– Jesse Hendon
3 months to the day before race day, I was coming off an all too familiar feeling, a crazy hangover. I’ve always been the go to guy for friends if you wanted someone to go out and have a good time. My wife and I have never said no to a party, wine tasting, or dinners, which include drinks before, during, and sometimes after. Our vacations include wineries, all inclusive destinations with unlimited drinks and even in Dubai we’d find places for a drink every night. I know, breaking that Sharia law!
I was 2 months out from turning 37, was at the heaviest I’d been my entire life and found my self esteem was going in the opposite direction of my weight. I had recently sold my first company, was in the process of starting another with a good buddy and consulting on a third for another buddy. I’ve been blessed with a great network of friends, a healthy social life and have accumulated many of the traps we see in success. My wife and I had luxury cars, I’m debt free and we live in West LA, one of the more expensive neighborhoods in the world. It’s smack dab between Beverly Hills, Santa Monica and Brentwood. By all accounts, it looked like I was on the right track, but that was far from true, I needed a shock to my system and I needed it NOW!
I’ve always been one of those guys who looked skinny enough to claim fitness. However I was getting on the wrong side of skinny fat! I’ve worked out most of my life; gyms, weights, small runs around the neighborhood, obligatory pre wedding workout for a good three months! However I’ve never been one of those fitness buffs. That’s not to say I haven’t been a massive consumer of content that is designed to provide advice on fitness, I just never followed the advice of the content I consumed! Well, it was time to change that. However I needed a big goal to push myself. I’ve never been one to be motivated by something small and I needed a MASSIVE shock. So that day I made a public announcement on facebook, “I’ve decided to run the LA marathon, wish me luck people!”
I hadn’t run more than 3 miles since I turned 27, almost a full decade earlier! How the hell was I going to take my skinny fat self from 5K to a full marathon in the course of 3 months? I started where most of us probably would start on a search like this, google! I literally googled, hacking the 3 month marathon. I found a schedule that looked reasonable (little did I know what I was getting myself into), I printed it out and said, “we start on Monday.” The rest was a windy road that took me out of party guy mode (probably about time at 37), helped me lose almost 30 pounds in those 90 days, helped me re-train and re-discipline my diet, helped me find stretching and yoga and gave me and my wife our first solid quarter of marriage without a blow up because of something or another resulting from over indulgence. This experience literally changed my life!
In the next few pages, I want to take you down the road I ran to crack such a big goal in a short period of time. We’ll see what I did at the beginning, middle and end of training. I’ll provide my schedule, my diet, my gear, what I did to prevent injury and pain, my recovery, my supplements and more. I’m also now in the process of training for my second marathon and I’ve had the time to process what I’m going to do differently this time through and what I’d recommend to myself if I could go back.
There is a lot of material on the internet about running and fitness. What makes this any different? Well, I think the overall spirit of these pages is to provide real world advice from someone that probably wasn’t far off from your similar fitness level. I’d like to think this could be the perineal beginners guide to a marathon written by someone that literally is one step away from still being a beginner. I mean, I’m still only training for marathon number 2 and just a month and a half removed from number 1. So let’s get started with that first 5k!
Hit the Ground Running (the struggles of beginning to train)
Before we get started, here is the link to the pdf for the plan I used for my first race.
Also, here is the link to the calendar that I’m using for marathon number 2.
Now, if you have more than 3 months to train, I would recommend giving a go at 4 months before the marathon. I attribute this to the fact that unless you have the discipline of a Jedi warrior or samurai, you are going to make mistakes along the way. You will probably fall off whatever discipline horse you are on and you will have runs that you just aren’t ready to hit! However, the schedule from lifehack is the one I followed. I may not have been 100% on the training and I’ll show where I fell off, what I would do different from what I did looking back and what you should put between the runs.
The first step, get out and run! This is by the way, the hardest step! I think it’s hard for a few reasons. First, let’s be honest, the act of running sucks. That’s why the only time you see most people run is if they’re being chased by cheetahs, hockey mask yielding machete carriers or godzilla. No one wants to put on miles, until you finish those miles, then the bragging rights are pretty awesome! That’s where these first runs come in. Running 5k a couple of times a week and a 10k at the end is a pretty awesome thing to be able to talk about throughout the week. Like, hey, ran a 5k last night and a 10k over the weekend, feeling kind of badass right now! It’s about finding that head space that you know you have a goal, it feels good to accomplish that goal and you CAN accomplish that goal. These first weeks are 100% about getting mentally fit and finding the enjoyment in the pain.
Running by yourself is a mind game, let me tell you! I trained for this race without a running buddy and I’m training for this second one solo status too. I promise I’m not a crazy loner, you won’t find me uni-bomber like, all locked up in a cabin in the woods, I promise! However, 4 days a week you’ll see
me by myself, headphones in and pounding pavement wherever in the world I may be.
I feel there is a sense of accomplishment in beating something like a run by yourself. Running gives you pain physically, mentally and emotionally. If you have the tenacity to push yourself through a running wall and keep going when you’re out on a Saturday morning, you’ll find you have the tenacity to handle other tough situations life hands you. It’s all about preparing yourself and pushing yourself. I found once I passed the 15k mark (9 miles basically) I was pushing myself into new levels of punishment! I mean new levels of success!
Changing the Small Things (diet, gear, routine)
The mention of pain and punishment leads to the importance of gear! The reason I’d never run distance in my life was that I found after about 3 miles my knees would start to hurt. I never thought further about it than, I’m in my 30’s and my body can’t take the impact. The truth of the matter is, I was probably using incorrect form, not bracing my joints that hurt, not taking action to avoid inflammation and beating that crap out of any and all of my gear!
I started my training out in an old pair of Asics Gel-Excite 4. After having run earlier in life with Nike, Adidas and other minimum type shoes, I’ve found that I need a shoe with support and more importantly, padding to avoid needing an ice bath after running a mile! Asics and Saucony I’ve found to both provide sufficient support for most of my runs. I’ll provide links to the shoes I’ve enjoyed using at the end of this chapter. I also introduced myself to Hoka’s and holy guacamole, these things were a game changer! When you see them and you’ve ever experienced knee pains when running, you’ll want to fall from your chair! These are the shoes I’ve found to be most effective about 16/17 miles if the Saucony’s or Asics aren’t providing the leve
l of cushion your body desires. I was turned onto these by a buddy who isn’t a little guy, and had completed a half marathon a year or so before I had decided to embark on this journey. I asked what he did to conquer knee pain and he told me, braces and Hoka’s. I thought he was trying to turn me onto hookah before running a race, little did I know he was showing me a show that was a game changer!
Let me break down what i’ve found in the shoes! I’m currently doing all of my training in a pair of Saucony’s. It’s a good light shoe that can take a beating and provide support. The exact shoe I used was The Redeemer. I think the name says it all, it’ll help make up for that impact, possible wonky form and they keep together over time! I found this shoe has been great for everyday running and distances up through about 15/16 miles. I’m sure they could take more of a beating, but what can I say, I’m fragile!
For the distances above half marathon, I fell in love with the Hoka. This shoe changed my running life. It’s got a fat sole which can look intimidating, but Tom Cruise would love that height addition. I’m sure he’d endorse this shoe if he was a runner! The Hoka is intended to do one thing and one thing only, absorb impact! It’s a great shoe for running, but it’s not sexy and not something you’d wear out to dinner! All of that said, it is like running on a cloud! These are not cheap shoes, neither one of them are to be frank and that should be mentioned here. I’m a believer that we only have one body and if we’re going to take the time to train, it’s well worth the price to wear the appropriate gear to prevent injury over time. I personally wore the Hoka One Bondi 5.
Enter The Physical Therapist
As I mentioned at the beginning, my wife and I are never ones to say no to going out. Just because I was embarking on this journey and taking a sabbatical from drinking, didn’t mean I wouldn’t go out and hang with my friends! Admittedly, the first few times was a little weird, but if you go in with the right attitude, crack a few jokes and order plenty of sparkling water and club soda, no one will know any different that you aren’t drinking!
One night, early in my training, literally weekend 1, we were invited to a birthday with a friend of ours who is a physical therapist and now a repeated marathon runner. I couldn’t wait to to pick her and her husbands brains for training advice, but I was more interested in picking her doctor brain to see how I could battle my knee pains. The best part of the dinner, there were 3 physical therapists at the table to argue with one another and give a very rounded opinion!
Their first suggestion was KT Tape. KT Tape is a brand of kinesiology tape. If you watch the NBA or olympics, you’ll see athletes with a crazy tape around their shoulders, on their shins around their knees and more. I’m honestly not sure about the science behind the tape, but according to the good people at physio works, “Kinesiology tape has unique elastic properties that allow it to provide dynamic support, protecting muscles and/or joints, while still allowing a safe and functional range of motion. Rather than being wrapped completely around injured joints or muscle groups, kinesiology tape is applied directly over and/or around the periphery of these areas. This non-restrictive type of taping allows most applications to be worn for 4-5 days, allowing therapeutic benefits to accumulate 24/7 for the entire time they’re worn.”
KT Tape is a specific brand of kinesiology tape and of the ones I tried, it was no doubt the best of the ones I used. Now to the effectiveness, I found for my knees, it was ok up through about 13 miles, but bracing was much better above that threshold. I found the tape was good if I applied it a couple hours before the run but if I tried immediately before, it would fall off. I also got better results with the tape on the actual muscles like the back of my calfs to assist with pain and recovery.
They also argued compression sleeves paired with kt tape could aid in the pain management. So I used a compression sleeves around my knees paired with the KT and found it was pretty effective until I’d hit about 10-13 miles. Again, I found these were better instruments for muscle recovery than prevention and stabilization. When I wear compression post runs, it’s a giant game changer in the recovery process which we’ll get into more later in the article. The compression gear is used was from Ultra Flex Athletics. I came across these g
uys because of their high reviews on amazon and the reviews didn’t lie. They have high quality gear and it won’t break the bank.
That said, it was ultimately moving to the Winzone knee brace that fully optimized my running without pain. I brace up both knees with a knee brace from Winzone. I figured, why not, this can’t hurt anything and it didn’t! In fact, my knee pains when running were officially gone. I did have new muscle pains that I never had before but I’m assuming that’s from using a corrected form that is now using muscles for power rather than my joints! Now, I’m not a doctor nor do I pretend to give physiological advise, but these braces changed my life. I ran an entire marathon without knee pain and 3 months before that I was getting knee pains around 3-5 miles. I can’t tell you how much of a difference this made between belief that I could or could not finish!
I don’t think we can only speak to what we do on the outside, but what about what we put on the inside. They say that 80% of weight loss and physical transformations happen in the kitchen, not the gym. I think when training for a distance, that probably goes more 70%, however the diet is still the dictator. I decided during the race I was going to follow a mixture of the slow carb diet and bullet proof. Let me explain what both mean and how I put them together for myself,
the cheats I allowed and the meals I ate regularly.
The slow carb diet was popularized by my personal favorite creator of life optimizing content, Tim Ferriss. The slow carb diet consists of a diet high in fats, proteins and vegetables. This is how I would run my post breakfast. My lunches were basically always burrito bowls from whole foods. I would get a bowl with lettuce, beans, peppers, chicken or steak for the protein, pico de gallo and guac. I know, who wants to eat the same thing everyday?! Well, honestly, I don’t get sick of this, it’s full of flavor and rich in fats & proteins! For snacks throughout the days I’d eat Quest protein bars. It’s a company that prides itself in highly nutritious foods that aren’t packed with the garbage most “health food” is packed with. Then for dinner I’d always do a protein and a veggie of some sort, typically either steak or fish and sauteed veggies. If I wanted a snack at night I’d do a tablespoon or 2 of almond butter. Sue me, I can’t say no to the stuff!
For breakfast everyday I would make my own version of the popular bullet proof coffee, or as my wife likes to remind the real name, butter coffee! I know, I know, stay with me, I promise this is real and it works, let me explain! First, I did my own version, so it’s not technically the bulletproof brand coffee. I’m a monster fan of Dave Asprey and what he’s done to flip the basic diet on it’s head is awesome! I recommend reading his content, listening to his podcast as well as Tim’s from above. They are both awesome! Anyways, back to the coffee! Every morning I kick off my day with 2 cups of good, quality coffee french pressed and ground fresh. I buy whole bean coffee and grind to serve. You then add 2 tablespoons of grass fed butter. I can’t stress enough, get good, grass fed butter or you are taking away the benefits! You then add 2 tablespoons of either coconut oil, MCT oil (I personally use Onnit’s MCT) orDave’s Brain Octane Fuel. You then blend them all together and you’ll have one hell of an awesome morning! As an aside, I’ll typically put a scoop of collagen protein in mine as
well. It’s gut friendly and one of the healthiest proteins you can put in your body!
Now, there is one more item I have to admit to and it’s not one that will be fun to a lot of people! I only allowed myself to drink alcohol 3 times in the 3 months of training. I had 2 weddings and my birthday party. I considered those to be pretty decent excuses. However I found that alcohol was a major inflammatory and when running, especially long distance, the less outside influence on inflammation, the better. I mean, that’s where so much of the pain comes from.
On the note of inflammation, I also took a few supplements everyday. I didn’t go crazy because well, honestly, I’m too lazy and frugal to go buy a ton of supplements! I typically get most of my supplements from the vitamin store, except I’ll also purchase from onnit from time to time when I’m looking for a sort of stack type item and they’re good at what they do! Every morning I’ll take a probiotic with 50 billion strains, a vitamin shoppe anti inflammatory supplement with lots of vitamin D and turmeric in it. I’ll also take a 1000 mg vitamin C tablet as well. On my running days I’ll typically take a vitamin shoppe sports multi. I know there’s a lot of arguments around multi’s, but I found that I recovered better if I took one after runs and I still do. I know I sweat like a politician taking a lie detector test when I run so it can’t be too bad to replenish some of what I lost!
What we put in is often a contributing factor to what we can put out. I’ve found as I’ve gotten older, I’m more sensitive in both a good and bad way. If I drink, it can take days to recover. However if I keep my nutrition right, my body now responds like a fine tuned machine and it’s translating elsewhere in life. For instance, I now have a greater control of my golf game as I’m more in tune with how my body works and moves, it’s amazing! Also, my mind is clearer than ever and I attribute that to cutting out the alcohol and eating right, it’s like fight ready!
It’s getting serious: discussions on the training process
I’d like to get into the weeds here a little about the training pros and cons I had. It was my real run and without guidance of fellow runners or the past had it’s biggest effect. I made a few fatal errors in my training that led to some major struggles on the back side of the race! The first, the furthest I ran in training was 16 miles. That means at less than ⅔ of the way through, I was constantly breaking my personal distance record. This is not good, friend! I highly recommend taking your runs up to at least 20 miles, if not 22 before your race. In my plan for San Francisco, which I’ll like here, I’m going to hit 20 miles on my longest run. I believe this will put me in a much better position to prevent early fatigue, help my headspace as I hit those longer distances and help lower my overall time.
My goal for my second marathon is to hit around 5 hours. To put the time difference in perspective, my first marathon I finished in just under 6. That’s an average mile time of 13 min and 45 seconds. Obviously I walked quite a bit! In order to get down to 5 hours I’ll have to get my average mile, with walks included down to about 11 minutes and 30 seconds. Why am I explaining time to people that can obviously do math, because another thing I learned was the importance of tracking time and distance accurately! In my head, I thought I’d break the 5 hour marathon all along, then I was almost a full hour more! Expectations can only be realistic if you train within realistic parameters.
So in order to track progress I bit the bullet and bought a wearable. My choice was the Garmin Vivoactive HR. I ended up getting the garmin because a buddy of mine had 2 accidentally shipped to him, so we split the cost and each got one at half price! If your not so lucky for such a happy accident, I was looking at in my research the iWatch, Fitbit Blaze(which is what I was about to buy that spurred the conversation with said friend about the Garmin) and the Samsung G3.
There were a few basic things I wanted to start tracking. 1) My true distance. A map can only show you so much of what you’re really running, you need a watch with good gps. 2) Time splits. This is something I never checked in my first training. The thing I like about my watch is it notifies me every mile and when I’m done I can analyze my run. Where did I slow down, where was I during that slow down, what can I do the next time I’m there. 3) Week to week progress. Where in my training have I improved? Where have I fallen off?
Now the gravy, I’ve become addicted to so many more of the capabilities! Tracking sleep, daily activity, diet & more! I’m still learning many of the features that I think are great to track in life, however here are
the few I’ve been playing with the most. First, I’m tracking diet. They partnered with My Fitness pal from under armour and it’s great to track what you put in your body, especially when your training. It can make a world of difference, especially if you train especially bad or well after eating certain foods. Most of us don’t write these things down and it’s much better than relying on memory! I now try and break the 10,000 step barrier everyday too! I never cared too much for this, but now that I’m reminded to stand up and move from time to time, it breaks up my day and honestly the moving makes me happier! Final happy note, it can help track my golf game. However golf will be a completely different write up!
In addition to running further for the next race and tracking, it’s important to get into stretching and massage. This was another area of weakness of mine that I’m trying to change for the next race. Putting your muscles through this sort of work is a lot of stress on the body. If professional athletes stretch and get massages and they do this for a living, you can imagine it’s probably super important for your personal recovery too! For stretching, I used the app Yogaglo. It’s great! It’s only 18 bucks a month for a subscription and you get more classes than you could ever imagine and that 18 bucks goes to pay the instructors. I love that they pay t
he instructor and I have access to a catalog of great yoga! In addition to yogaglo, when I was sitting around and just watching TV, I made it a point to stretch and watch at the same time. It also made me feel like less of a couch potato!
For massage I went down 2 roads! The first, the feared foam roller! Now this obviously doesn’t make up for real massage and I’ll get to that in a second. It is however a very good tool to release trigger points and help knock out some of that lactic acid that builds up. I opted for the ProSource High Density Foam Roller. For no other reason than it was cheap and it served it’s purpose. I’m sure there’s arguments behind more expensive rollers, I just haven’t heard them!
The second row I went down was Burke Williams and the thai massage place around the corner from me on Westwood! Burke Williams is a total treat yourself spot. My wife and I went there the week before the Super Bowl. That was about my halfway point in training and it was a good little staycation moment for us! Their masseuses are always great and professional and it’s great to us
e the amenities as well. Now, when you don’t want to spend over 100 bucks on a massage, the local mom and pop places are just fine! I use the thai place around the corner like once a month, but this race, every 2 weeks for the last 2 months is the schedule I’ve decided on. The recovery is game changing and I believe it’ll help me delay those gigantic muscle pains that will be inevitable!
“We’ll See You In Santa Monica” (race day / details of how the race went)
“We’ll see you in Santa Monica!” That was the LA Mayor Eric Garcetti announcing the start of the race. He’s announcing this to us at Dodgers stadium. If you aren’t familiar with Los Angeles, let me explain what this means. Take every montage you’ve ever seen of Los Angeles from the beaches, downtown, Beverly Hills, Chinatown, Brentwood, Westwood, Century City, Hollywood, West Hollwood, Silver Lake, yeah, you know, those shots, Dodgers stadium is on the other side of all of those things!
I’ve always been told if you want to get to know a city, you run through it. Well running has shown me LA. This place is one hell of an amazing city! The marathon though, it brings the people to the streets and you will be showered with so much love and encouragement. I remember thinking, these people are here to just encourage strangers making to accomplish a goal they’ve set out on. I’m telling you, every street had people, every neighborhood. This place is awesome! It made me fall in love with LA and it’s people all over again.
Running down Hollywood Blvd, closed off and turning down to Sunset was pretty awesome. You originally come to this city and it’s Hollywood! Your gonna run this town and run this street. Hell, they just may close the road off so you can accomplish a personal goal! They may even close off Rodeo drive just so you can run down it without having to deal with the hustle and bustle for a little bit!
For me, the race became real as I was going through Beverly Hills. I felt the walls and pain come harder than ever around mile 17, right at the end of Rodeo Drive! My body was feeling some pains it’d never felt and I still had 9 miles to go. It was then my first friend popped up, Matt, your a life saver bro! This dude rode his bike out from Marina Del Rey to Beverly Hills to support his buddy and then the same crazy man rode to meet me in Santa Monica at the finish (BEAST)! Then a couple miles later, my wife and our dog. We had just adopted the little guy about a month prior. His name is Ace and he’s legit a one eyed Chihuahua disguised as a mini pincher. Of course they’re going to give me some good vibes. Also, here I should also thank my wife for dealing with becoming a running widow for three months!!! I love you sweetheart!
As I got into Brentwood, eating free gummies and chugging down water and beer from the nice table handing those out to runners, I hit a few runner friends (also 2 of the physical therapists from above)! They knew exactly where I’d need some encouragement and boy did they get me moving again! Little did they know the influence they had on my training! This from little pieces of advice here and there, k-tape and braces and shoes to Mel making sure I was using the foam roller, yes I did by the way!
The final stretch of the race, goes down San Vicente in Brentwood. This is a road I swear to you, never ends! Right after we crossed Bundy and you are facing that long, long road, I came across my friend Jeff whom I had no idea was going to be there cheering. I’m telling you, people are pretty awesome. As I was reminded again when I came across a wonderful group of Hoosiers that I’ve had the pleasure to have in my life for over 10 years now out there with high fives and honestly, the push I really needed to get to that line! I parted ways with them around 19th street, this was the lead up to the last 2 miles.
That final stretch, the line, the people screaming for you, it’s a huge moment of singular relief and excitement. You are doing something that less than 1 percent of the population has done this year. According to the runningusa.org about 500,000 will finish a marathon in a given year, at least in the last decade that people have gotten more into it! That’s about .002 percent of the population of the US. You are doing something 2/10 of 1 percent of people can say they have down. It’s a pretty sick accomplishment. No question. When you cross the line, the congratulations are like nothing you’ve ever felt and when they put the medal around your neck, well let’s just say I teared up a bit.
When you finish this first race, go celebrate! I know that I did. I was lucky enough to have some friends that lived close and they were willing to have some friends over for some well earned beers and food! I must say, that first beer was probably better than any beer I’d ever had in my life. It was to completing a goal that had been on the bucket list for a long time. It was to setting on a journey and seeing it to the end.
It was also to a new beginning, I was now a runner. I feel confident that I can use running to see cities as I travel like I’ve always wanted to do. I can train for marathons in different destinations like I’ve seen people do and feel a bit of envy for! I can talk about running a marathon, we
ll, because I have! I have friends who run that we trade advice with. I’m a part of a club, a group of pe
ople that set goals, finish those goals and then set new ones to make themselves better. They encourage, coach, push and alway
s understand each other.
If you are going to embark on this 5k to marathon journey, I salute you. I hope you can learn from some of the mistakes I made and use them to assist you along the way. Even if you aren’t going for a marathon, maybe you’re going to do your first 10K or half marathon, this advice is universal. Make sure you have the right gear to prevent injury, you eat right to fuel the machine that is your body and that you track your progress. All goals must have measured results in order for them to be executed appropriately. So go out, set a goal and knock it out. You can always reach out to me at the links below for any help, suggestions or good ol’ motivation. I’ll look forward to seeing y’all out there, making every step for yourself one more closer to your goals and a better life. We’ll toast the victory beer at the end!