The 11 week marathon experiment – The finish line!

Race day has come and gone, and there’s no other way to categorize the 11 week marathon experiment as a success! While it seemed like a borderline crazy idea 77 days ago, and I had my doubts a few times along the way as the mileage ramped up, I started the race strong, got to the finish line without duress, and a few days post race, feel like my legs are starting to come back to normalcy.


Better yet, our little group of five who gathered in Rochester to run the marathon fully met and embraced the moment. All five of us crossed the finish line! One qualified for Boston…two crossed for the first time…and two finished marathon number three. It was only because my friend had decided to make this her bucket list, one and done, marathon moment that the 11 week experiment even started. So seeing her cross the finish line, even more than crossing myself, was really the highlight of the day!

Looking back on the whole process, though it was considerably different than the way I trained the first two times, there were also some considerable benefits to doing it the way I did.

First, it’s important to note this is probably not a great first time training plan. If you don’t know what to expect of the distance, or you don’t have a strong level of fitness to begin with, trying to ramp up distance volume that way is not only unwise, it’s probably also unsafe. It’s also not a great way to build speed. My third marathon was slower than both my previous races. That said, I also felt better at the finish line in this most recent race compared to my last in 2014…and in the world of distance running, sometimes trading speed for comfort is a very good swap!

Second, I can’t emphasize the importance of training the mental component of the sport. When I cut the physical training routine in half for this race, I figured I’d have to double the sports psychology routine. I can’t speak highly enough about the books I wrote about previously, all of which I either read or re-read in gearing up and getting motivated for this run.

The absolute best piece of takeaway advice from my mental preparation was setting cascading goals. The premise is simple. When people set a singular goal, there may come a point in which they can’t reach it under the current circumstances. In that moment, forced to give up the goal, many people lose motivation and may even drop out, or feel like a failure at the finish line instead of celebrating the moment as an accomplishment. When you set cascading goals, you start by setting a goal that would be the absolute best case scenario. Then you set a secondary goal which would still feel like an accomplishment if the first becomes unattainable. Then a third that could be pursued after that. So for this race, my goal flow looked like this:

  1. Finish in under 4:52 (my Chicago time in 2014)
  2. Finish in under 5 hours
  3. Run the final mile
  4. Run across the finish line
  5. Just finish!

Through the first 21 miles of the race, I was on a good pace to come in around 4:52, but mile 21 included a long stretch of uphill that was obviously going to slow me down. A second great piece of advice I got this go around was to do what you need to in the present to make sure you cross the finish line in the future. In the moment, it made the most sense to walk the hill…which I did. However, in doing so, I also knew I dropped too much time off my pace to come in under 4:52. Instead of getting disappointed that I wouldn’t make that first goal, I immediately switched to the second. With five miles in front of me, that new goal was still out in front of me, and when I crossed at 4:57:13, I wasn’t disappointed it wasn’t under 4:52, I was thrilled it was under 5:00!

Finally, sometimes it’s just worth it to do things…whatever it takes. When I first thought about training for the race, I wondered if it would be worth doing if I couldn’t train like I was used to and couldn’t train to run the way that I had five years ago. I didn’t know if I’d be able to convince myself that the run/walk combo was the best idea or if I’d like doing it once I started training. Still, when we all finally stood at the finish line together, I could not have imagined not being there. Whether we ran it, walked it, or a combination of both, we’d all started at the same line, and we’d all crossed the same finish, and it was worth it to stand there and have been part of it…whatever it took in 11 weeks to get there!

The next 11 weeks will be house building, and summertime, and rental properties, and many other bigs things I’m sure, because I know now that 11 weeks is enough time to do a lot! Do something big with yours! And make sure to tell me about it! 🙂


Published by Kate

A former Wisconsinite, Kate now resides in southeast Minnesota with her husband where she teaches high school English and theater. She recently completed her master's degree in learning design and technology, and continues to study and advocate for arts integration in the classroom. A recipient of the RISE America grant for high school theater, Kate is working to innovate and expand theater opportunities for the students at PIHS. An avid distance runner, concert pianist, and want-to-be wine aficionado, Kate's blog "ink." is a passion project, embodying all the best parts of life: friends, food, wine, thoughtful conversation, style, and sass!

5 thoughts on “The 11 week marathon experiment – The finish line!

  1. I listen almost exclusively to podcasts when I run/train. I find a conversation keeps me dialed in and focused on something and keeps my mind off the distance.


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