Today's countdown to the 2013 LA Marathon: 139 days, or twenty weeks from today.
Long way to go it may seem, especially since last year's prep for my first marathon consisted of "Hmm maybe I can do this" point of inspiration (which could have very possibly turned into foolish disaster) in December 2011, with only 13 weeks to go.
At that time, my running history consisted of irregular but generally 2-3 times weekly runs of no more than 4 miles each, and all indoors. With a free "Rookie Plan" from Runners World in hand, I began a buildup in speed and distance that included a variety of intervals and tempo runs.
I was lucky to have avoided major injury setbacks throughout the relative crash-course preparation. My goals were modest: to finish, and to do it under 4 hours. I was able to just barely eke out both, coming in just under the 4-hour time (3:57:17, and that's not "Paul Ryan modified") despite a late-miles slowdown by pains coming from places I had no idea would be hurting (undoubtedly a result of lowish total miles in my plan and experience as a rookie runner).
Fortunately, I survived the "why not" experience that could have easily turned into a disastrous crash-and-burn and marred the entire aspiration as another "never again" dark episode, and actually enjoyed it enough to have maintained my running. I ran a couple of shorter races in the spring and summe, and the results indicated I was still improving. This is not a sign that I am some latent Ryan Hall material: it makes sense that I could still be improving in my fitness even at the ripe old age of 42 (43 by the next marathon) because I had just begun to work on running on a regular basis as of about one year ago, after years of inactivity. However, it is definitely nice to log faster paces and feel stronger overall, compared to just a year ago.
This year, I plan to use the training plan from Hansons Marathon Method, with some variations. I have read the Hansons book along with Pete Pfizinger's Advanced Marathoning and believe I can combine some features of the two to come up with a plan for my needs: for example, I plan on doing the longer of the long runs in the Hansons method at marathon goal pace (a Pfitzinger method's feature), and on those weeks I might slow down the marathon goal pace "tempo" runs scheduled in the Hansons method. I will be going into this training at a different level: more miles per week, faster overall paces, and a higher expectation (3:35-3:40 finish time?). I am also making an effort to do all my runs outdoors.
Knowing that one could finish a marathon is a big step: I know now that cliché is completely true. However, the marathon distance is long and daunting enough that failure to finish is always possible, even with the most robust preparations. From beginners like me to Olympic marathon elites, that looming potential of doom is what keeps every marathon runner humble.