Training for my Best Marathon Time

I started running as a way to take a mental break from the long hours in classes and reading textbooks during my pre-clinical years in medical school. I joined the school running group and signed up for my first half-marathon. I hobbled to the finish line as hundreds of people passed me in the final three miles – from teenagers to runners well into their 70s. I was hooked. This was 10 years ago. In the following years, I read every running book and watched every documentary – great or “terrible” as my wife would put it – I could get my hands on Roger Bannister’s “The Four Minute Mile,” “Once a Runner” by John L. Parker, and “Iron War: Dave Scott, Mark Allen, and the Greatest Race Ever Run” by Matt Fitzgerald are some of the books that come to mind and still motivate me.

Like many people who discovered running as a hobby later in life, I saw my times gradually improve as I stuck to my training plans and became a more seasoned runner. Five years ago, as I was starting my 2nd year of residency training, I ran my best time in a marathon (3 hr 17 min) in Eugene, Oregon.

It turns out, long days, countless hours of sitting and standing in the hospital and innumerable missed training runs have a negative effect on running and recovery. Injuries caught up with me (ie. plantar fasciitis, recurrent hip pain during long runs, overall stiffness all the time). Post-run recovery took longer and I no longer dared to run two days in a row. I took up Vinyasa Yoga, which helped me stave off injury and continue to enjoy running, but I never was able to repeat my times from 2016.

In the Spring of 2021, after having moved from Chicago, IL to Lebanon, NH, my wife and I found out we were expecting! I imagined long rugged family hikes and runs with the kids in the decades to come. I had a renewed determination to stay fit without injuries. Perhaps, with the right coaching/training, I could be healthier, stronger, and injury-free. Perhaps, I could even run a personal best in the marathon again. I decided to join RVC with these goals in mind and I was paired with Personal Trainer, Adam Dutille

Adam’s training style included building a foundation of strength through balance, single-leg or single-arm exercises mixed with core work. We often started with bodyweight workouts before adding in weight. Adam taught me to isolate different muscle groups utilizing several different types of equipment (i.e. landmine, trap bar, resistance bands, suspension training) and weights (i.e. kettlebells, dumbbells, sandbags, and weight-vest). If I was doing a workout for the first or tenth time, Adam would carefully observe my form and make small adjustments. I dreaded single-leg squats and hamstring sliders at 6AM, but after 8 weeks of doing this work with Adam and on my own (3-4 times per week), my training runs were getting easier and I started recovering faster. I even started running multiple days in a row again.

I had run the New England Green River Marathon two years ago (3 hr 26 min) when I first interviewed for a job here: a beautiful point-to-point marathon that starts in the Green Mountains of Vermont and ends in Greenfield, Massachusetts along the Green River. It had been 4 months since I started training with Adam and I was excited to try to run this course again. The first 10 miles flew by – I hit my goal pace with no issue. So far so good! At mile 15, my usual left foot tightness, which had plagued every marathon since Eu-gene, never came. At mile 20 (“the wall”), my hip/glute soreness never appeared. I ran mile 21 (this course’s mini version of Boston’s heartbreak hill) in just over 7 minutes – no way! I finally started to slow in the last three miles with calf cramps creeping in. I made some quick mental calculations as I slowed – but it did not matter at this point. I crossed the finish line. Adam and I had done it – in 3:08:54!

George Culler, RVC Member since 2021.

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