My Marathon Training (Read 1387 times)

    I just finished the core of my Fall marathon training plan, and now that I’ve entered my taper, I thought I would take the opportunity to report on some of what I’ve accomplished so far. My apologies in advance because I know this will be a long post, but I saved up quite a few milestones over the last 15 weeks. Smile Before I dive into the numbers, I want to give a little context. At age 41, I am in my third year of being a serious runner. I'm not especially fast or naturally talented. My marathon PR is a 3:29 – decent, but hardly elite. I'm looking to BQ at the St. George Marathon on October 4 (need a 3:20 or better). With that goal in mind, fifteen weeks ago I embarked on an extremely challenging marathon training program, resulting in several training PRs and a couple racing PRs as well. Here are some of the milestones I reached during my high mileage training experiment: Effort PRs 1. Highest Mileage Month: 362 miles. That was in July. August was a close second at 360, and June was a very respectable 324. September should come in around 302, even with my taper. Before this training cycle, my previous best month was around 260 miles. 2. Highest Weekly Mileage: 100.6 miles. The week included a midweek 17 miler and a weekend 24 miler, plus a tempo run of over 50 minutes at HM pace. Before this training cycle, my previous best week was 80.1 miles (I surpassed this old weekly PR in 9 of the 15 weeks during my training). 3. Most 20+ Mile Training Runs: 8. My longest long run was 24 miles, accompanied by three 22 milers and four 20 milers. Previously, I had never run more than four 20+ mile training runs in a training cycle. 4. Most 14+ Mile Training Runs: 26. At my paces, these are runs of around 2 hours or more. I averaged close to two of these per week. Previously, I hadn't done mid-week runs longer than 12 miles, so this volume of running was entirely new to me. Consistency PRs 5. Average Weekly Mileage: 80.7 miles. My weeks were 70, 68, 81, 82, 74, 78, 88, 87, 87, 67, 100, 64, 86, 83 and 93. My prior average weekly mileage best was 51.1 miles during my last marathon training cycle. 6. Consecutive Days Running: 45 days. During that streak, I ran 56 separate workouts (I frequently double) and an average of over 10 miles per day. I had another streak of 44 days. In fact, I only took two "off" days during the entire 15 weeks (one for injury, one for fatigue). My prior long streak was 10 days. Racing PRs 7. Half-Marathon: 1:36:08. Raced in early August, this was 4 minute, 34 second improvement on my prior PR (set at the same race 12 months ago). My half-marathon pace dropped from 7:41/m to 7:20/m. 8. 10K: 43:03. Raced in late August, this was a 1 minute, 10 second improvement on my prior PR (set after the end of my prior marathon training). My 10K pace dropped from 7:07/m to 6:56/m. I finished in the top 2% of this 10K, my best field placement in any large (2000+ finishers) race. So there you have it: 1211 total training miles so far, in 142 separate workouts, aggregating 170 hours, 12 minutes. Whew! Dead Ok, that's way more than enough patting myself on the back when my goal race is still several weeks away. Smile However, I do want to make a few parting observations on my training: Running this level of mileage is very difficult, especially for someone like me who's only moderately talented. Not only do the extra miles themselves take a lot of time, but it takes me longer to run them because my training paces are significantly slower than the typical runner who might tackle this kind of workload. It added up to a lot of time on my feet (an average of 11.5 hours running per week), and frankly I consider myself a bit lucky to have made it through the hard part of my training without injury or burnout. I could not have completed this level of training without the guidance of a well-designed training plan. In my case, it was Pete Pfitzinger's 18 week "70+" marathon training plan from his book Advanced Marathoning. By studying the book, I knew the intended purpose of every workout, as well as how every single workout was related to all the other workouts. This gave me the confidence to attempt a training regimen far beyond my comfort zone, and the commitment to see it through as designed by Pfitzinger. Apropos of the foregoing, I could not have completed this level of mileage without a substantial volume of recovery workouts, run at a sufficiently low intensity to permit true recovery between hard workouts. I credit Pete's plan with dictating a generous quota of recovery runs (his 70+ schedule prescribes an average of about 20 miles of recovery running per week). This allowed me to make the leap to running 80-90 miles per week, 7 days a week, while significantly upping the volume and intensity of my hard days too. I also credit my Garmin's HR monitor for helping me stay honest on recovery days. Having gone through this "experiment" myself, I now firmly believe that higher mileage is the single best way for most runners to improve their performance in general. However, high mileage isn't a miracle cure. My HM and 10K times both came down nicely, but not phenomenally. I basically expect the same for my marathon time: notable improvement, but nothing incredible. My best guess is that my marathon PR will come down by around 15 minutes. That's a heck-of-a-lot of training for a (hopefully) 15 minute improvement. High mileage will almost certainly help an average runner become a better average runner – maybe even a very good average runner – but it isn’t going to amazingly transform them into an elite athlete. I think there's only so much improvement a runner can make in 15 weeks, and no amount of training is going to change those genetic/physiological limitations. I'm learning that substantial improvement takes commitment and hard work over a substantial period of time – several years, let alone several training cycles. Taking on a higher training workload is not a shortcut to greatness; it’s but one step in the progress curve (albeit an important one). I admit that my high mileage "experiment" might have been a case of overkill. It's possible that I could have made the exact same gains while training 20 miles less each week. But, I’ll say this: even if it was overkill, at least I know that I did everything possible to help me get that BQ in St. George. I'll take pride in that, even if I ultimately fall short of my goal. That being said, I have no regrets about tackling this program. No one knows their true limits until they test them. When I started running three years ago, it would have been utterly inconceivable to imagine myself running a 100 mile training week, or a 360 mile month, or a 45 day running streak. I would have sworn that such efforts were simply beyond my innate abilities. I know better now, and I'm a better athlete for it. Thanks for reading. Cheers to everyone finishing or about to finish up their Fall marathon training. Smile

    How To Run a Marathon: Step 1 - start running. There is no Step 2.

      Great work, Berner. And great post, too. You're gonna rock that marathon.
        Awesome work, Berner. I'm starting to see the light at the end of the summer of mikey, too, which pales compared to the summer of Berner. We can disagree all day long on the minutae of training but I'll always give respect to anyone who goes out every day and does the work. And you've done the work. Kick ass at St. George.

        Runners run.


          Thanks for the post on your "high mileage" experiment. I too will be embarking on a higher mileage (for me) plan for the Shamrock Marathon in March. I won't be going anywhere near your 70-100 mpw but I will up my current 30-33 mpw to 55-60 mpw using Pfitzingers 24/55 plan. I ran in to endurance issues after my first marathon. I attribute this to not enough higher mileage mid-week runs. So, I am going to add 10-15 miler mid-week runs. Also, instead of strict intervals, I am going to run more tempo and fartlek runs. I would love to be 3:40 or below on my next one. My first was a 3:53. Good luck to you and I hope we are both successful!!

          Listen. Yeah, it's gonna hurt some. That's the marathon business.

          But here's the thing. When it starts to get intense, that's not time to panic. This is what you wanted to happen. It means that all the training, all the miles, all the wakeups, all the cold, all the wet, all the sleep-deprived days and all the shit you've done to yourself over the last 6 plus months is finally about to pay off. It means you've put yourself where you wanted to be. You've given yourself an opportunity that very few will ever have. You've given yourself a chance.

          Now finish it.


          Hold the Mayo

            Berner - Can you speak a little more to what type / frequency of speed work you were doing as part of this plan? I'm nowhere near ready for something like this, but it would be nice to see the other pieces in your experiment, for future reference. Thanks


              Really awesome job, Berner. I'm looking forward to congratulating you on a BQ effort coming up. I'm in my first real marathon training cycle and I have to admit, I have trouble imagining the level of effort you put out. Enjoy your race. You've earned it.

              I ran a mile and I liked it, liked it, liked it.


                Very nice recap and congrats on the many accomplishments. Trust in your training and enjoy the race.

                "Good-looking people have no spine. Their art never lasts. They get the girls, but we're smarter." - Lester Bangs


                  Great recap! I'm looking forward to seeing your marathon time.

                  Run to Win
                  25 Marathons, 17 Ultras, 16 States (Full List)

                    Berner, a very well deserved pat on the back. Enjoy the feeling of having done all the hard work which WILL lead to a BQ. Train hard, race easy. Nicely done.
                      Very inspiring ... thanks for posting such a nice summary of some very hard, diligent work. Good luck in your marathon.
                        Did you do any downhill running? You live in Chicago. StG marathon falls 1/2 mile over the length of its course, which is a TON. You could roll a marble down it (or a slinky).

                        Giants Fan

                          Good work Berner!! Very impressive!

                          "I think I've discovered the secret of life- you just hang around until you get used to it."

                          Charles Schulz



                            Wow, Berner...I'll be thinking about your race as we drive to Milwaukee. I hope you get that BQ...you have certainly worked hard for it and it would be a wonderful reward for your effort! Smile

                            '20 Goals:

                            Survive the 'Rona • Cover 4000 miles (3300 on-bike, 700 on-foot) • Duathlon podiums • Keep bustin' ass -1 lung lobe and assorted guts parts • Continue showing Cancer that it's not welcome back. Ever. • Improve power:weight ratio • $1000


                            Getting the wind knocked out of you is the only way to

                            remind your lungs how much they like the taste of air.    

                                 ~ Sarah Kay

                              Thanks everybody for your compliments and well wishes; I appreciate the moral support. Big grin
                              Berner - Can you speak a little more to what type / frequency of speed work you were doing as part of this plan? I'm nowhere near ready for something like this, but it would be nice to see the other pieces in your experiment, for future reference.
                              My training schedule had a decent amount of speedwork, basically falling into four categories: LT (tempo) runs, intervals, marathon-paced runs, and races. The LT runs were the most common; I ran one of these every other week while base building, and then pretty much every week during my endurance phase. The tempo portions started at 4 miles, building up to 7 miles. I aimed to run these at or below HM pace. The intervals started in the second half of the schedule, and I would do one of these per week. They started with 6x600, then built to 6x1000, 6x1200 and I'll do one 3x1600 during my taper. These are run at 5K pace. My schedule only had two marathon-paced runs, but they are tough workouts. I did one 16 mile long run with 12 miles at MP, and one 18 mile long run with 15 miles at MP. I ran these at or under my BQ pace. Finally, I did about 6 races during or right before my training cycle. I treated the 5Ks as "really hard" interval workouts for purposes of scheduling and recovery, and similarly I treated the 10K, 10 mile, and HM races as "really hard" LT runs. For what its worth, I consider my two best workouts of the entire cycle as (1) my half-marathon race, and (2) my 18/15 marathon-paced run. I feel that I made noticeable fitness breakthroughs shortly after completing these two workouts respectively.
                              Did you do any downhill running? You live in Chicago. StG marathon falls 1/2 mile over the length of its course, which is a TON.
                              I did a little hill work while traveling, but not as much as I'd have liked in a perfect world. I'm a little worried about my quads holding up, but I'm hoping my huge base will compensate to get me to the finish line in one piece. If my legs are trashed after the race, so be it as long as I BQ. Evil grin

                              How To Run a Marathon: Step 1 - start running. There is no Step 2.

                              A Saucy Wench

                                VEry very impressive Berner

                                I have become Death, the destroyer of electronic gadgets


                                "When I got too tired to run anymore I just pretended I wasnt tired and kept running anyway" - dd, age 7