I've been reflective on the Air Force Marathon and why I think it went so well. All things considered, I was way undertrained for a full, and crazy for even attempting a PR. So why'd it work?
1. Strength training. And not just lower body, either. When I strength train, it's a full-body approach. Life doesn't require me to have just strong legs- life requires me to be able to manhandle 40 lb bags of salt for the softener and 44 lb bags of dog food (or 50 when they've got those bonus bags!), life requires me to be stronger than my 110 lb dog when he gets overly excited. Given my husband's job, he's not always home when I need something heavy moved, so I love being strong enough to do a two-man job by myself (like setting up our treadmill).
This is why I work every muscle group. And I think that has helped with running endurance AND speed.
2. Low mileage. Wait, what? How could 45 miles in July, 90 in August, and 64 in September be a good thing if that means I was probably undertrained? Only 199 miles for marathon training?
Here's my theory:
My particular body thrives on lower mileage with more of the above-mentioned strength training. My first and second marathons were both run after 224 miles logged in the 4 month training period, which is low to begin with. It seems like everyone I know who runs marathons logs at least 350-500 miles. But I'm not them, so I know not to compare my mileage in a negative way. These same individuals could lift weight for years and never get the biceps I get after a single month. Body composition, genetics, etc, all play into what works best for us. It's always been relatively easy for me to tone muscles (and I'm not trying to brag here! I actually feel kind of guilty about it often!). And now that I've added weights back into my routine, it has become easier to run faster and farther.
It does make me wonder how I would perform after a higher mileage training cycle.... I won't know until I try!
But I also know I'm pro-rest days. When I have an ache, I'd rather take an extra day off than end up in a walking boot again.
3. Experience. Since I had already completed 2 fulls, I knew I could finish. That alone might be the single biggest factor for why it all went so well. Knowing it would be difficult, but also knowing I can push through really helped when it got tough.
On a related note, having a first-timer like Rebecca helped, too. I knew she was relying on me to help her simply finish. Being the one with experience, being the leader of our two-person pack not only put pressure on me, but it gave me confidence.
The marathon is a funny creature. You have to treat her with respect. Perhaps I just got lucky. Perhaps I didn't lose as much fitness after surgery as I thought. Perhaps I'm just a freak who can run long distances at slow speeds without "adequate" training.
Whatever the reason, I am looking forward to the Veteran's Marathon in November. If I'm feeling good, I might try to smash another PR. If not, I'm going to treat that course like it's my own public birthday party (since my actual birthday is the following Saturday). After all, it's 2 laps of a 13.1 mile loop... and I here there's a beer station. Happy birthday to me!
(NOTE: this is my experience with running. I am not advising anyone to attempt this; I just find it interesting to read other's training experiences and thought perhaps someone might benefit from reading mine. All I really want you to learn is the YOU ARE STRONGER THAN YOU THINK.)