12 Records in 12 Weeks: My Marathon Training Challenge
by Thomas Hochreiter, Marketing Manager DACH at Runtastic
This year brought a lot of changes for me. I settled down after a 4-month-long trip, moved into a new flat and had the opportunity to develop myself further here at Runtastic. I worked on the Run for the Oceans campaign as a Creative Projects Manager and later changed to the Marketing Department. While I was quite busy with my job, I still tried to fit in a lot of different sports activities and wanted to get in running shape again. However, my training was not focused and I was frustrated with my slow progress.
When I learned that I would have the chance to start at the Berlin Marathon, I felt this needed to change. With only 12 weeks time left, it was too late for a proper marathon training plan. So, I decided to try something else…
As a Runtastic Premium Member, I can collect records. When I realized I broke my last record more than one year ago, I decided to go step by step. With three very different races coming up, I created a challenge around them to split my training into weekly pieces with a record attempt every weekend. The overall challenge was to break all my 11 existing running records and finish my first marathon (the 12th record) in the coming 12 weeks. Project name: 12in12.
As you probably already know, we have tons of helpful advice on our blog. This time I aimed to take this advice seriously. So I wrote down my existing records I wanted to break and added ambitious times as targets. I put this sheet on my desk, wrote down the weekly training focus in my work calendar and told everyone in my office what I was planning. I also started a “Challenge Diary,” which included expected obstacles and possible solutions to overcome them. I want to share it with you:
Threats to my challenge and my solutions:
- Threat: Losing track of time
Solution: Schedule is printed and in my work calendar and I’ve signed up for races.
- Threat: Getting sick
Solution: Can happen, maintain a healthy lifestyle and don’t stress out over the amount of training to come.
- Threat: Failing a distance
Solution: If it works the 1st time, the goal wasn’t ambitious enough. Train more and try again.
- Threat: Overtraining/injury
Solution: Mix in bodyweight training (incl. yoga, climbing, slacklining) and focused running.
- Threat: Alcohol/parties
Solution: Attempt challenges on Friday morning or before going out on the weekend so the body is not weak.
I want to show you this sheet I made to track my personal bests because it actually worked really well for me to keep track of my milestones and goals throughout the challenge. This framework can be adapted to whatever your goals might be! Don’t run a marathon if you’re not ready for it. Your goals should be ambitious but not unrealistic. You can see that I managed to break all my existing records and ran my first marathon, but was unable to achieve my quite ambitious speed goals — which I’ll tackle again in 2018!
Some of the records, like the fastest mile, were easy to break. Others, like the 5k, a usual race distance, needed some more effort. Looking back at the challenge, it was certainly not easy to stick to the goals. It was not a scientifically developed training plan, but it worked for me.
From all the advice and tactics I applied to reach my goals, I found the following most useful:
- Define training milestones (11 records) to reach a long-term goal (marathon).
- Don’t just train as much as you can, make your training focused.
- Listen to your body & respect rest days.
Finally, the part of my body I needed to convince most were not my legs, but my brain. Attempting to run my fastest 3 miles, for example, for the first time on a sunny Friday morning was a bit of a mental challenge. I stopped more than once and asked myself why I wasn’t doing my usual routine, running on some beautiful trails or, well, sleeping a bit longer? This was a major learning for me: If you aim to break a record and set a new personal best, you should do it either in a competitive environment (i.e. ask a faster friend to act as a pacemaker) or be prepared to fight mental games against yourself. Dealing with my mind turned out to be a very interesting personal experience.
Most of the year I’m just a joyful runner who simply runs for the sake of running. But from time to time I need this competitive edge to motivate me and reveal what I am really capable of. So if you now want to beat one of your records, you need to decide why you want to do it, write down what you want to achieve and then develop a plan on how to get there. If you follow these steps, even if you fail, it’s a wonderful journey!
Thomas is Marketing Manager for the German-speaking markets at Runtastic. He loves all kinds of outdoor sports and is always up for competitions and events.