Lessons Learned from the Illinois Marathon

Following my run of the Illinois Marathon on Saturday, I was a bit disappointed in not making my goal times.  I had ideally wanted to run a 4:45, and more realistically a 5:00 marathon.  My actual time was 5:21, and my moving time (minus a bathroom break & medical tent stop) was 5:12.  But I think this was a reasonable outcome given the circumstances (knee issues + pending cold).

Lessons Learned:

Seek Help at the first sign of injury.  I had been dealing with nagging knee aches & pains for six weeks before I decided I really should see someone about it.  Unfortunately at that point, my travel schedule prevented me from seeing anyone, so I never got help.  You know I’ll be seeing a PT after this to get support in identifying the causes and ways to address my knee issues.

Cross Training, specifically yoga & strength training, should not be skipped.  Even though I know they are good, I didn’t do too much yoga until end of March. I also didn’t do many strength-focused workouts, which may be part of the reason why I developed knee pain. 

Continue to follow your training plan during taper. As my knee pains got more frequent, it was the same time I began my taper, so I lessened the amount of running I was doing, much beyond the taper plan.  One week I ran 1.5 miles + the long run. Another week, 3 miles + “long run.”  Ideally I’d be without injury and able to run as planned in the taper period. 

I also travelled a lot during the taper, which impacted not only my running, but also my sleep. You’re supposed to begin to get more sleep as you increase mileage & then taper, but the nature of the travel & work made this incredibly hard. And that also didn’t do anything for my stress levels. 

Plan for some salt.  I’m a salty sweater and I know it! Maybe it was because my training was in cooler months and I sweat less, but I hadn’t planned for as much sweat & salt loss as happened during the marathon. When my knee started to bother me during the race, I also started to freak out about how much salt I’d lost and whether I was experiencing hyponatremia. That’s probably me being a hypochondriac.  When I stopped at the medical tent at mile 18 to have my knee wrapped, I downed about 1/2 bottle of gatorade within 3 minutes. I felt great after that, but what would have happened had I not stopped for that break? I should plan some more for sodium/electrolyte intake beyond the gu’s & shot blocks I’m consuming.  Maybe bring some pretzels or salt tabs?

Plan in cutback weeks more intelligently.  I planned weeks where my mileage did not increase, or decreased only a little (i.e. 10%), but looking back on my training log I realized I needed a bigger cutback about every 4 weeks.  This is recommended, and although I didn’t quite plan for it, my body needed it every 4 weeks.  I should plan better for this and not wait for my body to cry out – “No, not another 15 miler!”

Incorporate speedwork into my training plan.  I tried to plan some in, and I think I should structure this a bit more. I would probably want to do more regular tempo runs during the week.  This was M’s suggestion. I’d likely plan to build up to a weekly tempo run of hopefully 6 miles.  Overall I would have liked to have more medium-long runs during the week in my training. 


Have you run a marathon? What were your lessons learned or tips for runners looking to improve? 


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