Marathon Training: Week 15 Summary

Week 15 was my second week of tapering and my second-to-last week of marathon training. I’ve been following NYRR’s Marathon Virtual Training Program for the TCS NYC Marathon, a great decision I made on the spur of the moment back in July.

This was a good week, although it ended on a sad note. But I’ll get to that.

Monday was my usual Fitness Blender upper body workout (plus crunches). This has been my go-to Monday workout. I’ve mentioned it so many times I don’t really know what else to say about it. If you’re looking for a good, not boring upper body workout to do at home, I highly recommend it. I also recommend Fitness Blender in general. They have hundreds of free workouts on their site. With that plus running, I see no reason to spend money on a gym membership – but that’s just me.

I should point out that Monday is almost always a prescribed day off in my training program, which does not require me to strength train. That’s just something I choose to do. I occasionally get “Flex Days” with the option to run or cross train, but that’s about all the program suggests I do regarding non-running activity. Personally, I like to strength train – it makes me look and feel and run better.

Tuesday I had a 5 mile “AYF” (as you feel) run prescribed. Just 5 miles however fast I felt like. I’d read about how the last few miles of the course are difficult due to the inclines. So the night before this run I thought, “Well why don’t I just run them and see for myself?” So that’s what I did: I ran the last 3.5 miles of the course (plus a little before and after).

I live about a mile away from 110th and 5th Avenue, right about where mile 23 starts, and the beginning of a mile-long incline along 5th Avenue. It flattens out at 90th Street where we enter Central Park.

So I ran to 110th and 5th and just picked up the course there, running that mile-long incline which wasn’t exactly horrible, but at the same time, will probably not be what I call a welcome relief at mile 23 in a race where I’ve bene running faster than easy pace the entire time. I actually did run this mile at my easy pace, at 9:27. I didn’t want to push it yet. I just wanted to feel it.

One thing that will be different on race day (in addition to the crowds) will be that I’ll be running on the road, not the awkwardly slopey cobblestone sidewalk. That should make it easier.


At 90th I turned into the park, heading south, experiencing all of the little downhills and uphills there. Going down Cat Hill as opposed to up it was a nice change. I was running in the opposite direction than I’m used to in the park, so it was definitely interesting to be reminded of where all the inclines were. I tried to imagine how they’re going to feel on legs that have been running for over three and a half hours (and hopefully not too much longer).

I turned right on Central Park South (59th Street), up yet another slight incline (oh boy) and then turned into the park, eventually running through where the finish line will be (which is right after another short but steep hill). On the morning I did this run, they were halfway done setting up the risers for the grandstand seating, and the pavillion construction was underway. The marathon was feeling closer than ever.



I ran this overall at a 9:13 pace. I hope to run it just a bit faster on race day.

Wednesday was a prescribed 6 mile “Regular Run” which I was to do faster than easy pace, anywhere between 9:07-9:18 a mile. I decided to run the 5th avenue 110th-90th Street stretch again. So I did that, but even slower than yesterday – that mile was in 9:37 and overall I ran a 9:30 pace. I didn’t do the entire last few miles, instead turning right as I entered the park and heading back home along the inner loop.

I actually had a bit of inner calf soreness – this time, on my left calf, which was an alarming first for me. I thought my right leg was the wonky one. It wasn’t enough to sideline me, but just enough that I knew I needed to do some serious stretching later. Since I’d run a little long the day before I cut this one half a mile short, doing a total of 5.61 miles.

Thursday I had my last tempo workout of the training. Here’s what was prescribed:

  • Warmup: 1.25 miles (9:18-9:54 per mile)
  • Tempo 1: 1.5 miles in 12:59 – 13:15 (8:39-8:50 per mile)
  • Recovery: 0.5 mile nice & easy (get some water, regroup)
  • Tempo 2: 1.5 miles in 12:59 – 13:15 (8:39-8:50 per mile)
  • Warmdown: 1.25 miles (9:18-9:54 per mile)

My calf felt better today, thank goodness. I went back to Central Park this morning but just stuck to my normal loop for this run.

I felt good on this run and it was nice to run a couple tempo miles at marathon pace again. (My “marathon pace” is what the program think I will be able to maintain on race day, which is somewhere between 8:39 and 8:50 a mile. I’m still not sure I’ll be able to do this. But I’ll try.)

I was pretty happy with this run: I ran the first tempo mile in 8:43 and the .5 mile at 8:32 pace, the second tempo mile at 8:41 and the .5 mile at 8:21 pace. I felt good right around here. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens on race day.

Friday I had a Flex Day, with the option of 4 miles, cross-train, or day off. I was feeling run down this morning – I think due mostly to a lack of sleep. And the tempo run the day before might have taken a bit out of me.

I opted to give my legs a rest today. I just did a Fitness Blender upper body workout. Despite my lack of cardio this morning, I still ate a bagel at work for Bagel Friday because I’m not a monster.

Saturday I also got crappy sleep. The night before I had been uncharacteristically awake from about 3 to 4:30 am, mostly thinking about my friend Hal who had been battling cancer since July. I knew he wasn’t doing well. I hadn’t seen him in over two years and felt really bad about that, and just bad about it in general. I’ve known him since 1993 and he’s been a good friend.

I was prescribed a 6 mile Regular Run to do between 9:07 and 9:18 pace. It was raining. And it was cold. No matter. A little weather can’t stop me. I went to Central Park for this again (a lot of Central Park this week) and wore shorts, a t-shirt, and a lightweight hoodie. It’s a tighter fitting hoodie and kind of a pain to keep lifting the sleeve to check my watch, so after a while I just stopped checking my pace. I ran faster than “easy pace” but tried not to go crazy. I wound up running an overall 8:50 pace. In fact, the first five miles were all within my “marathon pace,” with only the final one easy.

I hadn’t meant to do this, but I think there’s something about very uncomfortable weather that makes me go faster. I just want it to be over. But I felt good on this one. Under my “pros” for the run I wrote “Felt pretty strong.” Under “cons” I wrote “High winds.” So it could have been worse.

My legs got pretty red on this run.


At about 5:30 later that evening, I got an email update from the GoFundMe that had been set up for my friend Hal’s cancer treatments. I knew what it was going to say. I opened it anyway. He had passed away earlier that day.

I was pretty devastated, if not entirely shocked. It’s so weird. I’m not really a spiritual or superstitious person at all, but when I had been lying awake earlier that morning thinking about him, I wondered if today would be the day.

And to make everything even more ridiculous, I was literally on my way out the door to see Billy Joel in concert when I got the news. I was going to meet my family for dinner and then head to the Madison Square Garden show.

So there I was, caught between mourning for a friend I loved so much, someone I only spent one year with at college but with whom I stayed in contact up until just a couple of weeks before his death. Sometimes we had gone years without communicating; other times we texted each other constantly. I can’t even explain the impact he had on my life. He was unlike anyone I’d ever known: brilliant, confident, talented, introspective, philosophical, kind, and wickedly funny.

But I knew he wouldn’t want something as silly as his death to ruin a Billy Joel concert for me. So I was determined to have a good time, which I did, even if thoughts of Hal were weighing on me the entire time.

It was a good show.

Sunday I had 10 miles to run. My last “long run” of training. I was immediately aware of the fact that the day after my my mom died last year – almost exactly a year ago – I ran 10 miles. I wasn’t following any training program at the time, I just felt like running 10 miles. At the time, 10 miles felt far, which is why I wanted to run it.

Today, it felt short.

I decided to get out of Central Park. I kind of wanted to feel more alone. So I ran up to the Little Red Lighthouse on the Hudson River. Kept it easy: 9:31 pace overall. It was a brisk morning, and I couldn’t believe Hal wasn’t alive. He had been such a bright light in the world. No matter how long I live, I will never forget him.

On my way back down from the lighthouse, I saw this sign and almost cried.


The light still shines.

Week 15: 33.07 miles


Hal Isaacson, age 19

3 thoughts on “Marathon Training: Week 15 Summary

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