me in almost every other marathon I’ve done.
Finally, I think I came out of the H-B plan much stronger mentally than ever before. Running 6 days in a row is hard and requires a lot of discipline and planning. You have to run the proper mileage at the prescribed PACE, and you cannot succeed if you skip too many days. The “no 20 milers” thing doesn’t come for free. In the critical weeks 10-17 of the plan, I ran 47 of the 48 scheduled days (I missed a day so the family could go to Sea World, I told myself walking all over the park was just a REALLY easy recovery run.) I ran early in the morning, during a long lunch, after work, after dinner, whenever I had to in order to get my run completed and still keep my job and my family. When the quads started to tighten up in the last 10k, I went through many tactical options before settling on walking, where in past races I would have walked at the first sign of pain. Ironically, I think it was the easy runs that helped me the most in the end. I remembered how slow those days felt and yet the pace was always around 10-11 min miles. I convinced myself in those last few miles that a running motion, no matter how slow, would be so much faster than walking. The last 3 full miles, 11:05, 11:23, 11:08…hello sub-4:10 finish.
I was not as disciplined about my writing, but I did add a “Running Log” page to show the daily mileage and paces.