Dr. J on Running

A Marathon A Month

Saturday 1 October 2011

When Stacey suggested the 2010 Wineglass Marathon, and everybody got injured on the way, I eyed the Finger Lakes 50s on July 3rd as my go/no-go point. I ran the 25K, which was more like 27K due to rerouting around washed-out trails, and gained enough confidence to schedule long runs. I ran an 18-miler in July, a 20-miler in August, a 22-miler and a 24-miler in September. I felt relief when work got in the way of Wineglass. Somehow, I did not want to run another Marathon in New York. The thought of running Marathons in various states started brewing in my head. I cancelled my hotel reservation in Corning, and registered for the Steamtown Marathon in Scranton, PA.

Work required a trip to Alabama in early December. I entered the Rocket City Marathon in Huntsville. The Manchester City Marathon sat half-way between Scranton and Huntsville, so I registered and convinced Marla to run the half. As free airfares flew away and Marathons filled, I found myself registering for races six months early. So, the list grew with Warner Robins GA, Myrtle Beach SC and Wrightsville Beach NC.

Steamtown was rough. I hurt during the race, and I hurt for days after the 4:55 finish. Manchester was a hilly, uneventful 4:53. Rocket City was a fun 4:49. Then disaster struck. At the Post Christmas Blues 5K in Canandaigua at New Year’s Eve an older runner bumped me as we approached the finish line. I took one wrong step and strained my left calf. The pain was so extreme I could not walk a single step. I hopped on one leg across the finish line, and underwent six weeks of physical therapy. I scratched Warner Robins.

I went to Myrtle Beach because I had non-refundable airline tickets. I walked half-a-mile, jogged half-a-mile, and repeated 26 times. I finished in 5:29, and checked off South Carolina. A month later at Wrightsville Beach I jogged a mile and walked half-a-mile for a 5:14 finish and my eighth state. In April, I braved stiff winds and hips by alternating 1.5-mile runs with 0.5-mile walks for a 5:07 finish. I ran my tenth state on a rainy day in Olympia in 5:12 on my way to Hawaii, and sent in my membership application to the 50 States Marathon Club.

A flight cancellation scratched Utah Valley in June. The summer brought a memorable hat trick – Missoula in 5:08, the Paavo in a 5:45 PW, and the Air Force Marathon in 5:10. Thus the fiscal year ended with 10 marathons and 10 states in 12 months, bringing the quest total to 13 states: VA NY VT PA NH AL SC NC KS WA MT WI OH.

My training gravitated towards three runs per week – two short runs of 2-6 miles and one long run of 10 to 16 miles. The long run was typically 10 miles the weekends before and after a Marathon, and 13-16 miles half-way between Marathons. A typical low mileage month consisted of:


A higher mileage month may look like this:


The parade of injuries in the past year started with a left calf strain that sidelined me for several weeks. Favoring the calf led to left hip pain on long runs and Marathons, starting typically around mile 13. Two Ibuprofens at mile 10 and mile 20 helped a bit. Hip pain went away by Missoula. Extreme back pain paralyzed me after walking the last half of the Paavo. DPT Kelly diagnosed the cause as residual calf strength asymmetry, prescribed more exercises and referred me to Nicole for post race recovery massage therapy.

My diet held up fairly well to the abuse. I eliminated chocolate and reduced coffee to one cappuccino in the morning to reduce the risk of dehydration and kidney stones. I increased my consumption of red meat, and settled on steak-and-eggs on raisin bread with a side of broccoli for my recovery meal. Through trial and error, I voted Dave’s Diner in Manlius and Elm Street Cafe in Tully for the best steak-and-eggs in town. My weight dropped 8 pounds over 10 Marathons, my pants felt looser, and the hair on my inner thighs grew back.

I credited monthly Marathon running for a 40 per cent drop in my PSA score. While I found no published scientific research linking long-distance running to PSA scores, I found two complementary studies that may explain the drop. One study cited a direct correlation between endurance athletics and testosterone suppression, and the other study showed a direct correlation between testosterone levels and PSA scores.

Looking forward to the next 12 months, a Marathon-a-month can get me half-way into my 50-state quest. I am eyeing Hartford CT, Chickamauga GA, Rehoboth Beach DE, Jackson MS, Melbourne FL, Little Rock AR, Knoxville TN, Providence RI, Casper WY, Aspen Valley CO, Crater Lake OR, and Pocatello ID. Since the current average weekly mileage in the low twenties is unlikely to produce Marathon times faster than 5 hours, I plan to push cautiously towards 30 miles per week.

Dr. J's RUNNING Column appears in Cyberspace whenever endorphins call.

© 2011 Dr Kamal Jabbour