running off the cake

an unofficial guide to marathon training from the world's okay-est runner…

Does Runner’s Knee Officially Make Me A Runner?

So, it’s happened. Two and a half weeks in, and my knees are finally starting to hurt, which was my worst fear going into this as an overweight runner. Right now, it’s just a small pinpoint of pain, right below my knee caps and toward the inside of my legs, but it is already affecting my motivation to run.

The pain is far from unbearable, and really more on the uncomfortable side at the moment (so forgive my whiny-ness), but all I can seem to think right now is that if I let this get worse, then it will not only affect my running plans but my daily life as well, both of which are equally as terrifying.

So I’m at a crossroads. Do I just suffer through it and hope it doesn’t get worse? Do I stop running and get treatment? I honestly don’t like either of those options, so I think for now I’ll go with door #3: I’ll do some research and figure out a way to make it better, while still moving on with my plans.

So here’s what I’ve learned about Runner’s Knee so far…

According to this article from Runner’s World, increasing your mileage (or in this case the time spent running) by more than 10% a week puts you in prime territory for knee pain.

The Runner’s world article also suggests that knee pain could be a result of tight calf and hamstring muscles in combination with weak quadriceps. My original school of thought was that carrying around this much extra body weight was enough strength training for my sad little quads, but now it’s looking like there are a lot of squats in my future.




The Courage To Try

I think I might have jumped a little ahead of myself, and if you’ll bear with me, I’d like to backtrack a little for a minute. A lot of you might be thinking “sure she can run a marathon, she already has experience,” or something of the like, but I want you to know that I am just as much a beginner as you.

I want to make some things clear, maybe to help you find the courage to start a running program, even if you’ve never jogged a single step in your life or if you’re thinking running is impossible because you get winded simply walking up a flight of stairs.

Running was never easy for me, not even when I was a size 6, but it has NEVER been as hard as it is now. Every time I set out for a run, I find myself thinking it is impossible, that I’ll never be able to stick to it, that I’ll never lose weight with a 15 or 16 minute mile. My knees hurt, my shins hurt, I am barely moving faster than a walk some days. I have come to find very quickly that experience doesn’t help you when your body is completely different. I think the only experience that is helping me now as I start out training for this marathon is that I have learned that if I can make it through the first mile or even the first few minutes, I can make it through my entire run.

Here’s me during my third or fourth run a week or so ago. I think I had to waddle after I got done because my knees were so stiff, but I couldn’t have been happier.

You’ll hear a lot of people say that running is a mental game, and they’re right. I know it’s true for people like my boyfriend (below, actually smiling while he runs a 6:30 mile…yuck) who can mentally push themselves to the point of passing out (which actually happened at his first marathon a few years ago). I know that I personally don’t have the mental or physical strength to push myself that hard (not yet, anyway). I don’t even have the desire to, really. But going into the third week of my marathon training, I have come to realize that my biggest mental block happens before I even step into my running shoes.

Even if you’re not training for a marathon, even if it is a half or even a 5k (both of which are just as awesome!) or another goal you might have set for yourself, just remember that it is possible. I am carrying around 90 extra pounds of weight, and right now, each run seems overwhelming. Sometimes I want to cry or quit or go home and eat a pint of Ben and Jerry’s instead of run. But I stick to it, because I know it is possible.

I’m not going to spout off all the old quotes you’ve probably heard a thousand times about goals and obstacles, but I will say this: it WILL get easier. I could barely make it thirty seconds without walking when I started two weeks ago, and now I can jog a quarter mile without stopping. Whatever your pace is, whatever your goal is, if you have the courage to try, to put yourself out there and put one foot in front of the other, than you can train your body to run any distance. If you can conquer your self doubt and remember that the way you feel after a run is the best high there is, then you can do anything. I promise :).

Here’s a link to a great article from Women’s Running Magazine. It’s a story about a plus size model who was featured on the cover of the magazine a few months out. It’s a great read, and says a lot about the reasons other plus size women run and how they find their confidence to try. I found it super inspiring.

I hope this inspires you to get out there, to quiet your own worst fears and give it a try. I guarantee you that you will surprise yourself.

Step One… The Plan.

Before we get too far, I’d just like to point out a few things:

1. I am NOT a doctor or a running expert. I have picked a lot things up along the way through trial and error, but that is my only experience. I promise to tell you what works and doesn’t work for me, but I’d recommend talking to your doctor before beginning a marathon plan.

2. I am not planning on “running” a marathon. I will be jogging. Very slowly. I have no illusions of skipping through 26.2 miles like a gazelle within a time frame of 19 weeks. If you’re not already doing 15-20 miles per week comfortably (which I was not, unless you count trips from the couch to the fridge as miles), I’d recommend starting with walk-jogging as well. Your knees and shins will thank you, and most marathons offer an early start time for those who will not finish in 5.5 hours, which I don’t plan to.

Alright. So. The Plan.

From what I gather, there is no way you will make it through a marathon, no matter your running level, without a plan. My boyfriend runs a 5:30 mile and he still prints out training plans for all of his races. Pinterest is a great place to look. You can typically tailor most plans to your needs by selecting a beginner plan. I modified mine a little to fit the time constraints of my race, but from experience, I would not cut more than 2-3 weeks from any plan you find. The key here is to progress slowly, so you aren’t giving your body more than it can handle.

Here is a copy of my training plan:

I also made a jumbo poster copy to hang on my wall, which is great motivation. Each run I complete gets a sticker and I record my time. It’s hard to believe, but my 3 mi time has already improved by 2 minutes in two weeks!

A few things about my plan:

1. The longest run is 20 miles pre-marathon. I have read you only need to complete 20 miles for a marathon within 2 weeks of the race or 10 miles for a half. This proved true when I ran my first half marathon, so I am applying it here.

2. The plan starts off with three rest days, but reduces to 2 after one month. To complete a marathon, you need to put in the maximum amount of miles in training, but I know I need to give my body time to adjust to running before I lay it on too quickly.

3. There is one long run a week, and it increases by 1 mile per week. I just keep the mindset that if I do 5 miles one week, then 6 miles is only one more mile, and totally doable.

4. These runs don’t have to be done in order each week. The important part is simply to get the miles in. I work every other weekend, so I know my long runs will not always fall on a Saturday. This is about me, so I will do whatever I have to in order to fit this plan in with my normal weekly activities.

The most important thing to remember here:

I am going at a pace that I find comfortable to start. Right now, that equals a 15 min mile. I do not set a time goal, but I do set a weekly goal for my jog/walk ratio. Week one, I alternated 2 min walk/ 2 min run for all of my runs. Week two, I increased this to 2.5/2, which didn’t even seem possible week one, but now is a breeze.

Some days, I find myself thinking mid-run that I could totally just jog the last mile without stopping (it’s amazing how fast your body gets in shape if you stick with it!) but I have been avoiding that. As an overweight runner, I know I am putting a lot of strain on my body to begin with simply by jogging at all and I don’t want to kill my knees a month in and not be able to make it to the race.

According to everything I’ve read, you burn just as many calories and get the same health benefits using this walk/run method (I’ve heard it called penguin running–weird) as you would jogging the whole time, so I think it’s silly to burn myself out too fast by putting that pressure on myself to jog the whole time. Personally, I know I would not stick with this plan if I pushed myself too hard, and running at a comfortable pace with those walk breaks is really helping me enjoy my runs so far, instead of dreading them.

Trying to enjoy this is key. And you will, trust me.

Feel free to borrow my plan and modify it to your needs! You may want to add on a few weeks at the beginning with 1 and 2 mile runs instead of jumping right into 3 miles, because trust me, my shin splints are proof enough that I jumped in too fast!

So Here’s the Skinny (Or Not…)

So by some sort of research or an (extremely) lucky accident, you’ve landed on my blog! I hope it is because you are interested in taking up running and not because you are interested in cake (although I personally am VERY interested in cake, which is why I find myself here, writing this in the first place).

Either way, WELCOME!!!

Before I dive into the real juicy bits, let me give you a little background on myself and get the boring stuff out of the way right now.

A long time ago, I was a runner. As in the wake up, run a casual ten miles and then go to work for 10 hours and not even feel tired kind of runner. After having been overweight for my entire life, I suddenly found myself fitting comfortably into a size 6. People told me constantly how great I looked. I ran 5ks, half marathons, mud runs, you name it. I found a boyfriend who also loved running and I was in a constant state of endorphin euphoria. I didn’t even have to look sideways in every mirror I passed to make sure my stomach roll wasn’t sticking out too much. Let’s just say life was great.

And then two things happened at the same time.

1. I developed a lovely little pair of thyroid tumors, and

2.  I discovered cake.

Yes, cake. After being a professional cake decorator (and cake eater, it would seem) for three years, I went from this:

To this:

That’s right. 148 pounds to 238 pounds in a little over 36 months. The worst part was that getting down to that 148 had been a huge struggle, one that only really happened because of a few really bad breakups and completely terrible (not to mention dangerous) eating habits. So finding myself in a size 18 was a tough blow to take, to say the least.

Trust me, the last three years haven’t exactly been miserable. I mean, I definitely enjoyed every carb-loaded, sugar packed bite I stuffed in my mouth during that time, but suffice it to say that when I hold up a pair of my old size 6 jeans now, they look more like doll clothes than something fit for a human to wear, which equals 100% suckage in my book.

If you got bored back there and I lost you (totally understandable, here’s a recap: long story short, I thought I would never have to deal with being overweight again, but life happens, and here I am. And this time, I am determined to go about it the right way.

Now on to the fun part. (I know, I know, finally…)

So just in case the title didn’t tip you off, the purpose of this blog is not to share tips about baking cakes (unless you really, really want to learn about baking and cake decorating from me, in which case I am more than happy to share my knowledge, though I’d rather stick to the topic at hand). My purpose here is to share my journey as I train for a marathon. Yes, you read correctly– a marathon at 238 pounds!

Is it possible? I’d like to think so. Is it crazy? Absolutely. But I am a goal oriented person. I need a foreseeable end result with a strict time limit, or else I become the world’s worst procrastinator. So crazy or not, I have put in my $100 dollars and I am signed up for the Maine Marathon, which takes place in a little less than 119 days and 14 hours.

Deep breaths…

Since signing up for the race about two weeks ago, I have become a die hard researcher of all things marathon, (pinterest is great for that sort of thing) and everything I have read seems to tell me that a reasonable marathon training plan lasts upwards of 24 weeks.

Well, since I clearly love a challenge (I couldn’t just sign up for a 5k or something like a normal person), I am going to try to do it in 17. Since you are reading this blog, I am guessing you have some interest in training for a marathon as well as a non-traditional runner, and in that case, all I can say is:


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