Everyone’s Guide to Running a Marathon

Cover of "Marathon: You Can Do It!"
Cover of Marathon: You Can Do It!

Feel the delightful ecstasy of running 26.2 miles. It’s time to Lose Weight, Get Fit & Healthy this Summer training for a marathon. It’s an agonizingly long, long, long distance, even for veterans. But it’s not impossible, every year, seventy year old grandma’s and middle aged managers cross the finish line. It’s not easy, but it’s achievable. If you can walk and jog a mile, you can run a marathon.

Here’s a quick beginner’s guide with a training plan to get you started:

Google Marathons & Pick One

Just enter the following search:

marathon (your city, your state)

Check the date of the race. For a first timer, you should give yourself at least 2 1/2 to 3 months to train. If you already run 20 + miles a week, you might be able to skate by with a little less than two months of training.

Register for the Marathon

This is the big trick. It’s super easy, yet very challenging.  The alarm whistles in you head will scream, the butterflies in your stomach will flitter about, but it doesn’t matter. Whenever you’re terrified and thrilled at the same time, it’s always a good sign. Realize that in a single keystroke, you can overcome your doubts, blasting out the weakness with a single solid action, an action that officially puts you on the path to fitness and health, taking you one step closer finishing the gold standard of endurance: the marathon!

Use Jeff Galloway’s Free & Easy Marathon Training Plan

This is your first marathon, don’t waste time searching for complicated marathon training plans, just  use Jeff Galloway’s Marathon Training Plan. It is free, easy; safe enough for your seventy year old grandma and challenging enough for a Boston Qualifier. Jeff uses walk breaks and despite what you may think, WALKING IS NOT CHEATING. The walk breaks give your body time to recover and make the longer run much more enjoyable. Also, the breaks don’t slow you down as much as you think. This plan is also very merciful with your busy schedule: you’ll only running about three times a week, and two of those days are thirty minute sessions, which means that you only really need to carve out one day for you long runs. I trained for my first marathon while I was working three part-time jobs. One of my jobs required a two hour commute, yet I was able to hit all of my runs. If I can do it, so can you!

If you signed up for a marathon: Congratulations!!! You’re on the path health and wellness and soon you’ll have a medal hanging your wall, attesting to your athletic prowess, making you one of the elite 5% of Americans with enough vigor to endure the gratifying ordeal that is the marathon.

Boring Marathon

Boring Marathon Oregon Barefoot
Barefoot runner Boring Oregon Marathon

It was a strenuous route and it was not designed for barefoot runners–photo shows the GOOD GROUND. In fact, I was the only one crazy enough to tackle the rugged roads in my 4mm Xero Shoes–known to everyone else as “flip flops.” My heart leapt when the first notes of the Star Spangled Banner drifted out. It was sung high school sophomore girl with braces. As soon as the song ended, the horn blasted. We started off at the Barlow High School Track, then ran on the scabrous, mountainous roads for about six miles until we reached Boring Oregon. Once we got to Boring, we ran for 7 or so miles on the lovely and thankfully mostly level and smoothly paved Spring Water Trail. We had to cross to two busy streets, luckily the volunteers were there pressing the buttons to get us safely across. Luckily, I only got caught at one light. And I wasn’t there very long.

The aid stations were great and the volunteers were all in top form handing out water or electrolytes and saying, “Looking good. Keep it up! You’ve got this!” I appreciated the encouragement immensely, especially  when facing the last set of grueling hills at mile 22. Despite the painful twitches and spasms firing through my quads and calves and sheer exhaustion, I carried on and achieved my goal of sub four hour marathon. I managed to come in 3rd for my age division, 6th for the men’s division, and 8th overall.

I will be back next year for sure (They’re adding a 50K ultra)!!!!

Huckleberry Half Marathon Barefoot

Barefoot Runner with Bigfoot Huckleberry Half Marathon Welches Oregon
Barefoot Runner with Bigfoot Huckleberry Half Marathon Welches Oregon

This morning (August 8th) I think I became the first person to run Huckleberry Half marathon in Welches Oregon with 4mm sandals. Whether I was the first person to run the event barefoot or not, I received an awesome Wooden Bigfoot Medal–it’s dangling around my neck in the photo and had a lot of fun.

What a great event! No one said anything about sandals until we hit the streets. Thankfully, a majority of the comments were positive.

Things people said to me as ran. “You’re a beast” (in a good way). “That guy’s wearing flip-flops.” “All the crazies are passing us!” (To which I replied, the key phrase is “PASSING!”) “Let’s catch the guy in flip-flips.” (His friend’s reply, “I’m trying, but I can’t.” And neither of them did. I dropped them on one of the many hills.)

Although scampering across the streets in barefoot sandals made me a celebrity, it also took its toll on my feet. After three miles, I discovered why no one else wore minimalist footwear: the Huckleberry Half is NOT a barefoot friendly route! The streets are  long slabs of jagged, gritty gravel.  The roads climb slowly then level for a short distance then fall again, then climb again, then climb some more, the result is a route that never takes its fangs from your legs. My quads and calves are still sizzling from the lactic acid and my tender feet and toes are battered from the ragged asphalt. It didn’t help that I hammered  my left heel on a rock the first mile. The 13.1 miles were a struggle. The run was much more challenging than I expected and my time was much slower than I anticipated. But it was well worth it.

The volunteers and other runners were fantastic. I‘ll be back next year, even it’s just for the novelty of having teenage cheerleaders swish their pom poms in the air as I cross the finish line. BTW, I ran it in 1 hour 40 minutes 56 seconds.

The twenty seventh day of marathon training

Got up at six and ran six miles at slow lumbering pace. My right foot was still a little tender from my weekend fifteen miler. Thankfully, my marathon training schedule has me running lightly this week, thank God.

Boring Marathon Training Day 13

I bought a blueberry pie at the Sandy Mountain Festival. There’s a story about the pies. But I’ll tell it another time.

Today was a day of rest. I did Pilates, ate some pie, went to work, and thought about the earth. I’ll post about that some other time as well.

Tomorrow is a run day.

How Bigfoot Made Me Run a Boring Marathon

Awesome laser cut Huckleberry Half Marathon Bigfoot medal
Awesome laser cut Huckleberry Half Marathon Bigfoot medal

I usually don’t like organized running races. Mostly because I consider running to be a solitary sport. I always run alone. This year, however, I’m making an exception for I am entering two races. The first is the Welches Huckleberry Half in August. This looks like a super fun race because Bigfoot will be there! And every finisher gets a fancy laser-cut medal!

Boring Oregon where I'll run 26.2 miles barefoot.
Boring Oregon where I’ll run 26.2 miles barefoot.

The other race I’m running this year is the fantastically obscure Boring Marathon. Why the Boring Oregon Marathon and not the World Famous Portland Oregon Marathon? First of all, Portland is forty five minutes away from me, Boring is only fifteen minutes away. Second, Boring is a fun place to run. One racer from Boring wrote: “I was out running in the area the other day and a goat from a local farm came out and ran with me for about half a mile.” How could any barefoot runner resist that? I drive through Boring Oregon every Sunday on my way to work. It’s a cute and quirky town with lots of open space farms and fields. There’s children’s theater house that also hosts terrible local events. One time they held a “Craft Fair.” Aside from a few homemade candies that didn’t smell fresh and some handmade cards that didn’t look original, there were no crafts to speak of. At one of the booths a homeless looking woman spread out all of the junk from her shopping cart: hubcaps, filthy plates with cracks and chips, a broken blender with rusty mixer blades, torn dresses with weird stains, smelly sneakers with holes in them, and other unusable, unsalable items.

But this post isn’t about homeless women at craft fairs. It’s about joining the running community, shod and unshod alike. As I train my powerful feet for the upcoming races, I will do my best to pretend that this is actually a blog about barefoot running and will post my training updates daily.

BTW, I’m shooting for a modest 3 hour 45 min.ish finish for the marathon (as long as I break four hours, I’ll be happy). I don’t have a target time for the Hucklberry Half Marathon. I’m running that one solely for the Bigfoot medal–every finisher gets one.

3 Reasons to Join the Barefoot Running Revoltion

Gustave Doré's illustration to Dante's Inferno...
Gustave Doré's illustration to Dante's Inferno. Plate I: Canto I, Opening lines (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the middle of my training for a barefoot half marathon, I discovered that the old path was lost. Though I did NOT awaken in a dark wood, new thoughts splashed through the volatile chemical cocktail of my mind. The sexy electronic voice of the RunKeeper lady announced, “Time: blah blah minutes, blah blah Seconds. Distance: blah blah miles.” When she finished speaking, the adolescent voice of a blue haired, nose ringed teenage boy filled the void.

“Hey, where are your shoes guy?”

If you have read this blog at all, you will know those words bring out the Hulk in me. I created a podcast and wrote some posts about some of my kick-ass comebacks to that annoying question. (On New Years, I came close to punching a jerk who kept harassing me during my morning run.) But I ignored teenager this time. As he stood there blinking, his mouth slightly agape, I took a deep sip of the crisp Oregon air and realized that barefoot running has taught me three crucial lessons about my world.

  1. The same terrain isn’t always the same.
    The ever changing textures and temperature that the same patch of ground offers amazes me. The same route offers many varied delights that change according to the time of day, the weather, and the stride. Shod runners completely miss the world of sensations beneath their feet.
  2. Crossing Comfort Zones Can Make Some People Cross.
    When most adults see barefoot runners, they tend to assume that there is something wrong with the barefoot runner, not with their world view. Because they can’t run without shoes or or because they know nothing about barefoot running, they assume that what is true for them should be true for everyone else. That said, I have had interesting conversations with people who were genuinely interested in barefoot running. Breaking out of the comfort zone is good for your sole (Yes, I totally abuse that homophone). Every success I’ve enjoyed forced me to step outside the cozy prison of comfort.
  3. I’m much stronger than I think.
    When my gaze hits the rough concrete before it gently lands on my feet, I marvel that my body can withstand the impacts of the unforgiving concrete. But it does. My feet, in fact, thrive on the hard pavement. I find it’s easier to run on asphalt than it is to run on the graveled part of the Tickle Creek Trail. Of course, the asphalt is not as soft as mud or grass, but it’s relatively comfortable, when your soles are up for it.
If you’ve never tried running without shoes, give it a try. Here are some resources to get started safely:
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