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Lessons from running six marathons in six months

Jessica Murphy, co-founder of BibRave and avid marathoner, set out on a doable but inspiring challenge starting last year, running six marathons in six months in six different locations. Murphy completed the challenge, learning a lot along the way.

Right now, she is letting an injury heal before beginning to train for her next set of goals. In the meantime, she took the time to interview with me about six questions related to her experience.

1. Question: What was your inspiration for trying the six marathons in six months feat?

Answer: To be honest, it happened totally organically! It wasn't something I set out to do at the beginning, but over time I kept getting race FOMO and adding more races to my calendar. Tokyo had been on the books forever with our group of friends that was finishing our six-star Abbott World Marathon Majors. I've paced Chicago so I wanted to do that as well. Then, due to my role at Runner's World, I was able to get access to New York and knew I couldn't turn that down so I figured I would run for fun. When Andy Wallace joined team BibRave, we had always wanted to run Disney together so we decided to sign-up. THEN, I started to get worried with all the fun runs I wouldn't have a chance to attempt a PR for a long time, so I thought I might want to try to run Berlin (again, I was able to get access through Runner's World, so I was extremely fortunate and knew I had to take advantage of it). LASTLY, over the summer I saw some amazing airfare sales to Honolulu that ran over marathon weekend, so we decided to add that trip because it had been on our bucket list for a while! So, that is a long and convoluted way of saying ... it was not an obvious path. :)

2. Question: What did you learn about yourself during this epic adventure?

Answer: This sport always teaches me to respect my body and respect the distance. After running a PR in Berlin of 3:21 I really thought I could pace the 3:55 group in Chicago no problem. Turns out ... even though it was 35 minutes slower, my body was still not ready to take that on only two weeks later. I should've respected the distance more than I did.

I also learned it's really hard to stay motivated to keep training for so long, especially because I did such an intensive training cycle at the beginning for Berlin. I discuss the ups and down in more detail for this post I did for BibRave as well.

3. Question: What, if anything, would you change — anything in the training, races selected, etc.?

Answer: The only thing that really impacted me was my training/running at the very end. Between Disney (Marathon 5) and Tokyo (Marathon 6) I was suffering some slight knee issues. They were on the mend, and then I decided to run a relatively hard-effort half marathon. Since then I still haven't been able to get rid of this knee issue. Had I been smarter about that decision I think I could've finished still feeling strong and not needing too much time off before getting back into it. Now, I'm still trying to heal my knee before I dive into fall training.

Everything else honestly went great. I felt great for many of the races and all of them brought such unique experiences. I highly recommend each and every one of them!

4. Question: What would you recommend to someone who is considering a similar challenge — a long-term endurance sports goal over multiple months?

Answer: Stay in-tune with your body frequently. Keep the end goal in mind ­— finishing all the races — and then race/train smart to make sure you can get there. Also, set reasonable goals for each race so you can finish feeling strong (and wanting to run another marathon again).

5. Question: Would you do it again?

Answer: Absolutely!!! I definitely love #alltheraces

6. Question: So what's next for your running and fitness goals?

Answer: Assuming my knee can be pain free by early June I'm going to raise money for charity and try another PR attempt at Chicago 2018. I also was able to re-qualify for Boston at Berlin 2017 so I'm excited to return to Boston 2019 after two years away. I've definitely become smarter when it comes to pacing and race strategy for that race so a course PR at Boston would be pretty nice.

Speed drill

Name: Jessica Murphy

Hometown: Chicago (but really Northbrook, Illinois). But now I live in Portland, Oregon!

Number of years running: 9

How many miles a week do you typically run: Not training, 25-30. Training 45-55

Point of pride: I'm so unathletic, but now I'm running!

Favorite race distance: Marathon

Favorite pre-race or training food/drink: I never eat before I run (stomach issues)! For a race if I'm up 2 plus hours before the race I'll have 1/2 banana and 1/2 bagel maybe with some peanut butter.

Favorite piece of gear: Lately I'm obsessed with my AfterShokz Trekz Air

Favorite or inspirational song to run to: Lately, "This is Me" from Greatest Showman!

Favorite or inspirational mantra/phrase: Honestly, when I'm struggling, instead of thinking of inspirational phrases I try to turn my brain off and just focus on keeping my feet moving. Often, I'll count, and focus on a footfall for each count. I use the counting to keep my cadence high so I don't slow down into a pile of quicksand.

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