A blog by runners. For runners.

My First Marathon

I am training for my first marathon right now so for posterity and as encouragement for anyone considering their own first marathon, I wanted to create a blog of my day to day challenges involved in running. My marathon is the San Francisco marathon on July 31st 2006 but before I get into the day to day I thought it would be useful to provide a little background about myself to show that you don't need to be a runner to do it.
I was not a hardcore runner and, honestly, I still don't consider myself one. I was an all rounder at Stockport School in sports but running, especially distance and cross country running, was not an interest. While Mark Cooper, Phillip Harrison and Chris Maddocks were romping home in record time, I was lollygagging home, happy to have crossed the finish before the sun went down.
I preferred to cycle, swim, play tennis, rugby, football (soccer), lacrosse, American football and even cricket on occasion. I did all of these sports moderately well but excelled at nothing. My first run was a result of Geoff Costello, the U14 rugby coach at Heaton Moor Rugby Union Football Club, goading the team into entering the club sponsored 10k. I have no idea what kind of time I made but suffice to say it was the last race I entered for another 14 years!
At the University of Sheffield I kept up the rugby but switching codes as I played for the Rugby League team. Unless my memory serves me incorrectly, as it often does, we won the BUSA championship that year and also defeated the cross town rivals at Sheffield Hallam University at the Don Valley stadium. The game at Don Valley I broke several ribs so after sustaining a concussion in another game and a general loss of fitness I switched to something far less demanding and became captain of the University Ten Pin Bowling team. Personally inept as a bowler with my 154 average, I relied on my Vice-captain Hannah Brader to lead the a-team while I secured sponsors for the team to drink after matches. Hannah is one of the few British female bowlers to get a 300 game which was lucky enough to witness.
I continued to play football (soccer) a few times a week in between classes until a broken ankle rendered me useless. I graduated and moved into a job with Procter and Gamble where I sat in a car 80% of the day whizzing around the North East of England eating pre-packed sandwiches, sausage rolls and pork pies.
In January 2000 I moved to America and in 2001 moved south from Chicago to Atlanta where I met some fellow Brits. One of them introduced me to his girlfriend Angel who had run a couple of marathons for charity and would talk about her training and her exploits. Sounded like fun for crazy people. Being Brits, they played in a recreational soccer league so I snapped up the opportunity to play again. The tigers probably won more on average than we lost but it just felt good to be exercising regularly again, despite the silly heat you get in Atlanta.
One Sunday, Angel asked if any of us had turned in Peachtree 10k applications and by the end of the conversation I was headed to the news stand to find a copy of the Atlanta Journal Constitution to get the entry form contained within. I registered and trained hard by doing laps of my apartment complex parking deck on Cheshire Bridge Road which was about 1/4 mile per lap. I finished the race in around 52 minutes for the 6.6 miles and was pleasantly suprised with the time. I broke my other ankle the following year playing a pick up match when one of the crazy Mexican guys we were playing with decided he couldn't beat me in the air for a header and instead barged me off balance as I landed and snap.
I recovered slowly and began coaching a team of 10-11 year olds at the Decatur recreation department for soccer but it helped me get my fitness back. That summer I moved in with a roommate, Jim, who had run cross country in college and we began running each night after work. His pace was faster than I was used to but my competitive nature forced me to keep up.
Being a web developer and fulltime nerd, I decided to build a tool to help me measure the distance of the runs we were making without driving around in the car. WalkJogRun v1 was born September 2003. I ran the Jingle Jog 8k (I think) that year with a reasonable time I can't recall off hand.
I began swimming during my lunch hour and signed up for the Mrs. T triathlon in Chicago after hearing my friend Shea had done it and suggested I give it a shot. My training was going well but as I travelled to Chicago to visit my girlfriend who had moved there, it fell off and I felt like I wasn't prepared enough to enter so I backed out.
I moved to Chicago in August of 2004 but didn't pick up running again until the following year when I moved in with my fiancee. In the meantime, I redesigned WalkJogRun with the help of a new co-worker, Jeff, and added the ability to use maps from anywhere on the internet as your background. Five months later when Google Maps released a way to use their maps for really interactive tools, I built version 3 of WalkJogRun and Jeff again provided his silky smooth design skills to style it. This is pretty much the version running today with the exception of a few tweaks here and there.
My fiancee didn't enjoy running but inspired by her friend Brian who completed the Chicago marathon, we signed up for the PAWS 8k and followed the CARA 10k training plan fairly religiously. We crossed the finish line together and it was such a buzz to have done it.
The Chicago winter followed shortly after but I was keen to continue running so I attended a CARA winter running seminar and in a snap decision signed up for the San Francisco marathon and as a warm-up, the Shamrock Shuffle 8k. I carefully plotted my training plan and began towards the end of January following the Hal Higdon training plan from his book “Marathon”. When my training hit my first ever 9 mile run I sustained some soft tissue damage to my foot which left me hobbling and stopped my training. A visit several weeks later to the podiatrist gave me a plan to get back and I was able to get a week of training in before the Shamrock Shuffle on April 2nd. I finished with a time of 39 minutes and 59 seconds which put me in 3,565th place out of 20,408 finishers.
April 4th I began the Hal Higdon training plan over, starting back at week 1 with a 3 mile run on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday with a longer 6 mile run on Saturday.
It's now May 11th and I've followed the plan to the letter at this point, at many times against my willpower and I am up to week 6 of the 18 week plan. I'm up to 10 miles for my longest route and 5 miles for my Wednesday run.
Subsequent posts will describe the runs, offer some routes for people in my neighborhood from WalkJogRun and talk about weight loss, diet, beer and weather since they all seem to affect my run! I hope you'll find the content encouraging and ask any questions you may have about running so that if I can't answer them, maybe someone else reading this can and will post an answer.