Long Runs, Tapering and Final Marathon Prep

I’m running the San Francisco Marathon this Sunday.

It sounds so oddly nonchalant as a weekend activity – like I’ve decided to watch a movie or have brunch with a friend. When I hear the words come out, it sometimes feels like someone else is saying them.

I’ve known this day was coming for a while, but it’s still surreal to have it finally be here.

Long Runs

The last few weeks of training since the Lake Chabot Half Marathon have gone pretty well. I followed the PR Race Plan Jason Fitzgerald of Strength Running put together for me and it’s been great. Building up the distance beyond the half marathons has been hard – especially early on, the last few miles of every run were really tough on my feet.

Over time, I’ve come to enjoy these 2+, 3+ hour runs and completing them have helped me gain confidence in my ability to finish. Here are my last few weekend long runs (with links to Runkeeper):

I was pretty bummed to miss the 20 miler. After having a tough long run in New York and splitting up the distance in the next run, I was looking forward to testing myself in my final big long run. Unfortunately, I started feeling pretty crappy starting Friday morning (aches, weakness) that I knew trying to push myself that weekend would have been foolish.

Tapering and Final Prep

It feels weird to run so little after running so much, but the two week taper is an important part of my training plan. I realized the marathon actually starts around 5:42 am for me, which means I need to get up around 4:30am. Since I normally sleep around 1am, I’ve been sleeping earlier and earlier to prepare my body for this early morning race.

I also got some last minute gear for the race:

  • a Camelbak water bottle with a handle so I can just palm it
  • Gu gels to keep me fueled up during the run
  • a sweatband to keep my eyes stinging over ~4 hours
  • new injinji socks to keep my feet blister-free

The most important preparation left is all mental. I have a good friend and former teammate who was planning to pace me for the 2nd half of the race, but I just got a call from him saying he might have broken his elbow in a biking accident so who knows.

Either way, I know that my mental game has to be totally on point for this race to be a success. I want to break 4 hours, which means running 9:09 mins/mi for 26.2 miles straight, having never run more than 16 miles in one go.

Intellectually I understand that most first-time marathoners never run the full distance before the race, and that their long runs are slower than race pace, but the gymnast in me, which is used to practicing something tons of times before competing, is a little thrown off.

Still, I have to trust that my training has put me in a good place. My feet getting hot/sore on long runs no longer seems to be a limiting factor and the SF hills are no longer intimidating after 3 races and a collective 33 miles run on far hillier trails.

All that’s left to do is to run my race. And I plan to do exactly that. Wish me the best and I’ll do a full recap after the marathon!

Photo Credit: HalfMarathons.net

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Jason Shen

Jason is a tech entrepreneur and talent expert. He is CEO of a performance hiring platform called Headlight, a Fast Company contributor, and an advocate for Asian American men. Follow him on Twitter at @jasonshen and subscribe to his private newsletter.

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  1. Good luck, Jason! It’s going to be quite an experience no matter what. In my first marathon (Pittsburgh 2003), I had a target of 3:30, and I made it halfway in exactly 1:45, but things started getting weird around mile 16 (muscle twitches that led to periodic cramping of my quads and calves the rest of the way), and well, I had to adapt to reality, but finished in 3:53 or something. We don’t know exactly what will happen in your marathon, but whatever happens, accept, adapt, and fight to the end!

    •  @franklinchen Thanks Franklin! This is my first time so it’s a total adventure and I’ll be excited to finish no matter what my final time is. Definitely ready to adjust to any situation.

  2. I’m super bummed that I’m not going to be running this tomorrow, but it was a lot of fun training alongside you and almost running myself to death at Lake Chabot. I know you’ll do great and just make sure to stay hydrated, keep a good pace and concentrate on keeping good form once your legs get a little wobbly. I can’t to hear how it goes and congrats on knocking out all of the training up to this point. This is going to be awesome — enjoy it!

  3. Hey Jason, I wish you a lot of luck in your run! I’ve ran two marathons myself a few years ago and I have the following tips/suggestions.

    -Get a massage ASAP right after the race. They usually have them on site or I would have an appointment for right after the race. It will cut your recovery time in half and will make the pain bearable for the days following the race.

    -Layer your toes in Vaseline. It feels REALLY weird but it will prevent any rashes from forming throughout your run.

    -Bask in all of the free giveaways. I loved all of the smoothies and fruit I ate afterwards. =P

    -Have someone drive you/pick you up from the event. My hips were in soo much pain after running my first marathon that I could barely walk. You’ll be so happy when you don’t have to exert any energy to do anything after running.

    -Dont forget to drink your protein after the race. You did just have a workout. =P

    Again I wish you a lot of fun in your race. I hope you “find” yourself sometime during your race, I did. I’d be more than happy to talk more about prepping for the event.


  4. Congrats on the training!  I love distance running and used to go out for  a good 4-5 hour run at least one weekend a month for a long time.  Living in Beijing for a couple of years pretty much ended my running habit and I got way out of shape but now that I’m in SF I’ve begun to get back into it.
    Out of curiosity, where do you do your long runs?  SF being so ridiculously hilly is great for doing intervals, but I’ve been a bit hesitant to try doing long runs with too many!

  5. <blockquote>”Intellectually I understand that most first-time marathoners never run the full distance before the race, and that their long runs are slower than race pace, but the gymnast in me, which is used to practicing something tons of times before competing, is a little thrown off.”</blockquote>
    Interesting.  I guess maybe that’s because of how popular marathons have become for non-runners.  I’m completely the opposite though.  I’ve probably run marathon or greater distances at least 50 times, but I’ve never raced or really pushed myself.  It was more about getting out in nature and enjoying the trees and the meditative aspect of the run.  I suppose I do (did) often go faster on some days, particularly for the last hour or so when it was hard to hold myself back, but I always tried not to go fast or push my pulse over about 145BPM on the longer runs.
    I did my fair share of 5k races, though.  Once in a while I entertain thoughts of getting back in shape and trying to log in another sub-15 minute race before I’m too old to do it again (early 30’s now).

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