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Embrace the Base

The base of the mountain.

ragnar vegas_start

The base of fresh powder.



…the base of marathon training.

base building_VCM

Also known as that wonderful time when you pretty much get to run whatever you want — however far, however fast, and however often you feel like heading out.

As much as I complain about an overall lack of motivation to get out the door these days, I don’t really have a problem once I’m out there. Despite the cold and my overall lack of endurance, running during this base building time is actually my favorite. And I kind of forgot how much I missed it.

When I started training for NYCM last summer, I jumped right into a training plan – from “0” to prescribed workouts in one week. Not really smart, and not exactly recommended for marathon success. I was still careful with the build up, but I missed out on that whole “get your endurance back phase” that’s a pretty critical cornerstone of marathon training. Without endurance, you can’t really focus on gaining speed (since you’re just focused on getting in the miles). And without speed, your sole focus becomes simply completing the race — not necessarily improving your time.

Which is fine — if completion is your goal. For a first race or a new distance PR, completion should be the #1 priority. But for your 7th marathon? Not so much.

So this time around, I’m Embracing the Base. Taking my time to build up some sort of endurance before I really need to start focused marathon training. Base building looks differently for everyone — some runners keep a great base year round. Others build up slowly to 15 – 20 miles and use that as a jumping-off point. My goal right now is to shoot for 40 miles per week at the end of January and build my marathon training from there.

I’ve put together a plan (above) but it’s just a guideline. A basic path that shows where I am now and where I want to end up. The beauty of the base building phase is that the specific workouts don’t matter. I want to shoot for running 40 miles per week at the beginning of training, but I won’t stress if I’m a few miles under or over that goal. My only plan is to run (semi)unplanned for the next few weeks.

Which means:

    • Running easy. I am happily enjoying a month with no prescribed speed workouts. While I fully believe that those workouts are essential to running a faster marathon (as opposed to just piling on the miles), I think I’ll be doing enough of them for the 16 weeks leading up to VCM. So the speed can wait.


    • Running happy. I’m also not planning on setting any sort of goal paces for the next few weeks. If I want to go slow for every single run,  I will. Just like I won’t stop myself if I’m feeling especially excited to be out running and want to throw in a few fast miles just for the heck of it. The important thing right now is to just get back into running regularly again.


    • Running naked. When I’m in the thick of training, my Garmin is like an extra appendage. Whether it’s keeping me slow on recovery runs or helping me hit goal paces during speed workouts, I rarely leave home without it. But for now I’m enjoying my ability to run naked. The time to stress about the watch will come.


    • Running free. I usually plan my routes based on the type of workout I need to complete — hills, tempo, recovery, long run — I have a different route I like to take for each of these runs. But now? I lace up my shoes, pick a direction, and go. Sometimes this means that I don’t get in quite as many miles as I had put on my base building plan, sometimes it may mean that I run more. That’s the beauty of running free.


    • Running balanced. Meaning not always running – but instead taking the time to cross train and strength train. It’s so easy to let these activities go when I’m training. Even if I technically have time to lift or cross train, I’m way less motivated to do either because of the way it might interfere with my running. Oh I can’t lift — my legs will be too sore for my speed workout tomorrow. Oh, cross training uses different muscles and I can’t really handle those muscles being sore right now. I need to run long tomorrow. See? The excuses are easy to generate. Right now I don’t really have any excuse to not lift (or ones that are legitimate, anyway…). So I’m not only dragging my butt to the gym for 30 minutes of strength training torture twice a week, but I’m also rewarding myself with lots of fun cross training activities — of the outdoor, winter sport variety (what else can you do to make the long winter in Vermont more bearable?).

gym_night shotThis is my fancy gym. It’s within walking distance of my house. It’s also little more than a glorified hotel fitness center. I bet you’re all jealous.

For the next few weeks, I’ll be enjoying stress-free, no pressure running. The kind of running that makes you fall back in love with the sport. And leaves you hungry for more.

11 Responses to Embrace the Base

  1. I think this is a great approach. A lot of people forget about the base training and a lot of time it can lead to injury. It’s important to be smart with your training which it sounds like you are…best of luck
    Amanda´s last post ..Wednesday Night Tempo Run

  2. OOooo…your gym even has a nice rowing machine!

    I, too, love the base-building part of a training cycle. I wish you the best with it all :)
    XLMIC´s last post ..Saturday Sweetness

  3. Funny, I was just thinking about this today. I am (sadly) just coming out of my base training that I have been doing since November and I am excited to start marathon training, but I also think I am going to miss the freedom to run as much and as fast (or slow) as I want. This is the first time that I have ever really actually built a base and it was fun! And yes, I am already rationalizing why I shouldn’t to strength training on my legs tomorrow (Saturday LR)…even though the last few months I have been consistent with 2x/week!!
    Corey´s last post ..Good News & Bad News

  4. Sounds like fun to work on base building for a little while. At least it is so different from the core of the marathon training where you are attached to your garmin and more worried about distance and pace. Have fun!
    Kristen L´s last post ..Mini-Triathlon

  5. I love base training too! Sounds like you have a fun few weeks of running ahead of you :)
    PS – I tried the dumbell pullovers at the gym last night as per your suggestion – they were awesome in that “I’m-gonna-die-hurts-so-good” kinda way and I’m definitely feeling them today! Thank you for your tips and suggestions!

  6. Such smart words and planning here! Excited for you…can’t go wrong with this kind of start. Unless your body decides it has another plan like mine might. 😉 But slow and steady…go get ’em!

  7. What is it that makes getting out the door so hard? We live in the SF Bay Area so it’s not like it’s cold. I just find it SO hard to go out…but once I’m out, like you say, I love it!!!
    Cathryn´s last post ..Bran Muffins

  8. love it. and not gonna lie, love that little gym. i get intimidated by mine! i would rather have a smaller low key weight room.

  9. I am just starting running after taking about 4 weeks off due to an injury. I keep telling myself that I’m base building and it’s just as important as if I were in full training mode. And it is, I just hate that I have to work back up to where I was a month ago.
    Steph @ Steph Runs On´s last post ..2012, The Year I Learned To Love Running

  10. New reader, I live your writing and I’m grateful for this post. I’ve been thinking about running my first full, this is great advice:)

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