Monday, August 7, 2023

I'm Training for the Marine Corps Marathon

I officially announced on my Instagram that I am training for the Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) but I am not sure how formal of an announcement I made here. Even though I live 25 minutes from the start line and I love this marathon, I have only run it one time! Out of 33 marathons, only 1 of them was my hometown marathon.

Marine Corps Marathon 2006
I ran the MCM back in 2006. It was my second marathon. I loved every moment of the race and finished in a time of 4:24:39, which was a PR by over 20 minutes from marathon #1 in Delaware. This was before I had a Garmin. Before I had an Instagram following. Before I had a husband. Before I had adidas carbon fiber plate running shoes. A different world, indeed!

The reason I never returned was twofold. 1) I wanted to experience a variety of marathons and locations. 2) I typically prefer later fall marathons so I don't have to train in the heat as much, and there is a greater likelihood of cool weather. The Richmond marathon is two weeks after Marine Corps so if I was going to run something close to home, that race always seemed like a better target. 

But now that I have successfully run a warm marathon (Houston in 65-degree weather) I know I can be okay if we have an unseasonably warm day in late October. Plus, I have always wanted to run MCM again and it feels long overdue.

I do consider Richmond a fallback if the MCM weather is forecast to be over 65 degrees or if I get sick. I am going on a cruise two weeks before the marathon, which is just a breeding ground for germs. Not to mention the flights. The timing of the cruise isn't ideal, but a few family members had already booked it and invited me. I don't often have the opportunity to vacation with family. I'll do whatever I can to prevent getting sick, but if I do, I'll deal with it and then run Richmond.

My goal is to run a faster time than I ran in Houston so I can have a lower bib number in Boston next Spring. I feel like that's such a superficial, petty goal-- to care about a bib number and a corral. But it's motivating for me! A sub-3:26 is also a low bar for me given that I have run many marathons faster than that. So ideally I would run faster than 3:20. It will mostly depend on how training goes and how cool the weather is. 

Training Progress
As I mentioned in my previous post, I am coaching myself for this one. So far it's been going really well. I have written myself a plan that goes all the way to race day and making minor adjustments here and there. I am always asking myself "does this workout make sense for where I am in training?" and twice the answer has been "no" so I made modifications.

I turned a six-mile steady state run into a 2-mile tempo followed by 2 x 1 mile at 10K effort. A six-mile workout seemed like a big jump and I think I generally get more benefit of running at 10K effort than steady state, which is slightly slower than Lactate Threshold. Self coaching involves knowing what works for me, being aware of the stage of training I'm in, and adjusting for the weather if needed.

It wouldn't be a training update without a graph. So here's mine:

As you can see, I have steadily increased my volume this summer. I am planning a "down week" for the week of August 14th to allow my body to recover and absorb all the work I've been doing. So far, my longest run has been 14 miles and I plan to run a 15-miler this weekend.

One of the foundations of my plan is that I don't want to do a lot of runs that are longer than 16 miles. When I was training for Indianapolis/Houston at the end of last year, I started to dread my long runs. I felt burnt out on them. I was perfectly fine to run speed work or easy runs - but long runs felt treacherous. And looking back on my training log, I have found that I don't need a ton of long runs to run a fast marathon as long as I have high volume. It's preferable to spread the mileage out over the week instead of lumping it all into one run. 

My first 16 miler will be 9 weeks out. And then I will run longer for all the subsequent weekends, except for the week in which I race a half marathon. With only two months of 16+ milers I think I can run a strong marathon and avoid the mental fatigue of too many long runs. Another benefit of this approach is that by the time I get to 16 miles, the weather should be a bit cooler, even if just by a few degrees.

Injury watch-outs
At my age, injury prevention is more important than ever. I am doing strength training twice per week and having physical therapy appointments as needed. Here are the three areas that I am watching closely:

  • Achilles. I'm pleasantly surprised that my Achilles tendinopathy has not flared up. Even after some pretty intense hill workouts my Achilles felt okay. And the long runs haven't been irritating it too much. I always have some tenderness when walking downstairs, but overall my Achilles feel better than they did throughout all of 2022. I hope this continues!
  • SI Joint. I somehow got out of alignment (probably by squatting or deadlifting weights) and for about two days my SI Joint was irritated. I went straight to physical therapy to get it adjusted and that worked wonders. I didn't have to take any time off for it! If only I had gotten an adjustment sooner in the spring of 2022, I wouldn't have had to take 9 days off, get an MRI, freak out right before Boston, etc. The pain is now completely gone.
  • Morton's Neuroma. This problem reared its ugly head again for the first time in five years. I didn't waste any time. As soon as I started to feel pain I went to my podiatrist to get alcohol shots, which have shrunk the neuroma in the past. That pain has also gone away. 
Aside from these minor issues, I have been feeling great. My runs have felt energized despite the steamy weather. I've been getting plenty of high-quality sleep and I've been tracking my daily water intake. I drink anywhere from 55-70 ounces of water a day. Often with Uppermost hydration mix.

So, that's my update! I am really excited about running the MCM for the first time in 17 years! It will be interesting to see how 44-year-old Elizabeth compares to 27-year-old Elizabeth.


  1. It's always fun to run the hometown marathon! I'm excited for you. It's also amazing to me how much you've improved as a runner since that very first attempt at MCM! Good luck!

  2. 44 yo Elizabeth will smoke out 27 yo Elizabeth. How fun to repeat a race after so many years, especially one this special.

    Semper fi!

  3. Well you know someone who will be following and rooting for you!! I'm confident in your abilities if the weather holds up!!