The Marathon Diaries: Finding Time for Long Runs

As Annie trains for the Philadelphia Marathon in November, she's finding it difficult to fit in time for long runs—and she's starting to feel discouraged.

After telling the world last week that I wanted to shave nearly an hour off my marathon time, I started to feel the pressure. It’s one thing to know you have a goal that you want to reach, but it’s another thing to share that goal with someone else. I started to think, “What if I don’t make it? That would to be pretty embarrassing.” My long runs weren’t making me feel any better, either.

The best time for me to do a long run is Saturday or Sunday morning. I try to get out on the road before it gets too hot. It’s enough of a struggle to run for two or more hours, so why should I make it harder on myself?

Well, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I’m sure you’re all busy—some probably busier than I am—so you know how difficult it is to carve out the time to train for a marathon. Between weddings (I’m 26 and in the heyday of my wedding-guest career), bachelorette parties, bridal showers, baby showers, vacations and family commitments, I’m hardly home on the weekends to fit in a long run on the Schuylkill Trail, and my postage-stamp-sized hometown is barely big enough for a shorter run, let alone anything with mileage in the double digits. I’ve been forced to fit in my long runs mid-week—and it ain’t pretty, folks.

A recent non-wedding weekend (that just so happened to be Labor Day) was spent in Wild, Wonderful, West Virginia, the land of moonshine and mountains. The combination of those two things pretty much guaranteed that I wouldn’t be putting in any big mileage that weekend. I knew that keeping my training plan in tact would require running my scheduled long run of 10 miles mid-week—no small feat for someone who is guaranteed to be in the office until 5 p.m. and runs at my, er, leisurely pace.

On Tuesday of that week, I made sure to have my clothes laid out for a run before I left for work (it’s a good idea for any run, but especially the particularly daunting ones). I high-tailed it out of the office at the stroke of 5, not wanting to waste a minute of daylight. That week I also had to take care of a friend’s cat while she and her fiancée were on vacation, so I took my run down Broad Street instead of Kelly Drive in order to swing by their apartment. It was roughly three miles to their place, so after visiting the cat I was able to get right back on the road to push myself through the next seven miles.

Unfortunately, there’s almost no shade along Columbus Boulevard, and I was roasting by the time I hit the halfway point. Without a water fountain and having nowhere to fill up my hydration belt (a nerdy piece of equipment, yes, but useful!), I was starting to feel like I was in a desert instead of a city. By the time I ran into a fast-food joint to grab some water, I already looked like the walking wounded.

I headed back to my apartment feeling pretty discouraged. I was nowhere near my race pace, and I kept thinking, “This is going to be a disaster.” The only (small) consolation I could come up with was that it was bound to get easier when the weather got nicer. But when would I get to test that theory?

After attending a wedding last Friday (congrats Frank and Erin!) and spending most of Saturday recovering, I was primed for a Sunday morning 11-miler. Well-rested, hydrated and armed with a killer playlist, I hit Kelly Drive with a vengeance. With the low humidity, shade and ample water, I had one of the best runs I’ve ever had and easily the best one of my marathon training. At almost two minutes faster per mile than my marathon goal pace, I was flying. And by flying, I mean flying for me—in other words, not waddling. There is nothing like a good, solid run to make me feel like I can accomplish my 5:30 goal. I know that I have so far to go, but at least I’m heading in the right direction.

This weekend is going to be a real test. Along with thousands of my closest friends, I’ll be participating in the Rock ‘n Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon on Sunday. I’m excited to see what the adrenaline boost from the cheering crowds will do to my running. It’s going to be a great time.

Sixty-eight days until race day!

>> How do you fit long runs into a busy schedule? What tricks do you have for making sure you never miss a planned run? Share your advice with Annie in the comments!


Annie Acri is an administrative assistant at the Drexel University College of Medicine and is working toward her master’s of communication degree. The 2012 Philadelphia Marathon will be her second marathon. Follow along every Tuesday as Annie posts about the ups and downs of training as she prepares for the big race on November 18th. Catch up on the series here.