I Said I’d Never Run a Marathon. Now I’m Training for One.

Never say never.

nike pegasus turbophoto credit: nike

I’m training for a marathon. I’ve tentatively started repeating that sentence out loud over the last month because truth be told it hasn’t quite sunk in. I recall finishing my first half marathon four years ago and thinking, ‘Yeah, there’s no way I can run double that.’

So, how did I end up here, training for the Chicago Marathon? Long story short I needed a big goal. I took a long break from running – about a year – due to a difficult pregnancy and then post-birth recovery (more on that another time) and I was having a hard time getting back into something I used to really enjoy. Between going back to work, parenting a one-year-old and trying to spend time with my partner, carving out time for myself to exercise hasn’t been at the top of my priority list. While I fully believe that it should be a priority to take time for oneself to sweat just because, it’s been a lot easier for that task to get pushed aside without some sort of pressing reason to do it. Knowing I’ve got this 42.2 kilometre goal in front of me has been the deadline I’ve needed to make running a priority again. (This new mom found marathon training to be the structure she needed in her life.) A marathon isn’t something you can just show up for on race day, you need to plan and train in advance.

So, when Choose Chicago reached out about running the Chicago Marathon, I thought, ‘Could I run a marathon? Maybe I can, but should I?’ Around the same time, my friends at Nike asked if I’d like to join a weekly run group with a few other ladies, all working towards various fall run goals (ie. a speedy 5K, a first half-marathon, Chicago Marathon, etc.). If I was ever going to train for and run a marathon, this seemed like the perfect opportunity. (Not a fan of running? Here’s how to love running—from someone who used to hate it.)

With that, here’s how I’ve managed to work a 12-week marathon-training schedule into my hectic working mom life.

1. Have a clear deadline

As I mentioned already, having a hard deadline, rather than an arbitrary timeline, really helped me focus on what I needed to do.

2. Make a structured schedule – and stick to it

My 12-week marathon-training schedule was created by Nike Run Coach Brittany Moran, a chiropractor with The Runner’s Academy. My 12-week training plan was a bit aggressive with the mileage in order to get me to where I need to be. (I started a little late.) That’s why it was really important for me to follow the schedule as closely as possible. Admittedly, 12 weeks isn’t the ideal amount of time to train for a first marathon. Somewhere in the range of 16 to 18 weeks is ideal, according to Coach Moran. Nike actually developed an incredibly comprehensive 18-week Chicago Marathon training plan which you can download here. It’s a weekly schedule and even breaks down the type of workouts you need to do (speed, endurance, recovery), and the types of runs (track, fartlek, hills, tempo, etc.).

3. Don’t procrastinate

If my schedule calls for a run, I’ve learned it’s best if I head out first thing in the morning. If I wait a couple of hours, chances are something will come up (poop explosion–baby’s, not mine, urgent grocery shopping, my partner gets called in to work, etc) and my run won’t happen.

4. Bring baby along

My husband and I don’t have any family in Toronto so it’s hard to find additional childcare outside of regular daycare. On those occasions when my husband was working or away, I would bring my daughter along for some of my shorter runs. As far as strollers go, we’ve used the Bugaboo Cameleon³ since my daughter was born, which I love, but recently started using the Bugaboo Runner. It features a 3-tire base and fixed front wheel so it’s specifically designed for running. Pushing a 25 lb baby or toddler is hard enough so this definitely made it easier. (You can check out a video of it in action, here.)

I asked fellow mom (and Olympic runner, nbd) Melissa Bishop if she struggled to find time for exercise after having a baby and she agreed: “Finding time for training again in a busy schedule with a newborn has been tough. My Bugaboo Fox makes it so easy for Corinne to have a nap and enjoy the fresh air while I get my exercise in. Now that I’ve moved on from walking and into running again I try to schedule my runs around her feed and nap time. It makes getting out the door a lot easier if I’m prepped for my run prior to feeding, so once she’s sleeping, I’m out the door. Of course we still walk everyday, the outdoors is a favourite!” (Watch for her at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics!)

5. Use wasted time

Whether you live in a city or the country, you probably spend more time than you like travelling to get to your destination. If it didn’t seem like I could find the time on a certain day to fit in a run, I’d look at travel and see if I could combine two tasks and commute by run. On more than one occasion I ran the 6 km home from work instead of taking transit. Commuting by run actually took roughly the same amount of time. I even once ran to and from a manicure appointment so that I could fit both things in.

Coming up, I’ll be sharing what I’ve learned about increasing speed, proper nutrition and more. Check back each week for a new journal entry as I train for the Chicago Marathon.

Not ready for a marathon and just want to start running? Try our 10-week walk to run training plan.