Thursday, September 29, 2016

My 2016 Chicago Marathon Training - By the Numbers

After wrapping up my miles for the week, I have officially finished "training" for the Chicago Marathon. With less than ten days remaining until the race, all runs from here on out are "just-keep-the-legs-fresh" type of runs. My fitness is 100% locked in now and no workout, no matter how difficult, is going to improve things enough to push that number to 101%.

I thought it would be interesting to see how my training for the Chicago Marathon compares with my training earlier this year in preparation for the Carmel Marathon (3:00:20). Here is a comparison of cumulative mileage over both 20 week cycles:
I ran 547 more training miles for the Chicago Marathon (1,607) versus the
training miles for Carmel (1,060) - over 50% more miles. This is by far the most I've ever trained for a single race. 

Some more stats:

Training By the Numbers: 2016 Chicago Marathon vs. 2016 Carmel Marathon

Chicago 10/9/16 Carmel 4/20/16
20 Week Mileage Total1607 1060
Average Weekly Mileage
Number of Runs in 20 weeks211
Number of 80+ Mile Weeks14 0
Number of 50 to 79 Mile Weeks6 14
Number of Weeks Less Than 50 Miles0 6
Last Race Before MarathonOui Run 5k Shamrock Shuffle 8k
 Last Race Finishing Time/Marathon Equivalent Time17:54/2:54:25 29:11/2:52:34
 Actual Finishing Time?? 3:00:20

The predicted marathon equivalent time for Carmel was (surprisingly) almost a full two minutes faster than what is predicted for Chicago (2:54 vs 2:52). Why does the last race before Carmel appear to be so much "faster"? There could be a few reasons for this:
  1. I wasn't racing the Oui 5k as hard as I was the Shamrock Shuffle
  2. Since my mileage was higher in the weeks before the Oui Run 5k, I had less of a "taper" than I did for the Shamrock
  3. I had a lot more cumulative fatigue going into the Oui Run (i.e. more miles = heavier legs)
  4. Race temps were more favorable for the Shamrock
No matter what the reasons, I'll take a gander that a 2:54 marathon time with an average weekly base of 80.4 miles is a more accurate prediction than a predicted 2:52 supported by an average base of 50.3 miles/week. Therein may be the problem with my frustration in predicting marathon times using shorter distances. Marathons demand a higher base mileage so you can "hold pace" from mile 20 through mile 26.2. I can always count on race day adrenaline and leg speed carry the day for races 13.1 miles or less. However, the adrenaline in a marathon wears off for me after mile 18 or 20 and I need to "fall back" on my base mileage for the remaining handful of miles. Yes, a 50 mile training base can let me run a decent and even marathon pace for 20 miles, but then things start gradually slipping away. For Chicago '16 I'm putting my chips on the fact that my volume will allow me to hold onto that adrenaline fueled pace for the remaining 6.2 miles.

We shall see....


  1. I think the volume IS totally going to pay off! I am so excited for you! And I love looking over all this data so thanks for sharing it! :)

    1. I hope you're correct about volume! I'm glad someone else likes these data intensive posts! :)

  2. I cannot wait to see you get your sub 3! I'll be a mile 13 with the blogging crew to cheer you on!

    1. Thanks! I'll be looking for you and the crew at 13!!

  3. Awesome analysis as usual. Really interesting to see that you rarely dipped below 50 mpw for this cycle. Now I have lots of questions about your training: a 20 week cycle? Why so long? What type of plan (or coach) were you using? (Etc) you know that you're ready to roll, so just wrap yourself in bubble wrap for the next ten days. :) Cheering from California!!

    1. I chose a 20 week cycle for my analysis because I typically jump into my training for my next marathon about four weeks after my previous marathon. I count the next 20 weeks as my training cycle but don’t count the last two weeks of the taper as not to pressure myself to hit any certain mileage during that time (4+20+ 2=26 weeks). My plan uses a very rough combo of the Daniels’ and Hanson’s plans. I borrow from Daniels his high/peak mileage pattern and his long(er) taper. From the Hanson's plan I like their 16 to 20 mile long runs while adhering to their prescription of no long runs that are more than 25% of weekly volume. I also use their running on tired legs strategy (with minimal rest days) to steel myself for the final 6.2 miles. The rest of my plan is self-regulated. That is, I will push the pace when I feel like pushing, slow down when necessary. I've come to realize that trying to force certain interval paces during marathon training is a somewhat risky proposition for me as far as injuries are concerned. I know my limits by now (I hope). Thanks for your support from sunny California! :)

  4. I love your analysis of training :) (it definitely makes me go back and compare training cycles too!) I think you are going to do amazing on Sunday. You are so incredibly prepared and have so much solid work in those legs- you're just going to fly through the course! The weather will be perfect and all that's left is for you not to surge around mile 13 ;) I think you mentioned that you realized you've done that in previous marathons a while back. I'm so excited for you!

    1. Thanks. I hope you're right about the weather on Sunday! With so many miles and so many factors that go into them, marathons are always so hard to predict, so we'll see what happens. Thanks for the reminder about not surging around mile 13! I'm considering just hanging with the 3:00 pace group so if the pacer is good, I can just follow their lead through 13! At mile 20 I will evaluate how I feel. If I feel good, maybe I will push just a little faster and leave the group. Thanks again!