Indoor marathon training: Devising a mental strategy with 6 days to go

I hope there’s an old fashioned analog clock at the Goshen College indoor track for Saturday’s Maple Leaf Marathon, because I’m really getting into breaking up these mega-lap runs into half-hour segments.


If there’s no clock at the Goshen College indoor track, I might need to pack a watch…

It makes a huge difference to focus on the game within the game, of trying to get so many laps in while the minute hand moves from the 12 o’clock to the 6 o’clock position, and then vice versa. As each “end game” draws near I invariably adjust my run/walk pattern so I run an extra lap or two, or I might glom onto a faster runner and follow him or her for a lap or so to try to “finish strong” before the game resets.

If I need to recover from some extra exertion, or grab a drink, I sneak it in when there’s still plenty of time left in that particular game. The key thing is, I’m spending much less time thinking about how many laps I’ve got to go. 

Naturally, I wish I had more time to get better at this game, to get in a few more long runs. On Saturday, with just one week until race day, I didn’t feel like I should go longer than 10 miles (80 laps).

On the other hand, I’m grateful I stumbled across this game at all. We’ll see how it works out on Saturday. If there’s no old-fashioned clock, I’m screwed. (So I’ll probably pack an old Mickey Mouse kid’s watch or something just in case).

Here’s how last week’s training went as I began to ease into taper mode:

Monday — Yoga. You know, I don’t talk about this much but I feel like these weekly yoga sessions are making a huge difference in both upper-body strength (having at least a bit now vs. virtually none before) and mental outlook. Being able to “just breathe” is something I don’t take for granted, because for a long time I was incapable of that much patience.

Tuesday — This was my second attempt at a Yasso 800s workout, building toward 10 800s at my ideal (far off/long range/pie in the sky) marathon pace. I was determined to carve out some improvement, but it didn’t come in the first set of four 800s, which were exactly the same as last week: 6.5 mph (9:14 pace) with a 4 mph .25 mile recovery walk in between.

Improvement came on the next set of intervals. On the first three I did three minutes each with the first minute at 6.5, the second at 6.6 (9:05) and the third at 6.7 (8:57). (Last week I did the second set of four intervals at 6.5 mph for 3:00, so this was an uptick in speed but not duration.) Then, for the fourth interval, I decided to stay at 6.5 mph the whole time but go 1 minute longer, to 4 minutes. Recovery was 4 mph walk for same length of time as each interval.

That brings us to the two final intervals. Last week I did 2 minutes each, the first at 6.5 mph and the second at 7.0 mph. This time I split the difference (or something like that) and went 2 minutes each, the first at 6.6 mph and the second at 6.7 mph.

So yeah, these are incremental upticks in effort. But hey, progress is progress. And even if it  doesn’t help in this marathon, it should help in the one I’m planning for next fall. Total mileage for workout, including warmup and cooldown: 7 miles.


Wednesday — 4 sets of 15 kettlebell swings, 2 sets of 10 kettlebell squats, 2 sets of 10 kettlebell windmills.

Thursday — 6 miles on the snowy trail at Ouabache State Park. Easy pace, focused on not slipping on the ice or tripping over roots hidden by the snow. Remained upright for the duration, surprisingly.  

Friday — I was actually planning to go swimming. But then I remembered I hadn’t shaved my legs, so I decided to check out a yoga class I hadn’t tried before at the Y. Wow, was it a killer! But a good total body workout on a day when I wasn’t going to be running.

Saturday — 10 miles on the indoor track at the Jorgensen YMCA. Finished 80 laps in approximately 1 hour and 50 minutes for an 11-minute average mile pace. Can I keep that up for 26 miles? Doubtful. But it was fun to work on my lap game (see above) and it was good to run in the opposite direction than I’d run the last three weeks. That tightness in my left hip feels like maybe it’s gone away.

Sunday — 3 mile easy recovery run on the treadmill

Total: 26 miles

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