Why I’m Freaking Out About Chicago

This past weekend a friend asked me how marathon training is going. I’m sure she expected me to just smile and say, “Great! I’m feeling ready!” but instead I found myself pouring my heart out.

I haven’t written a proper update about Chicago training in a couple of weeks and I thought I’d let you know why: I’m freaking out about it!


I am all of these people ^.

I honestly didn’t realize I was until this weekend.

Due to some scheduling conflicts with vacation, my long run last week happened between Sunday (8 miles) and yesterday (10 miles). That’s a total of 18 back-to-back miles, but to date my longest single run has only been 14 miles.

I’m seven weeks out from Chicago and my longest run has been 14 miles!!!! Holy &^$#! Last year my race was a week before Chicago and I ran my 14-miler the first week of July! I feel like I’m a million miles behind schedule, even though cumulatively I’ve run just about the same number of miles as last year.

As you know, this year I’m training using a modified version of Hanson’s which specifically calls for split long runs.

Here’s why split long runs are a good idea for most recreational runners:

“Scientific research has shown that runs of over 3 hours offer little additional aerobic benefit compared to runs of 2 hours, while significantly increasing injury risk.

As such, rather than cramming your marathon training schedule with multiple 20-22 milers that increase your injury risk and decrease recovery time without decisive aerobic advantages, you should instead focus on improving your aerobic threshold…”

(source: competitor.com)

I’ve been reading up on a lot of bloggers who run about my pace and have had great success with split long runs. I just honestly don’t feel like it’s for me.

I don’t feel mentally prepared to tackle a marathon.

This coming weekend I have a 6-miler on Saturday and a 16-miler on Sunday, so maybe I’ll feel more prepared after that. 16 miles feels like a “real” marathon training distance. I know that sounds kind of silly, but you know what I mean right? I equate 14 milers with half marathon training. Call me a long distance elitist but I like my long runs to be looooong.

Okay, so “long” is relative. To a 100-mile specialist 20 miles is a nice short distance.

100 miles…

The future ultramarathoner in me just wants to do looooong runs. I understand why a slower marathon runner like myself should do shorter back-to-backs, but I am the most motivated by the long run. It’s my favorite run of the week and it’s the one that makes me feel the best about myself.

Aside from the distance of my long runs, there is another reason I’m suddenly freaking out about Chicago.

I’ve committed to running my easy runs really easy this training cycle – this includes my long runs. I very recently flipped through my notes from last year’s training cycle and in 2014 I was running my long runs about 40 seconds per mile faster than I am this year!

Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 10.58.38 PM

Just like with the “shorter long runs” I know that keeping my easy miles easy is all part of the master plan but it’s FREAKING ME OUT! 

Race day always represents a big unknown and right now I feel like Chicago is this giant blackhole about to suck me in. Will I be prepared? Will I meet my time goal? Should I adjust my goal? Will I even finish this race?!

Okay, I know that’s crazy talk. Of course I’ll finish the race unless something drastic happens, like my foot falls off or something.

I think what I’m discovering is that this type of marathon training plan isn’t for me. That doesn’t make it a bad plan. In fact I know that it is a very good plan! Heading into Chicago training this year my goal was to experiment with a new training philosophy and that’s exactly what I’ve done.  I am committed to seeing this marathon plan all the way through because I am curious to see what it nets me in the end. If I run a sub-3 in Chicago then I’ll follow this plan again every year for the rest of my life 😉 .

All kidding aside, I am trying to pull myself together. Chicago is less than seven weeks out and I’ve got a PR I need to knock out!

How do you deal with doubt during a training cycle?
Have you used a training plan with split long runs?



  1. August 25, 2015 / 7:04 am

    I do use a training plan with split long runs, but I don’t really have anything to compare it with. It does alternate, a long run one weekend, a split the next. I have always been ready for the long run distance the week it comes up. But I agree, the long run makes me feel more confident and mentally prepared. It isn’t too late to add in long runs for confidence builders, maybe alternating weekends?

    • Kristina
      August 25, 2015 / 3:31 pm

      Hey Cheryl, thanks for the advice. I know the split long run plan has worked well for you which gives me confidence. I do have several long runs still planned. I’ll be doing one 20-miler before the taper, which I am sure will be a big confidence booster!

  2. August 25, 2015 / 7:44 am

    I would try not to discredit this method of training until after race day. If you finish Chicago worse than anticipated, then maybe you can look back and say “split long runs aren’t my thing.” But I think by building it up in your head that this training plan is not working for you, you are going to go into the race with the wrong attitude.

    Do you have any tune up races between now and Chicago? That might give you a chance to evaluate how your training is going, especially if you have tune up races pre-Portland to compare to.

    Of course with all of that said, I have definitely spent my fair share of time doubting myself this summer. So many runs have ended with me thinking that I am better suited to shorter distances and that I will end up walking the last 5 miles because I am just not cut out to be a marathoner. I also took a peek at last years training and saw that while my long run pace is fairly similar, my week day running appears to have slowed down quite a bit. I just keep reminding myself to trust my training.

    Hopefully after this weekend you will be feeling more confident. I know you mentioned that your cumulative mileage for the year is equal to 2014, have you compared month to month or week by week? You missed a couple weeks this spring due to your hip injury, so it is possible that you’ve been running more miles each week, even if at first glance it really doesn’t look like it.

    • Kristina
      August 25, 2015 / 3:35 pm

      Hey Heather, thanks so much for your words of wisdom. Unfortunately, the weather is so hot down here during the summer that I don’t have any tune up races planned before Chicago since our half marathon season doesn’t start until November. I didn’t run any tune up races last year either (except for one 5K in September).

      My overall mileage this year is down compared to last year since I had to take time off, but my marathon training mileage is about the same since.

      I think these last few weeks will help pick my confidence up. I know I have the 16 miler this weekend and I’ll be doing a 20-miler before the taper. Right now I just feel so out of step!

  3. August 25, 2015 / 8:54 am

    I know its tough but when you try something different but you need to trust the plan! It sounds like there is good reason for doing things the way you are this time around, and Im sure you will do great!

  4. Molly
    August 25, 2015 / 9:30 am

    I second Cheryl’s comment about trying to add-in a longer run or two! I followed a similar plan for my spring marathon, and I tacked a few miles onto the 16 mile long run a time or two just for the mental benefit. It wasn’t something I had planned long in advance, but as race day started to get closer, I really felt the need to know that I could handle a 20+ mile long run, especially since it was my first marathon and I didn’t know what to expect. I’m following the same Hanson’s plan again for my fall marathon, and honestly, I haven’t decided if I will stretch out a long run this time around, but I still have time to decide. Best of luck! You’re going to do awesome!

    • Kristina
      August 25, 2015 / 3:37 pm

      Thank you Molly! I’ll definitely add in a 20-miler before the taper. Similar to you, I really need to have one under my belt to feel truly prepared! It’s so encouraging to hear from others who have used a similar plan with success!

  5. August 25, 2015 / 9:36 am

    I think you will be fine. I know you say you are behind, but with 7 weeks to go – subtracting 3 for tapering – that leaves you with 4 weeks of build up, so you have time to do an 18 and 20 miler yet. Plus, keeping in mind that the Hansons method you’re basing your training on deemphasizes the long run in favor of higher weekly mileage – which you say has been consistent – I think you should be fine. Just try to relax.

    A lot more running experts are coming out to say that they believe marathon long runs are overrated and overemphasized in marathon training and that there are other ways to prepare your body for the demands of the marathon, such as the Hansons method of cumulative fatigue. Just try to look at the silver lining and keep putting your best foot forward. You never know what could happen. Too many of us believe that we need to have a perfect training cycle in order to achieve success, but time and time again we see this isn’t true – PRs often happen when we’re least expecting them.

    Trying something new in training is always risky, and even if it doesn’t work out in the end, at least you know better for next time. Sometimes that’s all we can hope for. Life happens and training plans don’t always go as smoothly as we anticipate. If that happens, just focus on having a good, fun race and vow to get ’em next time. But until then, don’t give up hope!

    • Kristina
      August 25, 2015 / 3:41 pm

      I am sure you are right! Thanks so much for the words of wisdom.

      My weekly mileage hasn’t climbed as high as I and my coach thought it would because of my hip, which is another cause for concern. Although I definitely feel the fatigue on my Sunday long runs. I’m looking forward to the 16 miler this weekend and then getting in a 20 at some point before the taper!

      I need to just keep my head down, finish executing the plan and keep the faith in my very smart coach who I am sure will have me prepped and ready to go on race day!

  6. August 25, 2015 / 10:42 am

    Sometimes we just have to learn as we go. Do you think you could adjust your plan at this point in time? Maybe instead of doing 16 miles this weekend, do 18? I don’t know how I would feel about the split runs either – but there is really no telling how they work until you go out there on race day. Think of this time as trial and error. At least the Chicago course is much flatter than Portland (much, much).

    You may also be feeling this way because you just got back from vacation and have been out of a routine. Perhaps once you get in a long run or great week of training, your mentality will start to shift.

    No matter what, you’ll be ready to finish those 26.2 miles in October! I have no doubt.

  7. August 25, 2015 / 2:59 pm

    I agree with others about waiting until race day before judging the plan. I can see how these things might make you anxious, but your plan was specifically created for by an experienced coach, which is huge. Maybe you could talk to your coach about these anxieties and see if she suggests a modification, like adding in a longer run?

  8. August 25, 2015 / 4:59 pm

    I think it makes sense to feel like this training method isn’t for you since long runs are your favorite and make you feel the best. I would imagine they give you the most confidence. Don’t psych yourself out about how things will end up… you may surprise yourself on race day! Either way, just remember that you are completely badass for being able to run so much 🙂

  9. August 25, 2015 / 7:16 pm

    Oh man, I understand this!! I’m running my runs way slower too, and it’s freaking me out. But maybe it means my legs will feel ready on marathon day because of all the slow runs!

    You’ll be totally prepared for Chicago…you just love your long runs and next time you need s plan that fulfills that lust haha.

    • Kristina
      August 26, 2015 / 10:15 am

      Haha yes, I’m thinking next time I’ll go back to a similar plan I used last year, alternating weekends between long runs and a shorter-long run instead of split runs.

      I hope you’re right and we can fly on race day… but my legs are definitely feeling the cumulative fatigue. I think that must mean they are getting the training they need and that I just need to work on my mental game!

  10. August 25, 2015 / 7:29 pm

    Oh, you long run elitist, you. 🙂

    Seriously, I know what you mean. 16 miles sounds A LOT longer than 14! I don’t know why???

    I am glad you are seeing your marathon plan until the end. Right now you know you don’t feel MENTALLY prepared, but when Chicago comes around, it will be the real test to see if the plan is well suited for you. If not, then you know. And there are many more marathons in the future in which you can use a different training plan.

    I understand how feeling like Chicago is the “unknown” is scary. Marathons are scary to begin with, even if you DO feel like you know what to expect.

    I had a dream about you and Ali last night. I came down to FL and you guys were ignoring me. LOL! I kept thinking, “Why don’t they like me?” lol

    • Kristina
      August 26, 2015 / 10:17 am

      You can’t sit with us.


      I can’t wait for December, we’re going to have so much fun!

      … and yes, why does 16 sounds like it’s a million miles longer than 14? I mean, babies run 14 miles. I need an adult sized long run!

  11. August 26, 2015 / 10:06 am

    You wrote everything I am feeling! I missed my 16 (and I feel the same way….16 just seems…”real”) so I’ve only gotten to 14 this year (I think last year I was in a similar predicament b/c of work / vacation, but I had an extra month for NY to “catch up”). I think after this weekend we will both feel better (my plan calls for 18).

    • Kristina
      August 26, 2015 / 10:19 am

      I think you’re right. Once we get in a couple of “real” long runs we’ll feel so much better! On the brightside, even if the race doesn’t go according to plan, it’s still going to be a fun weekend! Can’t wait to meet up with you in CHICAGO!

  12. August 26, 2015 / 3:30 pm

    Ouch – I hate doubt in training! You have/had a coach help you with this plan, if I remember correctly? Have you talked with her about your concerns and seen if she can help you with adjusting the plan a bit? Part of a training plan is to have “confidence boosting” workouts, so if you’re not getting that feeling, you should work together to figure out what will make you feel more comfortable.

  13. August 26, 2015 / 4:34 pm

    I’m so excited for you to run Chicago! I know it doesn’t help, but doubts are par for the course in marathon training, especially when the goal is in sight. I’ve never heard of the Hansen’s method but so curious now to see what that’s all about.

  14. August 26, 2015 / 4:48 pm

    I’m kind of in the same boat as you, but I haven’t even run a marathon yet, so I’m double freaking out because I’ve barely run in almost 3 weeks due to injury and my marathon is about 10 weeks away. SO, my advice based on our kind of similar but not really situations is to ONLY focus your energy on things you can change at this point. There is absolutely zero good that is going to come from thinking what you COULD have done, but only focusing on what you can do now. Even if it is throwing in an extra mile or two here and there, it can help build your confidence. Also, you still have plenty of time to tackle an 18 or 20 miler, which will definitely give you some stress relief. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with adjusting goals and plans. Life throws us curveballs that we didn’t know were coming when we sat down months ago to draw out our training plan, and luckily there is always room for flexibility. Don’t be too hard on yourself, you are going to do great no matter what, and a little extra worry and stress just means that you care, which is never a bad thing!!

  15. August 26, 2015 / 5:43 pm

    I totally get where your stress and anxiety is coming from. The whole split long run thing would make me feel like I wasn’t preparing properly either BUT on the other side of things if the research is true and it could save you from potential injury then I think it would be a great training plan! I didn’t get injured until I started running my higher-mileage training runs during my marathon training and if I could’ve prevented injury by doing this I would’ve done it in a heartbeat. I think I’ve said this before but I don’t think I know anyone who is more dedicated to your training plan and tracking everything than you are. You got this girl!!!!

  16. August 26, 2015 / 9:48 pm

    Great….now I’m nervous lol. I get this way after every single bad run. You have to let it go and get after the next one. For you, take it one run at a time, you’re looking at the big picture when,you should focus on executing each run the best you can. Narrow your vision to the task at hand. Regardless you are going to do great.

  17. August 27, 2015 / 10:08 am

    I have soooooo been in your shoes. I pretty much freak out that I’m “not ready” until the moment I cross that starting line, no matter what plan I do, haha. I’m trying a little bit of a different approach this time around, also — scale-back weeks in between every long run, which I’ve never done before, and I’ve also been keeping the pace a little easier than previous training cycles (especially given the heat right now).

    It can be a little nerve-wracking to try something new, but IMHO, I think you should just go with it. Vacations can totally throw things off, but you’re getting back to business and, yes, a 16-miler is nothing to sneeze at! Chicago is going to be AMAZING, and you really won’t know until race day whether your plan worked for you. Personally, I think you’re going to kill it…you’ll nail your PR, and you’ll look back and laugh about all the stress and anxiety you had! 🙂

  18. August 27, 2015 / 10:52 am

    Thanks for the good laugh on the cat pictures!! I know the feeling. I’m not sure anyone ever feels fully prepared for a marathon, do they?? Well, maybe those really fast runners 🙂 My race is coming up in almost 2 weeks and I just found a babysitter for my kids (it’s an overnight “destination” race). Ugh. Not sure I’m ready to tackle 26.2 miles again, but it’s going to happen. But then again, if you didn’t have that nervousness the race really wouldn’t be a big deal – and it is! Chicago will be awesome, you will conquer!!