My first job after college was working for KMart Corporation in their management training program. I worked in 2 S.S. Kresge stores and 1 KMart, all in the Detroit area. I was on salary, and I quickly learned not to divide my meager weekly pay by the number of hours I actually worked. It was too depressing to think about making far less than minimum wage after spending 4 years earning a bachelor’s degree. I did not become wealthy, but I did learn a few things in my 21 months in the program. Seasoned store managers liked to share pearls of wisdom with young, green trainees like me. For example, I was taught that the secret to a successful Blue Light Special was “Stack ’em high, watch ’em buy.” I can’t say that I remember a single situation in my post-retail life where that gem was useful. But another one was extremely helpful: “Plan your work, work your plan.”
This morning I completed the 3rd week of my 18 week marathon training plan by running another 6-miler in Hines Park with Team World Vision. We run a hilly course, and I ran hard. I was pleased with my time, but probably could not have run another mile. Next week my plan calls for an 8 mile run on Saturday. The following week I am scheduled to run 10. In just 12 weeks my plan peaks with a 40 mile week, including a 20 mile Saturday run. It would be easy to look at these planned workouts, think about how 6 miles was just about as far as I could run today, and go into full panic mode. But I will not. One thing I have learned through training for 2 marathons and 14 half marathons over the past 10 years is that if you have a solid training plan (“plan your work”) and you follow it faithfully (“work your plan”) you end up ready for your race. It doesn’t always seem like it as you train, but it is true. My worst race ever, the 2012 Grand Rapids Marathon (5:00:18), came after adding half marathons and extra miles to my plan as I went along. My best race ever, the 2013 Big Hit Half Marathon in Louisville, Kentucky (1:50:54), was after a summer of following my training plan religiously.
This year’s training plan is based on the one Team World Vision has used for years to prepare thousands of runners, many first-time marathoners, to successfully complete their 26.2 miles. I’ve made a few minor enhancements based on my own experience, but the plan is now set in stone. My intention is to continue to “work my plan” and my hope is that I will cross the finish line in Chicago healthy and, God willing, maybe even with a new personal record. Of course there is always the possibility of injury or illness, but the plan addresses this with strength training and rest days. There are no guarantees, but I’m betting on “plan your work, work your plan” to get me where I want to be come October 8th.
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