Now official: I plan to run the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon on November 6, 2021.
I wanted to run a marathon before the end of the year, before training for Vancouver in 2022. This will be it, for a few reasons.
I also wanted to take the plunge on a personally unprecedented task: Training for a marathon through the brutal Vegas summer.
After a summer and a half (I did move back in mid-summer 2019), I learned from experience that during summer the only time of day you can do a serious run workout is early in the morning before temperatures top 90-95°F. You also can’t go particularly long once the sun is up, so longer runs beyond an hour ought to begin before the sunrise (which to be fair was true in Chicago summer weather as well).
But I also previously went on walks outside during work breaks on hot summer afternoons, lasting anywhere from 10 to 40 minutes. Recently these became shorter runs, and since I keep these easy they probably won’t be much more demanding than those previous 100-110°F walks. Either way, I know what being out in this heat feels like, and am confident I can still go on short 7-10 minute work break runs to add to my volume, keep my body active, and get extra form practice.
I had considered various marathons between September and December, but Indy landed in the right spot timing wise. November allows for peak training (e.g. 20 mile run days) to take place after the weather has cooled off a bit. It’s not so late that recovery could possibly impact Vancouver training, which should begin at the end of the year. Plus, with food holidays like Thanksgiving and Xmas shortly after Indy, the extra food can help with recovery.
Also, Indy’s race day weather should be rather mild by November, in the 50-60°F range which should make Indiana’s somewhat high humidity feel good rather than terrible.
Colleagues in Chicago have run Indy with mostly amicable feedback. It’s an accessible marathon with a reasonable topography. There is a hilly section around the middle of the race but the terrain is overwise mostly flat with mild undulations. Vegas’ slanted valley topography should make that course feel easy. It’s not exactly a “starter marathon” but it’s an easier marathon to do well in before you train for a tougher marathon.
I didn’t want my first marathon back to be Vancouver in May 2022, in case my comeback training cycle didn’t go well or I made any major training mistakes (There is also a chance that circumstances could prevent me from running Vancouver AGAIN). I could apply any lessons from this cycle to training for Vancouver. Having trouble with Indy wouldn’t exactly break my heart, though obviously I intend to do well.
What’s the training plan for this race?
Mission one is base building. This is not just about adding weekly mileage but template building.
I currently plan to follow a variation of the Higdon Novice 2 Plan, doing the weekday runs in the morning while doing my work break jogs afterward. The latter will add about 15-20 miles per week to the base training volume, and for now I don’t plan to do those break runs on the weekend.
In short, the Higdon Novice 2 plan has you run Tuesday-Thursday, then do your long run Saturday and an hour of cross training on Sunday. Monday and Friday are days off. The Wednesday run is longer than the Tues/Thu runs, though shorter than the long run, and every other week the Wednesday run is done at marathon pace instead of easy pace like all the others. Obviously, the extra work break runs would be done as easy as needed and would rarely go longer than a mile each. Higdon recommends strength training Tuesday and Thursday if you already strength train, and I certainly will.
The weather and needing time to prepare for work is the key reason to keep weekday runs easy while technically not training Monday and Friday (obviously I’ll still be doing work break jogs those days and logging some miles). The later Wednesday runs reach 8 miles and could be a challenge, though the plan for Wednesday and Saturday was already to get up before sunrise (I already typically rise around 5am) and log some time before the sun is up.
Higdon Novice Marathon is an easy plan to follow if indeed you’re a novice. Though I’m certainly more advanced, I wanted the freedom to add the extra work break runs to my training volume without overtraining.
The key here with the break runs is heat acclimation. Smaller 10 minute doses of running in extreme heat will acclimate me to heat without much distress, which will help with the longer morning runs down the road, and certainly will help with racing the marathon on race day regardless of the conditions.
So right now I’m following a shell schedule version of the plan, gradually adding morning run workouts matching the schedule of the actual training plan, though at a lesser volume. The goal before July is to get accustomed to the schedule so that when I start the actual plan it’s not a big jump or change.
(As always, this could change based on evolving needs and fitness development. But the plan is to build to this schedule going into July.)
So the plan is set, and now it’s time for the long ramp to Indy in November.