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I Ran 11 Marathons in 11 Days – Here is What I Learned

11 marathons in 11 days

April 6th, 2021, was the scariest day of my life. I was outside the hospital waiting for my 8-year-old daughter to come out of a 12-hour surgery to remove a brain tumor.

All of the possible emotions passed through my head that day and the week leading to the surgery: anger, fear, frustration, reminiscence, regretfulness, guilt, sadness, and many other negative emotions I can’t even describe.

But in the middle of all that chaos, I decided to be grateful. I decided that when she came out healthy and better than before, I had to do something to raise awareness about childhood brain tumors and raise funds to help the incredible hospital and staff that helped us save her life.

The answer was: I’m going to run 42 marathons in 42 consecutive days and raise as much money as I can for the hospital.

Can I do it?

I’ve been very active in my life, but up to that day, I’d only run three full marathons, and in the middle of the pandemic, my training wasn’t going that great.

But I decided to try anyway; I would train my ass off over the next few months to be as ready as possible.

Thinking about my daughter, being grateful about having her safe and sound, and thinking about all those kids that need our help would be my fuel and inspiration.

How did I train?

I believe an image is worth a thousand words, so here are some screenshots from my Garmin Connect. 

My training officially started in June, and the date for the first marathon was September 19th.

As part of my training, I did three back-to-back-to-back half marathons, a back-to-back 30km run, and a full marathon just six days after that.

I Was Able to Run 11 Marathons in 11 Days

Ultimately, some injuries in my calves and Achilles’ tendons prevented me from completing the challenge. But I managed to run 11 marathons in 11 consecutive days, covering more than 288 miles (464km) in less than two weeks while raising over $10,000 for the cause.

Something a few months before I would have considered impossible

How did I improve as a Runner?

During my training and consecutive marathons, I obsessively took notes and recorded everything I did and tried. From what I had for breakfast and snacks after the runs to how I recovered, managed all the niggles, tried new shoes, and handled my emotions.

Since then, I’ve been applying all these lessons to my training and the runners I coach with incredible results.

I haven’t been injured. I achieved new personal records at 40 years old in the mile, 5k, 10k, and marathon. I’ve run 2 Boston Qualifying times. And… 

The Top 5 Lessons Learned and Applied

1. Focus on ONE thing at a time

There are hundreds of things you can do to improve as a runner. And when we try to do everything simultaneously, we end up doing nothing.

Find out your weakest link as a runner, find one way to improve it, and focus on that until you have a new weakest link. Repeat.

2. Simplify Things

Don’t overcomplicate things. Stick to simple, well-known things that work for you. There is usually a simpler solution than you think.

Not because you see online a new fancy way to do something is going to work.

3. The Long Run is Overrated

Especially if you are training for a half marathon or something shorter, building more mileage during the week is better than cramming everything into a single long run.

Your long run should not be more than 30% of your weekly mileage.

4. You Can do More than You Think

Did you know that our brain makes us quit before our bodies? Your brain is trying to protect you from fatigue and feeling tired, so it sends signals to try to slow you down way before your body limits.

Try to train in uncomfortable environments. Try to run a little faster once in a while. Go for a run you didn’t plan for.

You can train to do harder things than you think you could.

5. Active Rest Days

I was one of those athletes who thought that the more, the better. And I was usually injured or exhausted. Then I tried to do nothing on my rest days and felt sluggish and slow on my running days.

I discovered that active rest days are the best way to improve over the long run. Active rest days mean no running but staying active. It can be walking, swimming, or playing with your kids. Anything that keeps you off the couch and makes your blood flow works.

Final Words

Reflecting on my experience waiting for my daughter to come out of a 12-hour surgery to remove a brain tumor, I realized that amidst the chaos and negative emotions, I could choose to be grateful and take action to raise awareness and funds for childhood brain tumors.

While my original plan to run 42 marathons in 42 days was cut short due to injuries, I was able to run 11 marathons in 11 days and raise over $10,000 for the cause.

Through my training and consecutive marathons, I learned many valuable lessons that I still apply to my running and coaching today.

Focusing on one thing at a time, simplifying things, building more mileage during the week, pushing myself to do more than I think I can, and incorporating active rest days have all helped me achieve new personal records and even Boston Qualifying times.

Diego Alcubierre, a passionate runner and coach, started his journey at 26 with a 10k time of 1:06:23 and has since slashed 30 minutes off his personal record. With five running and coaching certifications, Diego is committed to sharing his expertise and proven strategies to help runners of all levels enhance their performance, stay motivated, and enjoy the journey of running. At Bannister, he simplifies complex training concepts, empowering you to achieve your running goals.