Particularly since I don't know exactly when my marathon will be (a fact with which I have reluctantly made peace), it seems odd to be entering the strength phase of marathon training.
Most (good) marathon programs have 5 phases -- first you do base building (varying in length, but basically several weeks of easy running in gradually increasing or steady mileage). Then you move to strength, where I am now. That is 1.5-2 months of developing strength -- your distance increases weekly and you do some faster or stronger running (adding some practice at marathon pace, some short distance pick-ups, and ... perhaps my least favorite ... some rolling hills and hill repeats). Phase 3 is short, just about one month, and that's the sharpening phase. It's where you'll do a lot more faster running -- lots of days with some race pace, and lots of days of tempo pace. You don't want to do the sharpening phase for too long, or you will not be at your absolute peak performance on race day. The fourth phase is the taper -- where you hit your absolute longest run and then spend 2-3 weeks of running reduced mileage. Keeping the quality, drastically cutting the quantity, again, aiming to have you at your peak on race day. Phase 5 is mistakenly skipped by many runners, but it's the recovery phase. When recovery is well-planned, rather than depleting you, your race experience serves to further add to your strength. Recovery phase includes MILES of walking, which is probably why many runners blow it off -- thinking if you're not running, you may as well just sit on the couch and it won't make a big difference. But a planned recovery not only speeds healing and builds strength, it gets you back to running sooner, whether that's your goal or not.
One of the craziest things I did was running 3 marathons in 3 months (how I qualified for Marathon Maniacs). The only way to do something like that without getting hurt is to have a good recovery plan.
Anyway, very long-winded way of saying that within the last week, I have moved from the base-building phase and into the strength phase. I'm just picking Oct. 14 as the "most likely" date for the Beijing marathon, and I am choosing to ignore one website claiming the marathon is Oct. 21. But moving to the next phase of training, unfortunately for me, meant hill running. Ugh. My heart rate was insane. I felt like death. We have a route that is about 3 miles with 3 pretty major hills. Well, major for Dallas, I need to add that qualifier. And there are also 2 baby hills on it. The route starts with the 2 baby hills. By the time I was done with the second baby one, trying desperately to catch my breath for the 60 or so seconds of running before you begin the first real hill, I told my running buddy that I was a little worried my heart was going to explode. I have no idea why it was so tough for me. It's not like I ever run on a treadmill or something else that is flat. Maybe it just would have been a tough day no matter way I ran, but it was a tough start to hills. I really didn't think I'd be able to do the entire route -- 2 loops of the 3 miles, for a total of 6 hills. Somehow I survived, but yikes. I have a lot of work to do!
I know I'll get there, or at least I always have before. I know hills always feel crazy hard to me at the beginning, and it gets easier, but oh, maybe this will be the one year it doesn't. The one year I really do collapse or give up. I suppose I shall have to keep going to see. At least my shoulder doesn't hurt when I run..