Goals life

Time Exchanges + Marathon Training: An Analysis

September 20, 2023

I ran 10.5 miles this morning, an interval workout with 3 mi warmup / 12 x 2 min @ 10K pace / 2 mi cooldown. I had to finish by 7 am because today is a clinic day, so I left at ~5:20, which meant getting up at 4:20 in time to caffeine / digest / etc.

I was reflecting on the fact that this time is obviously not materializing from thin air. Here are what I see as the current trade-offs:

1- Breakfast. I used to eat at the table and this probably took 10-15 min. I have switched to eating a bar (a substantial one, like Rise / Perfect / etc) in the car on the way to drop off the kids followed by something at work (Greek yogurt etc). (I also eat something before running and often during running as well — so it’s not like I am compromising or skimping on nutrition here — just timing it differently. According to the course I am taking you have about 60 minutes from finishing your run to get a good dose of carbs/protein in).

2- Headspace. I used to get in 10 minutes religiously. Today I skipped it. I still feel that meditation benefits me but there are limits to how hard I will work to fit it in!

3- Routine AM role for Josh. He has been in charge most mornings from ~6:50 – 7:15ish while I shower. The big kids are more or less autonomous in the morning but G needs some help. Mostly this is just convincing her to get up and getting her started with breakfast; I am usually the “LET’S GO NOW” sweeper crew at like 7:32 doing her hair, brushing teeth, etc. I drive them to school most days since it’s in the direction of my office. This division of labor works pretty well I think!

(If he knows he has a super early start or something I plan accordingly. Also A could help get G breakfast in a pinch while I shower).

4- Sleep. Am I sleeping less? Maybe. My phone says I’m at something like 7 hours 6 minutes daily in bed, and I used to be closer to 7.3 hours (7 h 20 min or thereabouts). I do not feel much more tired but I do feel like I go to bed earlier more often. My kids are usually tired when I am and I still hang out with them a bit before bed (ie, 1:1 time in their rooms) more times than not so this seems . . . workable. I did wonder about the relationship between sleep and migraines but I do not think in my case that was/is the main factor.

5- Strength training. I am definitely not doing nearly the level of strength training that I used to when I wasn’t running much! I am doing the bare minimum to hopefully prevent injury and preserve some muscle mass. I use lighter weights – often those Strength for Runners call for 10 lb / 15 lb whereas I used to regularly reach for 25 lb dumbbells for things like squats and deadlifts. HONESTLY I don’t miss it at all but know that it will be important to do a bit more when I’m not in marathon training mode. (And from a body comp perspective – when I stopped my OCP and started eating more protein things definitely improved in that area so it’s not a big motivator right now).

6- Walks. I used to take walks at work and sometimes on work-from-home days – now I sit and write blog posts instead ( <– another AM activity I have moved to other times!). I do not need the midday steps at my current mileage level. I do still get up and walk around the office (getting water etc) which is helpful for stretching and not staying in the same position all day.

AlphaFLY have >250 miles on them but still seem pretty springy!

Monetary tradeoffs: Coaching; shoes (they wear out quickly at 50+ miles/week); gels/hydration stuff; race fees/travel — my allowance coffers have been chronically empty as of late.

Things I have not done a lot of lately: Watch a TV show (though I think I could bring this back to some extent)

So – first of all this post illustrates the enormous privilege it takes to train at a moderate (I wouldn’t say high – but moderate) level at this phase of my life, and also some of the tradeoffs. I also feel pretty content with how most of these tradeoffs have played out – I feel like I am not giving up anything that is super important to me (or making it unfair for anyone else).

Do I think it is worth it?

YES. I get so much joy out of running! I really find it stabilizes my mood (more than strength training does/did), it gets me outside, it has connected me with new friends (my wonderful Monday AM group!), and it just feels FUN to have something to be working towards at this phase of my life. I know I will not always continue to improve and I know injury could always happen (I do have anxiety about this which sucks a tiny bit of the joy) but right now I really just . . . love doing it.

Do you have a marathon training equivalent in your life (or maybe it IS marathon training)?


  • Reply Jami H September 20, 2023 at 1:10 pm

    My marathon equivalent is grad school, specifically while I am in courses. Right now I am in 2 8-week courses (already through 5 weeks – yay). But in addition to the time I am giving up to be in class, I do not watch much TV, or do personal reading because I am working on course work. I would say I also choose to reduce my leisure/relaxation time (less down time before bed). It also means less time on cooking and cleaning/more take out on nights when I have class and my husband is teaching. Things I am not willing to “sacrifice”, attending my daughter’s soccer games, sleep, fun things with family. For me though I think it helps that I know it’s only 8 weeks of this schedule.

  • Reply Lisa of Lisa's Yarns September 20, 2023 at 1:38 pm

    I don’t know that I have a marathon training equivalent. I am working more lately and I’m traveling 1-2 times/month so that is really adding up but it doesn’t impact other areas of my life all that much. I just feel very pressed for time in general. I’m scurrying from a long day at work full of meetings to picking up the kids from daycare/school to getting them fed/spending time with them. By the time they are in bed, I’m worn out. My husband is, too. So we watch a show as part of our quality time and then I go up to read before bed. I remember how much time marathon training ate up when I was doing it. It was worth it in the time. Those days are over for me for a multitude of reasons but I really don’t know how I would fit it into my schedule since my sleep needs are so high. I can’t get up at like 4:30-5 and function at work… and I can’t do anything after work because that is kid time for me. And I can’t do it during lunch at work since I’m so dang busy. But I’m content to be done with marathons and instead focus on strength training and running 4-6 miles at a time. I am finding that I do really enjoy the strength training workouts I’m doing (Caroline Girvan). I like that every workout is new/different and I never know what she is going to tell me to do and I am typically dripping with sweat when I’m done! They have been easier to fit in lately than running since I can do a workout at home with a sick kid!

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger September 20, 2023 at 2:00 pm

      Caroline is soooo intense! I find her workouts harder than pretty much everything else. So you know you are getting challenging movement in!

      • Reply Lisa of Lisa’s Yarns September 20, 2023 at 5:13 pm

        Well that makes me feel better because they feel so challenging! I do have to modify at times, like a workout last weekend had elevated pike push-ups! I was thinking – I bet Kaelyn can do these but I needed to drop to my knees!

  • Reply Jeannemarie Hendershot September 20, 2023 at 2:07 pm

    Your running journey helped me restart my own after recovering from a double mastectomy last year. I got lots of ideas on training and podcasts and gear from this blog and now I’m in the middle of training for the Hilton Head 1/2 marathon at the AMR retreat. I was previously doing a lot of pure barre but struggle with any abdominal exercises since my surgery. Pure barre made my body look better than running does but running seems to suit my spirit, mood and ambition more. I’m hoping for my first sub two hour half!

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger September 20, 2023 at 6:27 pm

      Oh that’s awesome to hear!!! I would love to go to the AMR retreat someday!

  • Reply Amanda September 20, 2023 at 2:09 pm

    My comment is not related to today’s post, but it’s a time-sensitive FYI I want to share with the planner community, specifically those who are Filofax devotees. Right now they have free shipping on all orders over $10! I wait for this promo each year to buy my upcoming refills. (Last year it was a random week in August, this year it’s “late” in mid-Sept.)

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger September 20, 2023 at 6:27 pm

      Thank you Amanda!!!!

  • Reply coco September 20, 2023 at 5:26 pm

    in addition to all these above, I’m doing what I call body maintenance, twice physic, daily stretching, weekly massage! definitely a lot of things to support my running which I love. the only downside of it is when I feel I’m pushing hard and wonder if I’m doing good or damage to my health which I prioritize the most. most of the days I convince me that it’s one hard workout aimed to get me better, to adapt, not everyday to damage. let’s see how I do in 2 weeks. if it all pays off and my nagging hip issues improve with full rest, then maybe I’ll get back to it again. 🙂 it’s a great medium term goal to have, and THE mental wellness hack for me.

  • Reply omdg September 21, 2023 at 8:38 am

    I am super grouchy since work has kept me from exercising since Sunday, so grain of salt. But what has been sustaining my mental health lately has been quiet quitting my job. Which means that I prioritize a) exercise (provided I am not home after 6, which… see this week. And also I will never get up at 4:30 to exercise, ever, which with a 6:30 start time most days is what I would have to do to work out in the morning. Barf.), b) sleep. 9 hours in bed each night which equates to 7 hours asleep, usually (yay insomnia), c) reading books for fun, d) *regularly* going out to eat at new restaurants and doing fun things with my family — like, as much as possible. Every week if possible. Even if I have a grant due.

    It turns out I look forward to those things, and they make me happy in the moment, so my overall mood gets boosted. And when I’m in a good mood, people enjoy talking to me more, which makes me happy also. So… nothing specific like marathon training. I actually have no interest in running a marathon, ever, and only marginal interest in running a 1/2. Maybe getting fit enough so I could run with a group (12 min/mi pace ftw!) and meet some non-physicians? Can’t do it this week 2/2 a grant application deadline and I’m worried a group run would effectively wipe me out for the rest of the day. I’m wondering if I could reintroduce lifting weights at work some days I can’t run, but this past week has been really heinous so maybe next week would be better. We will see.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger September 21, 2023 at 9:32 am

      I think that’s awesome, seriously!!!! I am happy for you. Life is short …

  • Reply Erin H September 21, 2023 at 9:55 pm

    I feel the same way about marathon training 🙂. I somehow managed to come within a minute and a half of a BQ time 2 marathons ago so discovering if I will be able to get there one day is fun/intimidating/frustrating, and I relate so much to your enjoyment of the process!

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger September 22, 2023 at 8:57 am

      Erin I don’t know your age but based on your strava it seems like you would DEF BQ this cycle! (That said you may be 10 yrs younger and need a 3:30 – so not sure!). I cannot wait until my standard becomes 3:50 in a year or so, haha. Seems so much more doable than 3:40 though I am still tempted to try!

  • Reply San September 22, 2023 at 7:47 pm

    I have not trained for a marathon (yet), so I won’t understand the full commitment, but I am currently training for a half and I have also had to make changes to my regular schedule to accommodate training…. and I think it’s worth it if we’re willing to schedule and prioritize during the training cycle.

  • Reply Seppie September 22, 2023 at 10:58 pm

    I am training for a cross-country bicycle ride (San Diego, CA to St. Augustine, FL) that begins next March. I am at the point where my long rides take several hours, multiple days a week. Definitely requires intentionality with my calendar, even though I don’t have kids at home any more.

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