Pittsburgh Marathon Training: Week 1


It’s so cool that it’s time to write weekly training recaps again! Almost as cool as the fact that my first week of marathon training is in the books and it went well! There will definitely be some learning experiences and areas that need improvement, but the ball is rolling and I’m excited to see where it takes me.

One thing I’ve added to my weekly recaps is target paces for each workout, to compare to actual paces. This is to help me structure my workouts, to make sure I’m doing what I need to be doing each day and honoring the purpose of each workout, and also for transparency. After a few weeks of training I think the target paces will get more consistent, but as you can see, right now they’re jumping around a lot because I’m still figuring it out as I go.

Monday, 12/21

  • Workout: Speed work (TREADMILL) – 1 mile w/u on the track; 3×400 w/ 90 sec recoveries; 1×800 w/ 400m recovery; 3×400 w/ 90 sec recoveries; 1×800 w/ .1 mile recovery; 1 mile c/d on the track
  • Target pace: 400s – 6:58; 800s – 7:24; all recoveries – 10:00
  • Actual pace: Same as target; w/u and c/d not timed
  • Total mileage: 6

NOTES: First day of training!! As of now, I like using the treadmill to control my interval paces so I don’t run them too hard. After a few weeks, when I’m more used to regular speed work, I will move the entire workout to the track.

My first workout of training was a good one. I was a little worried about starting out with such a bang after several weeks of VERY low maintenance mileage, but it went well and felt great. Since I had done a handful of treadmill speed workouts this fall, I knew which paces are manageable (but still challenging) for me.

The hardest part of the workout was the 800s. That particular pace wasn’t hard for 800 meters, but after getting into a pattern of being able to let go after 400m during the shorter reps, it was mentally hard to keep holding on for twice the distance when I did the 800s. This is why I like doing mixed interval speed work, though – it helps me practice switching gears and keeps me on my toes, so to speak.


Tuesday, 12/22

  • Workout: Spin class
  • Target pace: N/A
  • Actual pace: N/A
  • Total mileage: 17.8 cycle

NOTES: Whew! This was a workout! I was sweating like crazy in there. Not much to say. It was a spin class. Yay for cross training!

Wednesday, 12/23

  • Workout: Easy run
  • Target pace: 9:45
  • Actual pace: 10:41
  • Total mileage: 4.6

NOTES: I have no idea what happened here. I don’t think I’ve run at this pace in almost two years. I guess my body was just really tired from the past couple days! It’s not a big deal, I was just a little taken aback. I did a few loops through my neighborhood to get some hill practice in. In hindsight, I probably should have skipped the hills this time and chose an easier route so I could truly emphasize recovery, especially since I had LOTS of hills coming up this week. But, live and learn.

Thursday, 12/24

NOTES: I’d originally planned to workout Monday-Saturday, but a run today just wasn’t going to work because we were busy and there just wasn’t a good time to do it. So I begrudgingly moved it to Sunday.

Friday, 12/25

  • Workout: Easy Run
  • Target pace: 9:45-10:00
  • Actual pace: 9:36
  • Total mileage: 5.5

NOTES: This route had some hills that were more challenging than I’d anticipated. So I definitely could have slowed this run down a little bit, but oh well. It felt good and was a nice way to start the holiday!

Saturday, 12/26

  • Workout: Long Run
  • Target pace: 10:00
  • Actual pace: 9:42
  • Total mileage: 10

NOTES: I asked my mom to suggest a route that had some good hills in it, and she definitely came through!



img_2717This long run took me through some good ol’ Iowa countryside and it was probably the quietest run this city gal has ever done. I actually quite enjoyed it.


The hills were HARD, but I still came away with a faster time than I expected – mostly due to the fact that the last few miles of this route are much more forgiving than the first few. The fact that I maintained a sub-10:00 average pace for the last 7 miles of the run showed me that while the hills kicked my butt, I still ran at a pretty decent clip on the downhills and flat sections, so I did well enough recovering from the uphills.

My only regret is that this route is 4 hours away from where I live and it had to happen so early in the cycle, because it is an awesome route to train on for hills. I have other hilly long runs planned but I don’t think they will be like this. I’m actually now trying to plan a weekend trip back to Iowa in March so I can run this route again as a 20 miler closer to race day (and to visit family, of course!). Does that officially qualify me for Crazy Runner Status? 🙂

Sunday, 12/27

  • Workout: Easy Shakeout Run
  • Target pace: 10:00
  • Actual pace: 9:59
  • Total mileage: 5.5

NOTES: I did this  in the afternoon, right after we got home from Iowa. I tried to keep it truly easy and back off on the hills a bit so I could emphasize recovery. I positive-splitted the heck out of this run because I really had to force myself to slow down and keep it light. As much as I felt like I could have gone faster, I kept remembering my run from Wednesday, and what I said before this cycle began about how my goal is to make sure easy means EASY!!

My post-run treat for making it through a successful week 1! After hydrating, of course 🙂


RUNDOWN: This week threw some challenges my way and it’s pretty obvious that I have a lot of learning and growing to do in certain areas *coughhillscough*. The hills I ran this week were exactly the challenge I want and need, but they were also very humbling. I don’t mind the slower paces on my easy runs, but the hills are hard and slow me down. Even though I know I’ll be doing a lot more hill training, and that I have 17 more weeks to get better, it’s hard not to lose confidence in my goal and wonder how the heck I’m going to maintain a sub-9:00 pace up hills like that in Pittsburgh.

I live in a pretty flat town so all this hill work is really a first for me. But I keep reminding myself of how it’s going to feel in a few weeks/months, when I look back on this week and see how much progress I’ve (hopefully) made. You gotta start somewhere, right?

On the whole though, this week was a great start to training and I’m very pleased with how everything went. I got in all the mileage I wanted, I cross trained, I speed work’d, and I dove right into hill work.

Up next – Week 2!

Week 2 will bring a lot more of the same – 3 easy runs, cross training, and my long run will go up to 12 miles. I’m racing a 10K on New Year’s Eve which will serve as my speed work for the week (no, this isn’t a typo; I was originally going to do the 5K I talked about, but I decided to switch to the 10K. I’ll talk more about it when I do a recap of this race). This week, I will introduce strength training. I had every intention of doing it in week 1 but it just didn’t happen, which is actually for the best because I did a ton of hills this week and that was probably enough strength training for my body for week 1. I will go a little easier on the hill work this week as I emphasize more strength training. Part of that is out of necessity – I want to do my 12 miler with my old running club, and the route they usually do is pretty flat.

Looking forward to an even better week 2 as we go into 2016 (finally!). Onward!


16 thoughts on “Pittsburgh Marathon Training: Week 1

  1. Great job! I have had a rough go for my second week of training–it is such a busy time of year. I keep telling myself to just plow through while just maintaining until we have our normal schedules back. I have NOTHING but hills to run on with the new house, and it is beating me up!
    I really like doing speed work on a treadmill, it really helps me nail the splits…
    GREAT JOB cross training too!!!

    1. Thanks Cheryl! Ugh, I’m sure it’s frustrating trying to start training at such a busy time of year and having so many “false starts”. But just remember, your marathon was only about 6 or 7 weeks ago, and that seems like a long time but since you’ve still been regularly running you still have a lot of your fitness from that training cycle in you! Just keep trying, and remember, people have done more with less – you got this! I’m sure the hills are brutal out there but they will make Boston feel like a breeze!

  2. Great first week! I definitely had some hill-envy leaving Virginia. We have some hills around, but it’s nice to just have them as a regular part of a run instead of seeking them out. Oh well! Good luck at your 10K and have a happy new year!

    1. Thank you! Yeah, I had some hill envy leaving Iowa, and I can’t help but laugh at the irony of that statement. Happy new year to you!

  3. Great first week of training, especially in keeping your easy runs easy! Those hill workouts are really going to help you at Pittsburgh, and don’t stress about the pace – just getting your muscles used to climbing like that and it will definitely pay off on race day! Good luck on your 10K and adding in strength training this week!

    1. Thank you Laura! Yes, I can definitely feel like my body is learning from the hills already!

  4. Great recap. Wow kicking things off with speed work, way to start out big lol. I wouldn’t worry about the recovery run pace, that is the great thing about recovery runs, run them as slow as your body will let you. That Sat run looks awesome. Those are the runs that get me pumped for the next week. Look forward to week #2

  5. I seriously think the first day of a training cycle is the best, because it leaves you feeling like YES I’M DOING THIS!! And the first week is the best because it makes you feel on track and accomplished! Nice job getting started on the right foot!

  6. Such a good first week of training especially around the holidays! It is weird, I have been running much slower than usual, I think because it hadn’t been as cold (until today that is…) as it usually would be this time of year.

  7. I’m excited that you’re finally starting training, and what a great first week it was! The hill in that picture is crazy. But I always feel like hills are Everest in training and a small bump during the race, so I’m sure it will be the same for you come race day. Here’s to another great week!

  8. Oh hills, they drive me crazy. Probably because my town is shaped like a V so hills are everywhere! There are 2 on my usual route that to this day, I have never run in full. Great first week! Nice work getting in a run on Christmas day! It’s a family tradition to stay in PJ’s most of the day. Even as an adult, I still love it . Have a great week 2!

  9. I haven’t tried mixed intervals like that before, but it sounds like a really good idea to based on what you said about your body wanting to quit after the first half of the longer intervals. I haven’t written my next training plan yet, so I might try to work some of these in.

    I hope your 10k went well; I can’t wait to hear about it. Happy New Year!

    1. Awesome! So glad we were able to connect! We’re gonna kick this race’s butt!

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