Crosscut By 2: Peak Week for the Seattle Marathon

My training regimen dictates that this week is the most intense before the big race.
My training regimen dictates that this week is the most intense before the big race.

Editor's note: Monte Enbysk, an experienced (but not elite) runner, was thrown off his Seattle Marathon training schedule by an injury last month. He's chronicling his comeback effort and 'ꀔ if he makes it 'ꀔ his race day for Crosscut. His previous installments appeared here and here.

I'ꀙm hungry all the time, I have trouble keeping my eyes open in the afternoon, and I am overwhelmed with things to do at work. That must mean it'ꀙs Peak Week.

What'ꀙs Peak Week? For me, it'ꀙs the week starting three weeks before the marathon I am training for, the training week when I run the most miles. I calculate my weekly mileage from Sunday through Saturday, like the calendar, and start Peak Week with a 20-mile-plus training run on Sunday. I try to run as many miles, on as many days, as I can during that week — usually ending up with 40-44 miles total. For the following two weeks before the marathon, I reduce my mileage (to, say, 30 and 18 miles) in what is called a taper.

My Peak Week for the Nov. 29 Seattle Marathon is going to be more modest, however: 35-36 miles. That'ꀙs because I was unable to gradually build to a higher volume, due to a leg injury that forced me to do no running at all in the sixth week before the marathon and only 11 miles in the fifth week out. Doing the somewhat risky 21-mile run last Sunday got me at least close to being back on track. (And going into my last two runs for the week and a long one again this Sunday, my leg is holding out well; knock on wood).

I am frequently asked how long it takes to train for a marathon. That question fits into this discussion. To me, to finish a marathon without dying or destroying yourself, you must be able to do at least one training run in excess of 20 miles, and to build to a Peak Week of at least 35 to 40-plus miles. (And by the way, this is to finish a marathon, not qualify for the Olympics; elite marathoners log 100-150 miles a week routinely.)

For the 2009 Eugene Marathon last May, my physical therapist, Shelly Hack at the PRO Sports Club in Redmond, laid out a weekly plan for the 11 weeks leading up to the marathon. Her plan for me, starting with 11 weeks out: 20 miles per week, then 22, 25, 29, 33, 28, 33, 37, 42, 30, and 21. Here is what I actually did: 22, 28, 30, 31, 20, 26, 32, 37, 40, 31, 18. Close enough. I did the marathon in five hours, two minutes; pretty so-so, but my best time since 2007 — and I felt stronger at mile 20 than I did at mile 4.

Because of my injury, my mileage for the 11 weeks leading up to this marathon will be: 27, 25, 27, 20, 22, 0, 11, 25, 35+ (this week), x (30 or so), x (18 or so). During the zero week and the following week, by the way, I didn'ꀙt sit idle; I cross-trained on the elliptical machine, logging more than 30 miles total.

Where do I run? In my Bellevue neighborhood and on streets and trails throughout the Seattle area. I like to mix up the routes. But let me add that I also work full-time, help keep the house clean, read a lot, and waste time on Facebook and Twitter. So I can'ꀙt always be running.

Most recreational runners have the same constraints. So if you want to run a marathon and are starting from scratch, you should plan on training from six months (if you are in decent shape) to a year or more before you run one. Also, get a training partner. My training partner, Stuart Glascock, is on a different schedule than I these days. But we'ꀙve trained for and run 10 marathons together, and the camaraderie helps.

I'ꀙll talk soon about why slow runners are good for the sport. And how running can help you lose weight but also cause you to eat more. But first, there's Sunday's 16-mile run, with hills. Stay tuned.


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