On Marathons (Plus Q&A with an Actual Marathoner)

It's been a really long time since I touched upon the idea of running a marathon again.  A REALLY long time.  In the fall, it's particularly difficult for me not to think about them, with so many major races taking place - especially the Chicago Marathon.  And my cousin-in-law (is that what you call the person who married your first cousin?) ran the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon just a few weeks ago.  I love that he really got into the distance in the last couple of years, running his first marathon (with the exception of a run-walk one in college) while in the 55-59 age group.  Seeing as how I would also be running my first marathon as a masters runner, if I ever pull the trigger on a full, I had so many questions for him.

So, I asked him a bunch of questions via email, which he obligingly answered for blog fodder - yay, thanks Mark!

Doing beer right after the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon
When did you get into running?  How'd the bug bite ya?
I started running in 2008 as part of a desire to do triathlons. I had biked 100 miles in a session and swam a couple years in high school and was up to 1.5 miles in the pool at one point.  So I knew running was a weakness to fix. I caught the bug partly because I could relax and dissociate from work. (fyi, Mark is a doctor.) It was easier than going to the pool and not as focused as biking (no crash risk). (I SO identify with this.  I fear the bike.)  

How many halfs have you run/did you run before taking on the full?
I did my first half in 2010 and have now done 5 half and 3 fulls (one was in college as a run /walk for charity). 

What was your goal for the full, and did you run into any injuries in training or the race?
Last year I went out to fast, cramped at 23 for a short time, and broke an orthotic for my right foot. I finished in 4:20 which was below goal but ok for the first one I actually trained for. This year I trained more. More long runs, longer tempos and race pace runs and lots of intervals. I was expecting around 4:05 to 4:10. 

How did you decide on the Lakefront Marathon, say over the Chicago Marathon?
I entered Milwaukee as it is close, flat, the right time of year. It is point to point with all 26.2 the same direction. The wind is usually at your back or calm. Unfortunately a front came through and the wind turned from the south at 6-10, then 10-15 with higher gusts along the lake. Headwind the last 23 miles.  It was brutal even for elites and mid packers like me were hit hard. (Yes, this was the report from our elite teammate Melissa Gacek who was the women's winner this year.)  I finished at 4:25. I was demoralized until I checked formulas that estimated about an 8 percent loss for that wind. That is about 20 minutes for a four hour runner. I will never run a point to point again for that reason! 

What's next, are you going to run another?  Chicago?
I am on the four year to a four hour marathon plan. I believe it was Dr. Sheehan who said it's like trying to find the perfect wave as a surfer. I have never hit the wall but maybe I have not gone fast enough to reach that point. My daughter Maddie now has the bug and she is doing the Madison half next week with plans for a full next year. (Love this, and I can happily report that she had a successful half with dad as her pacer.) I want to do a big city event next year and I am considering Galloway method. A doc in our group is doing his 100th marathon this week and swears by it. Good luck in your journey!

Ah yes, my journey.  I do still get asked ALL THE TIME if I'm going to run a marathon.  I could easily sign up for, train for, and run one (albeit sloooowly), I think.  But over time I've come to the conclusion that the marathon distance just might not be for me.  We talked a great deal at the Oiselle running retreat about goals, and Lauren really emphasized how our goals should have true meaning to us.  (e.g. - That's great you want to qualify for Boston!  Why?  What does it mean to YOU?)  Sometimes I think that if I ran a marathon it would be because I was caving to everyone's expectations of me as a runner.  Heck, I'm still nervous about trying to improve my time for the half marathon.  I might even consider running those for fun only, and focus my speed on 5Ks and 10Ks.  HOWEVER, speaking of fun, the Chicago Marathon experience may still be for me.  When I think about running a marathon, I envision a big day filled with pomp and circumstance and HOME.  I think of the event I watched a dozen times from the sidelines over so many years.  Running 26.2 miles does not necessarily hold meaning for me, but running this race would be very meaningful.  Right now, I've already signed on for the new Ragnar Trail Relay in the Washington Cascades in early September and we are contemplating a family trip to Chicago next year.  Putting my hat in the ring for the lottery might not work out for 2015, but I'm not ruling it out.  And, hey - 2016 would be extra inspiring, being an Olympic year!  


  1. Definitely don't run a marathon for anyone but yourself! I was getting drawn to the 50K because I love trail but also I think because so many of my new friends in CA were. I'm realizing that might not be my own goal and putting it on the backburner. That said, I think you'd really enjoy Chicago if you ran it (for you!) because it's a great event!