5 Weeks to Marathon (5W2M) – My Thoughts

A note from the non-sentimental, swear-I’m-not-being-sarcastic-this-time author :

THANK YOU, EVERYONE ONE OF YOU.  Your comments – before the race, on the live updates, and now after – mean SO much to me.  The world would be a better place if everyone was as awesome as all of you.  Maybe we can all chip in for a private island and live happy ever after together?  I’ll bring the Snickers and the beer…

Today’s workout consists of an all-day arms strength session.  That would be me heave-ho’ing my body into and out of  my desk chair, since my legs can do nothing but produce lactic acid and yell at me for the time being.

I say “Shut up, legs – remember what we did yesterday?  IT WAS AWESOME.  Let’s go get some froyo.

In the meantime, a final wrap up on my 5 Weeks to Marathon Plan


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Now, I don’t want to tell you that Hal Higdon, Runner’s World, and the entire science of Physiology is a total crock of shit, but ummm… well yeah, that’s kind of what I’m going to tell you.





I should first brag mention that I’m a pretty naturally athletic person.

Second, it should be noted that I did not go from “zero” to “marathon” in 5 weeks.  Almost, but not quite.

December 5th I ran the Rock n Roll Vegas Half.  I took the next two months “off” – spent a lot of time on the elliptical, light weight lifting, and getting into yoga.   Ran a few times a week, usually 3 or 4 miles at a time, focusing on getting my “fast legs” back.  (read : mile repeats, tempo runs, want-to-puke workouts)





On February 7th, I randomly knocked out 10 miles and got the distance itch again.  That weekend I ran a Half and nearly PR’d.

5th in Division

The next day I found out I won Lea‘s giveaway for a free entry to the LA Marathon (courtesy of Salon Pas, one of the race sponsors).  And so, the 5 Weeks to Marathon challenge was born.





I knew a shortened training schedule would be in my favor for one simple reason – I’m injury prone.  Marathon Attempts #1 & #2 were both sucker-punched by sudden injuries during Week 14 of my 16 week plan (Runner’s World Break 4 or Bust)  Summary of said injuries is on this post.

With a decent cardio base but lacking in the endurance department, I made sure every run MATTERED.  There were no “junk runs” built into my plan.  I also made sure to keep low-impact cross-training and yoga a priority.





There were a few skipped or shortened weekday runs.  I’m human.  I’m moody.  I don’t love running more than I do sleeping, beer, or sitting on my couch eating trail mix.  It happens.  Rules were made for breaking, right?

But MORE THAN ANYTHING, I made sure to get those Long Runs in every week.  I knew I could sprint and stretch and bike to my heart’s VO2 Max content, but if my body wasn’t used to being upright and moving for a long period of time, I’d never survive the marathon.

Despite quite a few hurdles – including a very boozey business trip and my first time snowboarding – I hit those long runs with more determination than anything.  They were hard.  Going from 4 miles to 15 miles in two weeks is NOT EASY.  I almost threw myself into the bay on a number of occasions, but the miles got logged.





By my last training run, I was in a weird place mentally.  I was excited to be finally racing injury-free, and I was confident that I’d dont mostly everything in my power to get ready.  But I was never nervous.  Which kind of freaked me out.

I’m guessing it was because I only had 5 weeks invested, rather than the typical FOUR MONTHS people take to prepare.  That’s a ton of real estate to put on a single race.  I’ve always said being an Olympic Athlete would be the hardest thing, because you train and you train, and your ONE CHANCE to make those dreams come true only comes every four years.  And then it’s over, just like that.

Since 99.9% of us will never know what it’s like competing in the Olypics, I guess the marathon can be our stand in.  At a 1:12 scale.  (you know, because 4 months =/= 4 years?)



   (horrific weather not accounted for)


I ran smart this race.  I started modestly, took fuel before I felt I needed it, and didn’t chase.  I kept a check on my form and made sure to proactively correct anything getting wonky.  You do those things, and I don’t care how much training you’ve done, you’re giving yourself a fighting chance.

Around mile 10 I started getting worried.  I was battling some negative thoughts and starting to succomb to the idea that I wasn’t ready.  Everytime I thought “How am I going to run xx more miles?!” or “Ugh my legs feel like lead” or “I have to walk, there’s no way I can run another step” I answered back with :

You’re out here.  You’re doing it.  You said you would, now DO IT.  You’re healthy.  You were given this opportunity and you are CAPABLE.  Just shut up and keep running!

(There were different levels of rudeness and some name-calling during a few of those chats, but that’s the jist)

Other than talking to myself  (this might be vain) ((don’t care)), everytime I passed someone or someone stopped to walk, I relished in the pride that I was still moving.  ‘I am strong enough for this’, I told myself.  It kept me going.

I took ibuprofen at mile 20 which GREATLY helped my achiness.  I don’t take pain meds for everyday aches for this very reason  –  I want it to work when I need it to most.  Battling through all those migraines was so worth the relief for those last 6.2 miles.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Yes, my legs were tired.  Yes, if I’d trained harder or longer I probably wouldn’t have had to walk up those two hills.  Yes, I probably could have broken 4 hours.  Do I have any reservations about what I did?


For my next training cycle (YES, there will be another marathon in my future!) I’ll add another week or two onto the plan.  Having a couple extra long runs under my belt would definitely be beneficial, but for injury-prevention I’m definitely keeping it under 8 weeks.

Conclusion?  No/Short-Train Racing is definitely a keeper.  My old-lady joints and new PR say so :)

Sarah Soon-To-Be

Obviously these are my personal opinions – based on my own experience, my own body, my own capabilities.  I encourage anybody considering an alternative training plan to take a SERIOUS mental check of their fitness levels and physical conditions.  Oh and consult a doctor?  Isn’t that what they say at the end of those exercise infomercials???


28 thoughts on “5 Weeks to Marathon (5W2M) – My Thoughts

  1. You totally rocked it! I think it’s important that we each find out own best way to train. If this works for you, go for it. We can’t all use the same training plan and expect the same results. Different bodies, different schedules, different fueling – it takes all kinds :)


  2. Hey you didn’t post that finish line photo of you soaked to the bones. You did great! Sometimes less is more.

    I’m still disappointed that I didn’t win that Honda. Maybe next year! ;)


  3. Great post! I’m starting marathon training this summer and considered shortened training because running in the Florida heat is no joke. But since I’ve never done a full before, I can’t decide if I should suck it up or not and just do the 4 1/2 months through the local running shop we have here.


  4. You are a rock star! Everybody is so different & has different time demands, body capabilities, and cardio capacity. This clearly worked for you because your time was amazing! So impressed. Love that you’re planning to do another one! Can’t wait to see another modified training plan.


  5. Can you be my coach if/when I finally decide to run a marathon? I like your track record.

    Running a marathon is on my bucket list.

    Seriously, you did a great job and I’m really proud of you. No whining, no excuses…you’re there and you did it! AND the most important part….you stayed healthy, and injury free :)

    See ya soon


  6. Dude, I can’t believe you ran a 15 minute PR in a downpour. My dad said they had to treat runners for hypothermia. We missed nearly all of it except this morning. It was started snowing around 7:30am at the Grand Canyon and we decided, since we couldn’t see the canyon anymore, to bail. Saw three spun out cars in the little 40 mile stretch to the 40 freeway.


  7. you’re amazing. I mean it. I loved following your tweets and posts throughout 5W2M, and really? a 15 minute PR with the torrential rain you ran in? amazing. SO proud of you (yes, all the way from the midwest, and I’m not a creeper, I promise ;)).


  8. You go girl. Me and my shit-tastic ankle gave up junk runs too, and I effing love only running 3 or 4 times a week. Here’s hoping your next marathon doesn’t include soul soaking rain and you’ll break the 4 hour mark without a doubt.


  9. I have to say, my marathon PR is on a similar system. I was training for a marathon that was further off, but, then I suddenly decided that I was so close to the mileage anyways, that I should just do it. I signed up for it 4 weeks out. I probably had more of a base at the time (long runs were 10-12), but, it was still a very quick training cycle where I had to really kick it into gear. I didn’t have time to get hurt. Ha! It was HARD, I won’t lie, but, I ran a great race. I think shorter training cycles, once you’ve done a marathon or two are easiest. Obviously, I wouldn’t say this about someone who wasn’t a dedicated runner or who was going after their first 26.2!


  10. you are awesome!!! Come to the east coast and run a marathon with me. Atlantic City Marathon in October. Then we will booze and gamble. Sound good? great see ya then :)


  11. You did soo great Sarah!! Good job for enduring those last few miles!! I know that those are ALWAYS the hardest!! “Survival of the Fittest!!” Get ready to set a new PR for your next marathon…’cuz you will do it!! :)



  12. To be fair, it sounds like truth in advertising out of the “Runner’s World Break 4 or Bust”. You didn’t break 4 those times, so there’s only one option left!

    That said, I think the bigger thing is that you took this training plan as a means to an end, and took some of the pressure off yourself to push the envelope, which gave you the chance to run smart. I hope I can do the same with my own running. Congrats on 5W2M success, and I’ll put in a good word with the space program for that 5W2MOON thing.


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  19. I’m training for a marathon in 5 weeks too. I am running my first marathon on my 15th birthday. I just ran a half-marathon practice run yesterday and ran that in 1:32:25 ! I am currently training for the 2016 Olympics. Thanms for posting this article. Now I know I can run a marathon with 5 weeks training!



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