Humbled by Los Angeles Marathon

A certified fitness trainer learns the hard way that training to run a marathon is serious business.

   By James S. Fell, Special to the Los Angeles Times

For a recreational runner, there’s no rite of passage as masochistic as running a marathon. We ache for the battle scars: chafing, blisters and psychosis brought on by trying to figure out how to use the GPS watch that’s supposed to be a training aid.

I’ve run several 10Ks but never more than 10 miles in one outing. Just before Christmas, I decided to make the leap to get that marathon monkey off my back.  On Sunday, I’ll be one of the 23,000 people running from Dodger Stadium to the Santa Monica Pier in the Los Angeles Marathon.

I fantasized about finishing in under four hours, which runners would consider respectable for a middle-aged guy like me. But since this was just for fun, I didn’t stress about the training. There are marathon coaches, running clubs and articles that provide detailed training schedules — for regular folks. As a certified fitness professional, I figured I was fully qualified to put one foot in front of the other. How hard could it be?

Plenty hard, it turns out.

My running schedule was based on two simple ideas: Add distance incrementally and push hard. The goal was to build up to 22 miles by early March, then ease off for the final two weeks before the race to give my body a chance to recover. To augment the distance training, I planned to keep my conditioning up with a few comparatively short 9- to 12-mile runs each week. Weight training would change to boost endurance: lighter loads and higher reps.

But things didn’t go according to plan.

Here’s how my training actually progressed (then regressed): Click link to read full story at the LA Times website:,0,5031047.story