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My Return To The Marathon

My Return To The Marathon Lauren LaPierre running out of a covered bridge

I’ve been running since the age of 13 competitively. Through middle school, high school and then as a D1 athlete for the University of Rhode Island. I have always loved running but there have been a few times in my life where I have taken a hiatus from running. 2020 through 2021 was one of these times. And then the call came. The call for my return to the marathon.

The Pandemic Halted My Training

During the pandemic, unlike many others, running became a sore spot for me. A reminder of the experiences I lost out on because of COVID. When the world went into lock down, I was mid-training for the Boston Marathon and was a week away from my tune up race, the NYC Half Marathon. On top of both these races being canceled, I was furloughed from my new physical therapy job in the same week. Instead of running helping me deal with my anxieties and fears, it heightened my feelings of grief and loss amongst so much other loss that was occurring. So, I turned my focus elsewhere; hiking, swimming, and strength training became my main outlets for a time.

Midway through 2020 was also when I decided to start my business, The Personalized Running Doc; A hybrid virtual coaching business focused on helping runners run pain free longer, stronger, and faster. Through all of 2020 and 2021 my priority became building my business and serving my clients. Because of that, my own running and racing continued to take a backseat. But then one day I got an email from NYRR reminding me of the sign-up period for the NYC Marathon 2022. I happened to click on the link and read the requirements for qualified runners. To my disbelief, I realized a half marathon time I achieved in 2019 would qualify me to run another World Abbott Major! I immediately knew I had to try and get in.

Can I Get Into The NYC and Make My Return To The Marathon?

For those that don’t know, the majority of NYC Marathon entries are made up of lottery winners, qualified runners, and charity runners. For qualified runners, you not only need to qualify for a race, but spots are on a first come first serve basis with submission of your application. So, the morning applications opened, I was on the NYRR site 2 hours before the queue opened. After another 45 minutes in the queue, I submitted my application and prayed it was enough.

One week later, I got an email confirming my entry! Though 9 months away, I knew my work started that day to get back into racing shape for NYC Marathon. Over the course of the next 2 months, I focused on rebuilding my base level of fitness. Simply put I was focusing on time on feet, no speed workouts, just long slow distance to increase my aerobic capacity.

It’s Time To Train

Once comfortable, I began re-introducing speed workouts once a week. Luckily, I had signed myself up for another race at the beginning of June, Covered Bridges Half Marathon, to help keep me consistent each week. Unfortunately, Covered Bridges ended up being a hot summer morning in Vermont and I did not get to walk away with the PR I had hoped to set. But I did walk away as the 10th overall female finisher and was only one minute off my previous PR that gained me entry into the NYC Marathon. The summer and fall goals became clear if I wanted to return to NYC with a personal record in the marathon; I had to incorporate more race specific speed after building a bigger base.

From the end of June through mid-August, I devoted five days per week to running with two strength training days and one speed workout. My initial focus during this building phase was improving my top end speed for 5k-10k distances. This was to make the more race specific workouts later in the training cycle feel easier once incorporated.

Changing My Training Focus

At the end of August through mid-September, I continued to build my weekly mileage focusing on my long run. I quickly became comfortable with a regular 14-16 miles on the weekend. Workouts also began to increase in length as well as frequency, now twice a week. One day of the week, I continued to prioritize increasing my top end speeds, while the other focused on aerobic capacity with half marathon paced workouts.

The end of September to the end of October was my peak training period with around 45-50 miles per week including two speed workouts a week and strength training sprinkled in. Many, if not all, of my speed workouts at this point were on routes that mimicked the elevation changes I would see in NYC with pacing at or slightly faster than my planned race pace. By taper I had never felt fitter, not only because of my training but also because throughout this entire year I re-prioritized my nutrition and sleep.

What I Learned In My Return To The Marathon

The biggest realization, though, came in the last weeks of training. Even though my workouts were going according to plan and my goal of running 3:05 seemed a real possibility, I realized my definition of success was more than just achieving a PR. My return to the marathon became about demonstrating to all my runners what a balanced training cycle and lifestyle as a competitive runner looked like. And regardless of how NYC unfolded I knew I would walk away being proud of the nearly yearlong worth of work I put in to regain my fitness after a two-year hiatus from structured training.

And in the days leading up to NYC, as the hot weather only kept getting hotter, I didn’t sweat it (pun intended!) because I went into race day feeling immense pride in my training and gratitude to be a part of such a momentous race.

How did the race go? Stay tuned for more next month as I detail my return to the marathon!


Dr Lauren LaPierre The Personalized Running Doc

Dr. Lauren LaPierre is a doctor of physical therapy by trade, runner rehab specialist and running coach!

Dr. Lauren personally has over a decade of competitive running experience, competing throughout high school and later for the University of Rhode Island as a Division I athlete. Her personal journey with running is the reason she went to PT school and later started her business, The Personalized Running Doc.

Her mission is to help other runner’s overcome training related injuries when all else has failed, empowering them to continue running for themselves and crushing their goals as they do. Since 2020, her comprehensive personalized approach and hybrid training model has helped runners all over the world return to running pain free and reach their maximum running potential!