Training for the Florence Marathon

Dear SIF students,

Several of you have expressed interest in training for the Florence Marathon, which will be held in late November. A multi-week, preplanned, tried-and-true training plan is the best way to get yourself to that finish line feeling happy and healthy. I’m strongly recommending Hal Hidgon’s well-regarded novice plan, which is laid out for you below.

But before we get into the details, you might be wondering why you would want to add a marathon – that is, a 26.2 mile run – to your study abroad experience.

Just a few reasons:

  1. You will see the city in a whole new way. You’ll become acquainted with every hill, valley, park, cobblestone, and water fountain. In a way, running the city makes it feel like YOURS.
  2. You’ll fill in your mental map of the city and learn to navigate it better. Because when you run a place, you have to learn it. You’ll become an inadvertent authority on the fastest way to get from point A to point B and where the most beautiful views lie.
  3. Morning people can watch the sunrise while running on empty streets along the Arno. Evening people can experience Florence’s spectacular sunsets while feeling alive and healthy. Both experiences are unparalleled.
  4. You’ll feel more like a local and you’ll see what the tourists miss. Those people in the park at 7 a.m.? Or cleaning the streets? Or delivering produce? Those are not the tourists. They are regular Florentines, walking their dogs, doing their jobs, getting some air, socializing with friends before work. Or maybe they’re like you: training for the marathon. Join them and feel the pulse of the city.
  5. You’ll be better able to manage your time. Yes, even though you’re taking on yet another commitment, trust me: working in these runs will help you formulate and stick to a schedule.
  6. Running is a wonderful antidote to sadness, anxiety, loneliness, homesickness, or any other bad feelings that may sneak up. I have always, ALWAYS come back from a run feeling better than when I started. The endorphin rush is real.
  7. If you train with a friend, expect to form a deeper bond with that person through shared struggle and through the conversations that often happen when you’re filling the miles with unfiltered chatter. And if you train with someone who is just an acquaintance, expect that person to become a fast friend.
  8. You’ll come home with a great story. Who else can say they ran a marathon in Florence?
  9. Italian food is delicious. Pasta, pizza, panini, risotto, gelato… Running will help you enjoy it guilt-free.
  10. Study abroad is an opportunity to challenge yourself culturally, socially, and intellectually. Why not add a physical challenge to the mix?

Also, see these good reads.

Convinced to give it a go? Or at least still intrigued? Great! Read on.

This is the basic novice plan:

Here you can read more about the Hal Higdon approach to marathon training. I won’t reiterate it all here. But a few things that are specific to us:

  • Important dates: Week 1 begins July 29th! Leading up to this, you should have the ability to run 2-3 times per week, starting at 15-20 minutes and building up to 30-35 minutes. If you’re not quite there but still want to do the marathon, talk to me. It’s workable.
  • Don’t worry so much about your running pace. Run most runs easily. As a general rule of thumb, you should be able to carry on a conversation.
  • How do you know how far you’re running? The easiest way is a watch with GPS: a Garmin, iWatch, or a more advanced type of Fitbit. If you don’t have one of these (and no one did a decade ago and managed just fine), you can drive a route and measure it that way before running it, or you can use MapMyRun to find premeasured routes in your neighborhood. Once in Florence, I’ll have routes mapped out for you.
  • Unless you join one yourself, we won’t have access to a gym or pool in Italy. But notice Higdon’s focus on cross-training. Just walking the city at a good clip can count.
  • I am also a big fan of core work (planks, squats, push-ups) to help stabilize you and prevent fatigue on the long runs. This could count as strength training, and you can do it without a gym.

You can (and will) modify the plan to allow for travel and other things. Specifically, you don’t NEED to do your long run on Saturday. But you do need to do it. Maybe you’d prefer Friday morning, or Sunday evening. Consistency is key, but allow yourself a little bit of flexibility. I want this to enhance your experience abroad, not take away from it. Talk to me about modifications.

Questions? Email me at any point, and know that I am available for consultation in person when we’re in Florence. Maybe even while on the run! I’ve been running for 20+ years and have completed 10 marathons. And I expect running in Florence to be one of the best yet!