Every plan tells a story: David Thornley (part 1)

Every plan tells a story. This is mine.

What would you say if a 42 year old man, who’s borderline morbidly obese, tells you he’s going to run a marathon? I’ve heard it all and seen the looks, so don’t feel bad about what you’re thinking right now. When my friend asked me to run one with him I thought the same; you can’t be serious.

Then I thought about how much I enjoyed running when I was young, I actually ran the Chicago Marathon in 2002, and how a big goal could help me stay motivated while getting healthy. So I did what anyone should do when a friend asks for something important, I said yes.

I decided my primary goal would be “to want to go tomorrow“. It’s not about the marathon per se, but avoiding injury and building a healthy habit. This meant taking it slow and listening to my body. In my first “run” I walked more than I ran, and over the course of the next 4 months I walked less and ran more.

This Smashrun visualization gives a sense of just how much walking there was. I walked a lot, but I always “wanted to go” the next day.

In 46 weeks of base building I’ve tweaked my plan a couple times to reduce the build up of miles. But even with all the care put into crafting a slow build, I had an onset of achilles tendonitis in week 37. It was a massive blow to morale but I dialed back distance and speed, avoided hills and iced it in the evenings. When the tendonitis hit I also switched to a low carb high fat diet and used my recovery period to become fat adapted. It’s taken 10 weeks but my speed is coming back and I can do a long run without having to quaff gels to keep my energy up.

Yesterday was my last run in base building and tomorrow I start my 16 week marathon ramp up. I’ve lost 57 lbs (26 kg), ran 95% of planned miles and only missed 9 runs total…yeah I’m proud. I’m most satisfied by three performances in particular.


The next 16 weeks includes more speed work and of course builds on my long run. I expect to lose another 23 lbs (10 kg) before race day which puts me right at my 2002 marathon weight. My time goal is to finish in the 4:30-4:45 range. I’m worried that the effort to build speed will re-aggravate my injury and I’m worried about the impact of runs as they start to top 18 miles even with built in recovery weeks.

Whatever happens, I’ll listen to my body and adjust.

Whatever happens, in October, after 15 years, I will run my second marathon.  

So what do you say if a 42 year old obese man tells you he’s going to run a marathon?  Yes you can!


Plan Well!

David Thornley – http://smashrun.com/david.thornley