Hill Training for Full and Half Marathons

Hill Training for Full and Half Marathons

Hill TrainingMany runners hate hills because they’re hard. This is exactly why you need to include hill training into your training.  Hills can increase your strength & speed.  They also boost your confidence, improve form and help to minimize the chance of injury when you complete them on a soft surface (grassy hill).  The muscles you use when completing a hill workout are the same as ones used for sprinting, so the strength you build will improve your speed. This article discusses the benefits of hill training and outlines when in your training plan they should be completed to achieve the maximum benefit. Lastly, I will provide some examples of hill training that can be performed for short races and other hill workouts that are best for ½ and full marathon training.

Which Phase in Your Training to Complete Hill Training 

Usually hill training is completed during the strength training phase of a plan.  Similar to Fartlek and Tempo runs, hill workouts help you transition from base training to faster interval workouts.

Typical hill workouts include a brisk running uphill with rest breaks on the flat or on the downhill.  You can run at a sustained pace uphill, then relax back to conversation pace (catch your breath) on the downhills or flats.  15-30 minute of faster running is a good target. Paces depend on the grade and amount of repetitions.  If you’re going by heart rate, target 85 – 95%.

Before completing hill training I recommend starting with an easy warm-up at conversation pace for 10-15 minutes. Next complete some stretching exercises including lunges, leg swings & strides. Complete your workout and then finish with an easy cool down and stretching.

hill training for marathons

Another benefit of hill training is that it can make you a more efficient runner because you’re training the cardio-respiratory and muscular systems to absorb, deliver and utilize oxygen while removing waste products such as lactic acid.

Types of Hill Running (Workouts)

  • Hills at conversation pace (just including hills during your general training). Just be cautious of doing too many hills and/or too often.  A good example is picking a hilly course for whichever distance you run.   A hilly long run is a great workout for ½ and full marathon training.
  • Hill repetitions – vary your workouts to include any of the following:
  1. Hilly out-and-back course. This is the most common and probably best way to get yourself into hill training for a marathon or half marathon.  Run comfortably hard on the uphill and then relax or run controlled downhill.  Be careful of running too fast/hard on downhills. The distance of these workouts depends on the athlete’s ability, goals and what kind of base/foundation they have.  New or novice runners should simply just try running up the hill without stoping.  Don’t worry about picking up the pace (hills are hard enough).
  2. 400m-1000m. Alternatively 1.5 – 4 minutes uphill. 5 – 8 repetitions with rest or easy jogging on downhill.  Try to avoid hills that are too steep.  I recommend no more than 7-8% grade.  This workout is perfect for marathoners. 3 – 4 minutes for recovery depending on the length of the hill.
  3. Short hill (100m-400m) or 30 – 90 seconds. 5 – 8 repetitions with rest or easy jogging on downhill. Pace is faster than the longer uphills.  Recovery is 1.5 – 2 minutes depending on the length of the hill.
  4. Combo hill. Instead of distance, run uphill and vary by time. Start at 1 minute uphill and increase by 1 minute up to 4 minutes. Then decrease by 1 minute for 7 total hills.  This workout more closely simulates what you’ll see in a race where the size of hills varies.
  • Downhill training – important for some race courses. Although it may be easier for your heart and lungs to run downhill, your legs certainly don’t get a break.  It’s important to remember that you don’t want to run too fast downhills.  I strongly recommend practice running downhill to prepare you for races like Big Sur and Boston. A perfect workout before the Boston Marathon is to add 2-3 miles of downhill after a long run of 14 – 18 miles.

I recommend including various hill workouts in your training.  Modify the distances and speed of each hill.  For example, to start hills complete 3 x 600m at 10k pace and 3 x 200m at 5k pace.

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Last year, I ran Sauvie Island Marathon, which is flat, so I didn’t incorporate hill training into my 12 week plan.  Instead, I ran hills in March, just before I started my plan. I completed the short hill workout by time.  I completed 8 repetitions of 90 seconds.  I didn’t complete any other hill training.  In previous years when I ran either Portland or Boston, I included a lot more hill training in my plan.

To prepare me for the last 6 miles at Boston (which is downhill), I would add 2+ miles of downhill after my 16-18 mile long runs.  To prepare me for the St John’s Bridge in Portland (which is around the 15 mile point), I would finish my 14 – 18 mile long runs with a 2.5 miles uphill.

Where to find Hills?

For many runners out West or along the East Coast, finding a hill may not be an issue.  However, you don’t need to live at elevation to get in a hill workout.  For many athletes in the Midwest or Florida, where it’s flat, you may have to get creative with your hills or inclines. Try parking garages (just be careful) or stadium ramps.  High school stadiums, office buildings or hotels with stairs could also be used, but the duration of the uphill will be shorter.  A word of caution about stairs is to start with just a few stairs and then build up.  Stairs can really stress your achilles.

Another alternative for hills and stairs is using the treadmill or stair climber at the gym.  If you’re completing stairs or stair climber workouts, ensure you stay sufficiently hydrated for longer workouts.

Hill Running Form:

  • Practice surging at the top of the hill with confidence & speed.
  • Lean forward, but don’t hunch
  • Keep your shoulders relaxed and drive your elbows back
  • Use a shorter cadence, but faster arm swing
  • Look a few feet ahead, not straight down at the ground
  • Try landing on your toes
  • Remember that every hill has an end


The more you include hills in your training, the less intimidating they’ll seem when you face them in a race. Hill running is an important component of any well-rounded training plan.  As you can see, hills will help you become a more complete athlete.  The improved strength and technique you gain from regular hill workouts will provide you with a significant confidence boost when you’re racing.

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How Tempo Runs Will Help You Achieve Your Running Goals

Strength Training for Marathon Runners


How Tempo Runs Will Help You Achieve Your Running Goals

How Tempo Runs Will Help You Achieve Your Running Goals

How to run a tempo runIn this article, you’ll learn what a tempo run is and why they are so important (for any race of 5k+). I will also tell you the proper way to run a tempo,and when during your training schedule you should include these workouts. Finally I’ll provide some examples of proven tempo run workouts.

Bottomline, this is the probably one of the most detailed guides to Tempo Runs that you will find and I’m sure it will help you understand these workouts are so important to help you achieve your goals.

What Exactly is a Tempo Run?

At the risk of getting a little too “sciencey,” I’ll do my best to describe tempos.

There are multiple types of tempo runs. You may hear them referred to as aerobic threshold (most common), anaerobic threshold or lactate-threshold runs. However, it’s important to note that these are 3 different runs each serve a purpose. Aerobic threshold runs are the most common and run at a pace where you’re producing the maximum amount of lactate that your body can clear from your muscles. If you were to run any faster, you wouldn’t be able to clear the lactate that’s being generated and you would then experience a burning sensation or fatigue in your legs. This is the feeling you get at the end of a short, hard race or during an interval workout.

To get the benefit of Aerobic Threshold Tempo Run for marathoners you want to run it just near your lactate threshold and not any faster.

The goal of the lactate threshold workouts is to move that point where lactic acid begins to accumulate. We can accomplish this with repeat 2-3 mile intervals, sometimes referred to as cruise intervals. These are completed at a specific target pace (discussed below).

Lastly, the anaerobic threshold run is performed at the level of intensity where lactic acid accumulates faster than it can be cleared. Increasing our anaerobic threshold is important because it allows the body to run at faster speeds before fatigue and lactic acid take over.

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Why Should You Include Tempo Runs in Your Training?

Tempo run workouts are essential for long distance runners training for races of 5k+. Depending on the distance and type of tempo, these are the most “race specific” workouts you will complete during your training. However, tempo runs shouldn’t be the only hard workout during your training. Remember, variety is essential to getting in shape (10 rule to marathon success).

Aerobic Threshold runs for marathoners should teach our bodies how to burn fat efficiently at marathon pace and improve our body’s ability to run longer at this high end aerobic pace. Tempos improve your ability to hold a challenging pace over a longer period of time. However, if we run too fast at what’s a anaerobic threshold pace, we improve the body’s ability to slow lactate, but we don’t improve our body’s marathon specific readiness.

The goal for these workouts is to boost our lactate threshold. We do this best by running at or near our threshold pace for an extended period of time, because our body becomes more efficient at clearing lactate. Tempos are usually completed at one assigned pace (as opposed to progressive runs or intervals where you vary the pace). One of the goals of tempo runs is to improve your sense of pacing.

The faster you can run while still clearing lactate, the faster you’ll be able to race. However, there’s also a significant mental aspect as well. Tempo runs are challenging, stressful and mentally fatiguing. You need to train yourself to maintain your tempo pace for the duration of the workout. I’ve coached many athletes and some tell me that the hardest part of the tempo (especially longer tempos) is being able to maintain the pace throughout the run. Your mind can wander, you get tired and your pace can slow if you don’t concentrate on maintaining the designated pace.

In summary, tempo runs help you run faster for longer periods of time. These runs also they teach your body how to tolerate more discomfort and I believe that they do a great job to help develop your mental toughness.

How to Pace a Tempo Run

Completing a tempo can be challenging for many runners because they don’t understand the pace and or distance for the workout. I’ll admit, it can be confusing and you may be tempted to run the workout too fast or start too fast and fade. But, it really doesn’t need to be too difficult to determine your pace. The problem comes when runners perform this workout at the wrong pace, because they can greatly compromise its intended training benefits, get injured or worn down.

There a few variations to tempo workouts (which I will discuss below), depending on the outcome desired and the timing in your training schedule.

The tempo workout is run at a pace that’s faster than “moderate” but not exactly “hard.” Many experienced runners can run them by feel or perceived effort.

It’s important to understand that your tempo pace at the beginning of the season will likely be slower than at the end due to fitness improvements. Your pace could also vary in weather elements or fatigue levels.

Tempos are NOT run at your goal pace

This is very important.  Instead you need to figure out the pace at which you can no longer comfortably speak a full sentence (try repeating something like the “Pledge of Allegiance”). This is the point that many coaches call “comfortably hard.” It’s a tough effort, but you shouldn’t be gasping for air.  As discussed above, do enough tempo runs correctly and you will see improvement.

Depending on the race for which you’re training, tempo pace should be similar to a very recent 1/2 marathon or 10k pace. However, my strongest recommendation is to simply use the “talk test” and run by feel. The longest tempos in my marathon training are about 60 – 70 minutes.

Another way to run a Tempo is by heart rate. This only works if you know your max heart rate (mine is in the low 170s). After your warm-up, I typically recommend about 80% of max heart rate through the duration of the run. Any faster and you’re actually in an anaerobic zone and you’ll likely won’t be able to maintain the pace for too long. You can learn how to calculate and train by heart rate by reading my article (training using a heart rate monitor). For many runners, using a heart rate monitor can be an easy way to ensure they’re in the right range for the workout. If you don’t have a HR monitor, it’s simply a matter of looking at your watch and monitoring your pace as you move through each mile.

If you run your tempos by feel, your pace will eventually quicken.

Types of Tempo Runs

There are generally three types of tempo workouts.  (1) sustained tempo runs (20 – 70 minutes at one pace).  (2) repetitions (repeat 10 – 20 minutes at tempo pace with a short (1-2 minutes) recovery in between each).  (3) Tempos that are mixed into intervals or longer runs. As with other two types of tempo workouts, this latter type of tempo is beneficial for increasing the aerobic threshold. It’s important to maintain the assigned pace during the tempo portion of your workout.

Legendary coach Jack Daniels also recommends inserting periods of Aerobic Threshold running into long runs. For example, two 20 minute tempo runs that bookend a one hour easy run. Coach Daniels schedules this run bi-weekly in the latter stages of race preparation.

The one real requirement of tempo running is that you stick to a steady, specific, planned pace.

When to complete Tempo Runs

If you’re training for a shorter race, tempo runs are best done early in the season during base or foundation training. Tempos completed early in your training will help build endurance that can support race-specific fitness later in your training cycle.

For longer races such as a 10km or longer, tempos are best if completed during the mid to late portion of your schedule.

Some coaches have their runners perform two of these workouts every three weeks during a marathon build-up. As the race approaches (but before tapering) the runner can increase the frequency to one tempo effort weekly. I typically perscribe weekly tempos in weeks 7-11 of a 12 week marathon training plan.

Tempo Run Workouts

Tempo Workout #1

I completed this workout when I was training with Coach Greg McMillan. In the past, I’ve had excellent results training under Coach McMillan. This first workout is perfect for 10km or half marathon. You complete multiple tempos, but with some hills between. It’s a tough workout so my recommendation is to insert an additional recovery day before your next hard/long workout.

The steep hills between the 3 mile tempos will fill your legs with lactic acid so the second tempo helps to simulate that feeling of tiredness at the end of a race.

The key to this session is to try your best to run the second tempo run at the same pace as the first. To make things a little easier, if you’re really struggling, the 2nd Tempo can be shortened to 2 miles. This workout teaches your body & mind to “dig deep” when you’re aching and simply want to stop. Successfully getting through this workout will really boost your confidence.

1. 15 minutes warm-up at easy pace

2. 3 mile tempo run

3. 3 minute jog recovery

4. 4×30 second steep hills

5. 3 minute jog recovery at easy pace

6. 2 – 3 mile tempo,

7. 15 minute cool down at easy pace.

Completing this workout will do wonders for your confidence because you must overcome the feeling of lactic acid that builds up in your legs during and after the hill repeats. Completing this workout will help prepare you to not give up when you feel like you can’t keep going.

I really like this this Tempo for runners who are fit, but don’t have a race scheduled anytime soon.

Tempo Workout #2

Your traditional Aerobic Threshold Tempo Run and includes one block of running at tempo pace. Depending on where you are in your training plan will determine the length of the run at tempo pace.

1. Start with a 10-15 minute (or 1 mile) warm-up.

2. Run 20 – 30 minutes but with no break or recovery in the middle of the effort.

3. Each week increase the length of the tempo by 10 minutes until you reach 60 minutes.

4. End each tempo with 10-15 minutes (or at least 1 mile) cool-down.

Tempo Workout #3

Just like intervals, but will help improve your Lactate Threshold because it’s done at your tempo pace. The recovery is kept to a short 60-90 seconds and the repetitions are generally longer.

1. Start with a 10-15 minute (or 1 mile) warm-up.

2. 3 x mile at tempo pace with 90sec jog recovery.

3. Finish with 10-15 minutes (or at least 1 mile) cool-down.

Tempo Workout #4

Similar to the sustained or traditional tempo mentioned above except in this run is called a lactate clearance run. Technically it’s a anaerobic threshold run.

The way to accomplish this is during your sustained tempo runs insert a 30-60 second surge at about 5k pace every 5-8 minutes. The surge will bring on more lactate into the blood stream. When you slow back into your tempo pace, your body will then have a chance to clear that lactate, even as you maintain tempo pace.

It’s a tough workout again, but it will train your body to process lactate more efficiently, which ultimately makes your lactate threshold pace slightly faster.

Tempo runs are an excellent way for runners of all levels to work on building their speed and strength.

How Middle Age Runners Stay Injury Free
These runs are also helpful for developing the mental toughness and stamina needed for racing, since you practice running at a pace that’s a little outside of your comfort zone.

To summarize, each of these types of workouts & their associated paces causes increased effort and physiological difficulty when completed. When we successfully run at these paces or training zones, you can ultimately race farther and faster more comfortably.


1) runnersworld.com
2) strengthrunning.com
3) runnersconnect.net

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2018 Fall Marathon Guide

2018 Fall Marathon Guide

Fall Marathon Training

photos courtesy of Chicago Marathon, Rock n’Roll Marathon, Marine Corps Marathon

Typically marathoners perform best when they run in cooler (40-55 degrees (F)) temps. For many runner’s their best chance to have a good time is with a Fall Marathon. Use this Fall Marathon Guide to select a race & follow the numerous links for valuable training information that can help you achieve your goals.

The only “pitfall” for training for a Fall marathons is that you need to putting in the biggest miles of your plan in the hot summer months. However, the good news is that this is a time when the days are long, and you don’t have worry about ice and snow. Also, there’s typically plenty of build-up races (1/2 marathons & 10ks) available during the Summer or early fall. You can integrate these races into your training schedule and use them as a way to to test your fitness.


Throughout this blog, I provide I number of detailed references which can be used to help you train for your race. I recently published a detailed marathon training follow along of my training for the 12 weeks leading up to Portland’s Foot Traffic Flat marathon. Posts include details of how to set race goals and training paces, nutrition, how to make adjustments to your training, strength training for marathon runners and much more.

Other very helpful posts to ensure your success include:


Here’s a list of some great Fall Marathons. As you can see, I provide some details of each race (like if it’s a flat course, good crowd support, etc). I also include feedback from previous participants so you can decide which marathon is best for you.

If you’re interested in participating in any of these races, please let me know if you would like some help setting your goals or setting up a customized training plan that will be specific to your athletic ability, goals and your busy schedule. I specialize in working with busy middle age athletes, so please contact me if you have questions.

St. George Marathon – great scenery, fast & well organized race, net downhill of nearly 2,600 ft
Location: St. George, UT
Date: Saturday, October 6, 2018
Website: St George Marathon

Bank of America Chicago Marathon – huge race (45k+), but very well run and tons of spectators throughout the fast & flat course. One of my best running experiences was at the 12 mile point in this race (downtown and packed with loud cheering spectators, truly amazing).
Location: Chicago, IL
Date: Sunday, October 7, 2018
Website: Chicago Marathon

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Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon – very well run & supported race on beautiful twin cities course. Tons of spectators. This race gets fabulous reviews, year after year. Typically perfect racing conditions.
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Date: Sunday, October 7, 2018
Website: Twin Cities Marathon

Steamtown Marathon – net elevation loss of almost 1,000 ft. Good course to BQ, but be careful with the 2 hills near the end. Gets very favorable reviews from past participants. If you live in the Northeast, this is an excellent alternative to the bigger Fall marathons.
Location: Scranton, PA
Date: Sunday, October 7, 2018
Website: Steamtown Marathon

Mohawk Hudson River Marathon – Easy hills up front when adrenaline is high and only a few shorter, steeper uphills around 12/13. About 1000 runners participate. The bike trails make for fast, easy running. Past participants love the nice spread of post race “goodies.”
Location: Schenectady, NY
Date: Sunday, October 7, 2018
Website – Mohawk Hudson River

Portlandathon Marathon – for 1 year, the owners of Portland Running Company and the company that manages many Portland area races, will operate a marathon in the City of Portland. The course will differ slightly from the Portland Marathon, but it’s still a USATF certified and BQ course.
Location: Portland, OR
Date: Sunday, October 7, 2018
Website: Portlandathon Marathon

Nebraska Marathon – starts/ends downtown with much of the course near the Missouri River and into Council Bluffs, IA. A fairly new race, but has excellent reviews from participants.
Location: Omaha, NE
Date: Sunday, October 14, 2018
Website – Nebraska Marathon

Baltimore Marathon – mixed reviews due to hills in the 2nd half and because ½ marathoners converge with marathoners in the 2nd half of the race. It’s a challenging course that may not be best for 1st timers or runners hoping for a BQ. Past participants generally rave about how well the race is organized and run (lots of aid stations). Crowd support is excellent.
Location: Baltimore, MD
Date: Saturday, October 20, 2018
Website: Baltimore Marathon

Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon – very positive reviews from past participants. Most had a great experience between expo, pre and post race activities. It’s well organized and there’s excellent crowd support. A few hills, but nothing that runners complained about. Bottomline, it’s highly recommended.
Location: Columbus, OH
Date: Sunday, October 21, 2018
Website: Columbus Marathon

Edward-Elmhurst Health Naperville Marathon – small race in suburb outside of Chicago. It’s not the fastest course (due to a few hills and lots of turns), but if you don’t want to run in Chicago with 40k+ other runners, this is a good alternative.
Location: Naperville, IL
Date: Sunday, October 21, 2018
Website: Naperville Marathon

Detroit Free Press/Chemical Bank Detroit International Marathon – Good organization, but not a lot of crowd support during the middle of the race. Relatively flat course, but there is a climb up the Ambassador Bridge which is a little steeper and longer than many would like. This race has been selling out because it’s very popular, so register before end of August to ensure you get in. There is an underwater mile between Miles 7 & 8.
Location: Detroit, MI
Date: Sunday, October 21, 2018
Website: Detroit Marathon

Ashworth Awards Baystate Marathon – billed as BQ marathon because of it’s mostly flat course. Right outside of Boston along the scenic Merrimack River. Gets a lot of positive feedback for being well organized.
Location: Lowell, MA
Date: Sunday, October 21, 2018
Website – Baystate Marathon

Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon – very well organized, plenty of water stations and exuberant spectators throughout the course. Relatively flat (just a few hills) course, so it sets up nicely as a Boston Qualifier.
Location: Toronto, ONT
Date: Sunday, October 21, 2018
Website: Toronto Marathon

If you’re interested in joining me, I can put together either a custom training plan or I can personally coach you. Either program will be specific to your goals and athletic abilities. Just click on the links for details.


Marine Corps Marathon – this was my first marathon 30+ years ago, when approx. 9,000 runners participated (really big for back then). It’s now a much bigger race with 30k+ participants. Because there’s no corrals at the beginning, it can get a little crowded. Past participants have commented about how the beginning of the race is tough when after mile 1 the course narrows significantly. Overall, mixed reviews, but many are positive. You get to run by a lot of monuments, so it’s a memorable experience.
Location: Washington, D.C.
Date: Sunday, October 28, 2018
Website – Marine Corps Marathon

Indianapolis Monumental Marathon – 10th most Boston Marathon Qualfiers among all North American marathons, with this flat, fast course. Lots of crowd support, bands, cheering sections. Very positive comments from participants.
Location: Indianapolis, IN
Date: Saturday, November 3, 2018
Website – Indianapolis Marathon

TCS New York City Marathon – The largest marathon in the U.S. Not much for me to say here as most runners are very familiar with this race. If it’s on your bucket list, definitely apply and train hard because it’s a tough course through Central Park and across the Verrazano Narrows Bridge at the beginning.
Location: New York, NY
Date: Sunday, November 4, 2018
Website – New York Marathon

Anthem Richmond Marathon – Really positive race reviews from past participants. Many rave about the course, organization and fan support. A lot of runners say they would run this race again because they had such an enjoyable experience.
Location: Richmond, VA
Date: Saturday, November 10, 2018
Website – Richmond Marathon

Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon – mixed reviews, mostly bad, about the course. It’s fun to run through the Vegas lights in the evening, but most complaints centered around the course and challenges with the start (in 2017 additional security measures were taken due to the mass shooting in October). Lots of bands, entertainment and crowd support throughout the race. They offered a finisher jacket in 2017.
Location: Las Vegas, NV
Date: Sunday, November 11, 2018
Website: Las Vegas Marathon

Fort Worth Marathon – Fast and flat out and back course along the scenic Trinity River. Don’t expect big cheering crowds or perfectly executed signage at every mile. The course is out and back. Not many spectators line this course.
Location: Fort Worth, TX
Date: Sunday, November 11, 2018
Website – Fort Worth Marathon

Gore-Tex Philadelphia Marathon – mostly flat with a few slight inclines. Some recent negative comments about poor/confusing organization. Lots of friendly spectators
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Date: Sunday, November 18, 2018
Website – Philadelphia Marathon

Williams Route 66 Marathon – this is a challenging course with multiple hills. Overall reviews are favorable because the support is excellent, expo was fun and the course through the neighborhoods of Tulsa gets lots of local support.
Location: Tulsa, OK
Date: Sunday, November 18, 2018
Website – Route 66 Marathon

California Intl Marathon (CIM) – billed as fast course with net downhill. This course has wide streets so you don’t feel overly crowded, but with rolling hills for the first 20 miles, If you don’t train for hills, your quads may be “trashed.” Bottomline, you can BQ here, but you must train on hills prior to coming to this race.
Location: Sacramento, CA
Date: Sunday, December 2, 2018
Website: CIM

BMW Dallas Marathon – This is a highly regarded race. It’s 40+ years old and they have plenty of spectators on the course to keep you motivated.
Location: Dallas, TX
Date: Sunday, December 9, 2018
Website: Dallas Marathon

Foot Traffic Flat Marathon – Portland, OR [Follow-Along]

Foot Traffic Flat Marathon – Portland, OR [Follow-Along]

Foot Traffic Flat Marathon

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Race & Recovery

In this post, my results are below. I finished the race well above my target time of 3:00. My time was 3:17:22. I discuss my take away’s & race specifics below. The main purpose of this post is to share my best strategies for recovery after a long race.

Proven Post Marathon Recovery Strategy

In my week 11 post, I discussed how to recover from a long run. The purpose of this recovery strategy was to optimize your training so you get the most out of your hard days (which are typically spaced 2-3 days apart).

The following post marathon recovery strategy is similar in some respects, but keep in mind that we’ve just completed a 26 mile race & the 3-4 months of training. The race alone is an extreme test of endurance that takes much more out of our bodies than a typical workout. As a result, we need a comprehensive 3 week recovery program.

Barring any injuries, the best strategy for full recovery starts in the first 30 minutes after the race and should last for the next 3 weeks, before you start training for your next event. There’s little to gain by rushing back into training within days of a marathon. Your risk of injury is high due the reduced resiliency of your muscles after running 26 miles.

Day of Race Recovery

Within 30 minutes of finishing the race, you need to consume some calories right away. Typically there’s plenty of food available after the finish line. However, at smaller races, like the one I completed this week, there was very little food, so I brought my own. You can check beforehand with the race to understand what will have available.

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I prefer to eat easily digested high-carbohydrate foods such as bananas, bagels or even protein bars. Others like to drink their calories. Whatever you crave, go ahead and have it because the important thing is to get some calories into your body. You’re also dehydrated and your blood glucose is low, so you need to replace electrolytes.

In addition to solid food consumption, I recommend water and sports drinks.

After you leave the post-race celebration area, head home or to the hotel and get off your feet and then get cleaned up, stretch and get in some comfortable clothes and shoes. Consider wearing compression socks or tights.

I really like my compression socks from Bauerfiend. I’ll wear them for at least 3 hours.

I saw it on Bauerfeind USA Inc

Sports Compression Socks Ball & Racket | Compression | Medical aids | Bauerfeind B2C US

You should consume a meal that consists of carbohydrates (fruits & vegetables), proteins and healthy fats. Choose nutritious foods like fruits, whole grains, vegetables and your favorite protein source like red meat, chicken or fish. Continue to hydrate and replace calories the rest of the day. In fact, drinking plenty of water throughout the week after your race is one of the best things you can do to ensure proper recovery. I strongly recommend consuming food that helps to reduce inflammation. There’s a list below.

Week 1 Recovery

The morning after your race, you may have difficulty walking down stairs. This is common. Your quads may be stiff for 3-4 days after the race. Taking a break from running is actually helpful to your recovery. However, if you have access to a flat 2-3 mile route, try to walk or really easy jog (walking is preferred) for 20 – 30 minutes on the day after the marathon. The goal is to boost circulation and gently get the blood flow to your legs. This helps bring healing nutrients into your muscles and will also help to remove waste products and damaged tissue. Walking, light running and gentle massage can help.

Important – If you have an injury or are experiencing any kind of pain (not general soreness) that prevents you from any prolonged walking/running, don’t walk or run. Completing this easy workout on day 1 is something that I have done the day after all of my marathons, because I believe it shortens my overall recovery time.

I recommend taking the rest of the week off from running, with only some short (20-25 minutes) non-impact exercises on an elliptical or stationary bike. The other critical element of week 1 recovery is to drink a lot of water & continue with foods that reduce inflammation. Post marathon soreness typically disappears by the end of the week. However, damage within the muscle cells remain, so it’s important to continue with a full recovery plan.

My Favorite Anti-Inflammatory Foods

Regularly include the following foods in your diet. Increase these foods in the weeks following your race to speed recovery.

  • Green leafy vegetables – spinach & kale
  • Fruits – strawberries, blueberries, oranges, cherries & blackberries
  • Tart Cherry Juice
  • Fatty Fish – Salmon, Tuna & Sardines
  • Walnuts
  • Cinnamon
  • Tomatoes
  • Brocolli
  • Spices such as Ginger and turmeric – sprinkling onto food for a different flavor or drink as an herbal tea flavor
  • Whole grains – regularly include oatmeal, brown rice, whole-wheat bread, and other unrefined grains into your diet.
  • Week 2 and Beyond

    Following schedule outlines 3 weeks of post marathon recovery workouts. The first week is very “light.” Although I show some short runs starting in week 2, if your body is still sore, continue with the cross/low-impact training. Otherwise, keep your effort easy and the distance short (30-60 minutes). In week 3, the runs are a little longer and a little faster. You can also start some basic conditioning work in Week 3 if you’re not injured or feeling any residual/post race soreness. By week 4 you can move closer to your regular level of training. It’s essential that you don’t jump back into training for another race too soon. Typically, the soonest I race (any distance) after a marathon is 3 months. This is particularly important for less experienced and runners that are 40+ years old.

    3 week marathon recovery plan

    Here’s the link to my Strava Dashboard so you can see the details of each of the workouts that I completed this week & throughout my journey.

    Following are my workouts for the week of July 2nd.

    Monday July 2nd – rest day – minimize time on my feet

    Tuesday July 3rd – 3-4 miles @ easy pace
    Run Distance, Time & Average Pace: 3.5 miles, 28:28 minutes, ave pace 8:08

    Wednesday July 4th – Race Day

    I didn’t come close to my goal of 3:00. Although I had been training to break 3, my last month’s workouts were leading me to believe that at time closer to 3:05 was more realistic. With this in mind, I decided to start conservatively at around 7:05 – 7:10/mile pace. My thought was that if I could run 7:00 – 7:10 for the first 6+ miles, I could then settle into a low 7:00/mile pace and then pick it up if I felt good from mile 13+.

    As you can see with my splits, it didn’t work out that way. My primary challenge was that I was never able to sustain a sub 7:10/mile pace. Eventually, my feet started to really hurt (due to worn out orthotics that really had not bothered me too much) and I just ran out of gas the last 3-4 miles.

    The good news is that the 3:17 is still 12+ minutes under my Boston Qualifying benchmark.

    I now that I’m blessed to be able to run and maintain a healthy lifestyle. I didn’t get sick or injured the entire time I trained for this marathon. It’s really “icing on the cake” when we can reach our time goals.

    Here’s my take away’s from the race and my training.

  • I need new orthotics. Mine are worn. My feet were definitely feeling it the last 6-7 miles.
  • I should have completed a few more longer runs (19-21 miles). I followed a plan that had worked for me earlier where I completed more longer tempos and longer repeats (1.5 – 2 miles). I was also training with a personal trainer at that time to get strong. My very best results over the years have come where I completed 2 x 19-21 mile runs.
  • I should have completed more strength training. I used to go to a physical trainer who really helped me get strong. I did much of my conditioning on my own this time and I think at times I didn’t push myself hard enough. Being strong really helps towards the end of the race. Especially if you haven’t completed any 19-21 mile runs. Although my feet hurt, to be honest, my legs and hips were feeling it too.

    I always learn a lot from each marathon & the 3+ months of training. I will continue to share what I learn with each of those that read my blog and those whom I coach.

    If you’re interested in joining me, I can put together either a custom training plan or I can personally coach you. Either program will be specific to your goals and athletic abilities. Just click on the links for details.

    Following image shows my race splits.

    Foot Traffic Flat Marathon - July 4,2018
    Run Distance, Time & Average Pace: 26.5 miles, 3:17:22 minutes, ave pace 7:27

    4 Days of Recovery Notes

    Thursday July 5th – Off Day – Rest & Recovery
    My quads are tight today, however I can easily walk up/down stairs.

    I took my dog out for 3 mile walk around a lake in our community. This gives me a great opportunity
    To stretch my legs, get the blood flowing and simply speed recovery. No running today, but if I wanted, I feel I could.

    Also, I continue to drink plenty of water and eat healthy carbs, proteins & fats or a well balanced diet.

    Friday July 6th – Easy/Short Run

    Minimal stiffness in my quads, so I complete my first run after the race. The key is to jog slowly.

    Run Distance, Time & Average Pace: 4.16 miles, 36:39 minutes, ave pace 8:48

    Saturday July 7th – Walk/Hike
    3.5 mile walk (with dog) on flat crushed gravel path

    Sunday July 8th – Walk/Hike

    3 mile walk (walked my dog)

    Weekly total = 34.1 Miles

    3+ Month Run Total (March 26 – July 6) = 607.5 miles

  • How I peak for a marathon, the last week of training [Follow-Along Week 12]

    How I peak for a marathon, the last week of training [Follow-Along Week 12]

    View of Mt Hood on long runIn this post, I’ll share what I do the last 7-10 days prior to my race and how to ensure I that I’m fresh, fit and ready for my marathon.

    As I wind down my training, I have found that the strategy that gets the most consistent (good) results, is to slightly reduce my volume over the last few weeks, but don’t decrease the intensity.

    A month out from the race, I topped my weekly mileage at 57. Although I still completed strength & longer tempo runs in subsequent weeks, I decreased my weekly mileage by 10-15% weekly. The last week before my race, I completed some intervals/speed on a trail and a shorter tempo. I also completed strides on the track to ensure I have some faster running. This strategy that I learned when I was coached by Greg McMillian, is called “keeping the engine revved.” My weekly mileage the last week prior to the marathon was 37 miles.

    These workouts in the last 1 ½ weeks stress your body, but not as much as earlier in the plan. The goal is to ensure you’re fresh, fit and ready to run on race day.


    In the last 3-4 days do your best not to go hungry. This doesn’t mean you should overeat. Instead, make sure you are consuming nutritious snacks in between your healthy meals. Snacks I recommend are whole wheat bagels, bananas, avocado (to spread on toast or bagels), peanut butter and energy bars. Consume these with plenty of water. In fact, you should be drinking a lot of water (48 – 64 ozs more than you typically drink before a long run or hard workout). In the last few days before the race, you can have some sports drinks/electrolytes. Just remember, don’t overdo any eating or drinking and definitely do not consume anything that you haven’t previously tested before a long or hard run.

    I don’t think you need to “carbo load” 1-2 days before the race. Instead, I recommend eating a balance of healthy fats (salmon, avocados & nuts work for me) and quality carbs (whole grain pasta with marinara, salad & whole grain bread). Substituting a few extra carbohydrates instead of protein works well for me and other runners. We don’t need to overdo it with too many carbs because your training volume has decreased slightly. Trust me, a slight increase in carbs typically works fine.

    Just remember what worked during your training, should work now.

    Following are my workouts for the week of June 25th.

    Monday June 25th – modified Fartlek

    This is not a “push it the max” workout. Instead the purpose is to get some quick leg turnover, but also not allow full recovery between reps, that’s why I call it a Modified Fartlek. I like to complete this workout on a bike or dirt trail, because I won’t push as hard as if I was on a track. This is an 8 mile workout.

    1 mile warm-up at easy pace
    2 x ¼ mile at 10k pace with ¼ mile modified rest (at brisk, not a slow jog)
    1 x 1 mile at MP with ¼ mile rest
    2 x ¼ mile at 10k pace with ¼ mile modified rest (brisk)
    2 x ¼ mile at 10k pace with ¼ mile modified rest (brisk)
    1 x 1 mile at MP with ¼ mile rest
    2 x ¼ mile at 10k pace with ¼ mile modified rest (brisk)
    1 mile cool down at easy pace

    You can see the mile splits below. This is a hard workout, but it’s not meant to be very demanding. It’s important to not go too slow in between the 1/4 & 1 mile intervals.

    Modified Fartlek for Marathon Training

    Run Distance, Time & Average Pace: 8.0 miles, 1:00:23 minutes, ave pace 7:32

    Tuesday June 26th – Treadmill @ Easy Pace + Conditioning Exercises

    Run Distance, Time & Average Pace: 5 miles, 40 minutes, ave pace 8:00

    Wednesday June 27th – Treadmill @ easy pace

    Very limited time to run today due to business travel. I completed 4 miles @ easy pace on a treadmill. The purpose of this run was just to get in something.

    Run Distance, Time & Average Pace: 4 miles, 32:00 minutes, ave pace 8:00

    Thursday June 28th – Off Day

    Rest & Recovery Day – Business Travel

    Friday June 29th – Short Tempo

    1 mile warm-up @ easy
    4 mile tempo @ 6:50 – 7:00/mile pace
    3 mile cool down @ easy

    Run Distance, Time & Average Pace: 8 miles, 1:00:46 minutes, ave pace 7:32

    Saturday June 30th – Easy Run + Strides – recovery

    Strides are to practice quick leg turnover & keep the “engine revved.”

    Run Distance, Time, & Average Pace: 6.1 miles, 51:36 minutes, ave pace 8:25

    Sunday July 1st – Easy Run – recovery

    The purpose of today’s run was more easy running. Recovery, just lower volume

    Run Distance, Time, Pace: 6.1 miles, 49:18 minutes, ave pace 8:00

    Weekly total = 37.3 Miles

    How I recover on the day of a hard workout [Follow-Along Week 11]

    How I recover on the day of a hard workout [Follow-Along Week 11]

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    In this post, I’ll share the details of my proven strategy for recovering from a hard workout or race. It’s essential that when you stress your body that you properly recover so you can ultimately optimize your performance on race day.

    Below I’ll layout the 7 things that I do immediately following and throughout the day of a hard workout.

    1) Water/fluids – it’s absolutely critical to rehydrate. Even if follow your hydration plan during longer runs, after you finish any workout, it’s essential to drink plenty of water and also sports drinks after longer runs or hard workouts.

    2) Nutrition – discussed in last week’s post. Within 30 minutes of completing your hard workout, it’s essential that you consume some healthy carbs & proteins. Eating a healthy recovery within a few hours of your workout will help you feel so much better.

    3) Bauerfiend compression socks & sleeves – especially after long runs & long tempos, I wear compression socks for 2-4 hours. Although there’s many brands of compression socks available, I find that the Bauerfiend brand is very durable (I’ve had mine for 2+ years), they are affordable and most important, they relieve any sore or stiffness in my legs. Bottomline, they work and I recommend them.

    I saw it on Bauerfeind USA Inc

    Sports Compression Socks Ball & Racket | Compression | Medical aids | Bauerfeind B2C US

    4) Foam rolling – this one’s essential for middle age athletes. Check out my video with details on how to make foam rolling a part of your healthy routine. I like to foam roll at night following a hard workout. I also foam roll whenever I’m feeling stiffness in my legs.

    5) Stretches – following are just a few of the stretches that I typically complete right after my run.
    a) Active Isolated Stretching – with rope – complete daily or at least 5 times/week (click the link to see video)
    b) Calf stretches (against a wall)
    c) Standing quad stretch
    d) Achilles stretch
    e) Piriformus Stretch

    6) Hot Tub – if you have access to a hot tub, use it the evening of your hard workout. Just 5 minutes helps aching muscles and also will help you sleep (the #1 best way to recover).

    7) Sleep – during your training, it’s very important to maximize your sleep to optimize your recovery. This is not only true on hard days, but I find that I perform much better when I get plenty of sleep the night before a hard workout (seems obvious, but there’s many people who don’t try to maximize their sleep).

    Follow the above strategy and I’m very confident that you’ll be able to really push and hit your paces during your hardest workouts.

    Following are my workouts for the week of June 18th.

    Here’s the link to my Strava Dashboard so you can see the details of each of the workouts that I completed this week & throughout my journey.

    Monday June 18th – short run @ easy pace

    The purpose of this run was to rest prior to the next day’s very demanding workout. At this late stage of my training, I have found that I get much more from my hard workouts by giving myself an extra day Tempos & Strength training runs.
    This week I have 3 days of business travel as well, so I planned on Tuesday & Saturday hard runs.

    Again, I can’t stress enough the importance of Easy on Easy Days & Hard on Hard Days so you can maximize the benefit of the stress.

    Run Distance, Time & Average Pace: 6.1 miles, 48:33 minutes, ave pace 7:52

    Tuesday June 19th – Strength run 4 x 1.5miles

    This was my last strength/interval run. Unlike my previous repeat of 1.5miles, which was on a track, I ran this workout on flat crushed rock path. Conditions were optimal early in the morning. Initially, I was disappointed that my intervals weren’t as fast as before (all at 6:20/mile pace). However, I realized that the trail mileage markers were not completely accurate, so my 1.5 mile was actually closer to 1.55 miles which adds at least 20 seconds to my times. My times slowed slightly as I progressed.

    Bottomline….bonus hard effort for additional 20+ seconds/interval :-). Results are below.

    1 mile warm-up @ easy
    4 x 1.5 miles @ 10km pace with 3-4 minutes rest (easy jog)
    1 mile cool down at easy

    marathon training strength run - 4 x 1.5m

    Run Distance, Time & Average Pace: 9.7 miles, 1:16:43 minutes, ave pace 7:54

    If you’re interested in joining me, I can put together either a custom training plan or I can personally coach you. Either program will be specific to your goals and athletic abilities. Just click on the links for details.

    Wednesday June 20th – short run @ easy pace

    Very limited time to run today due to business travel. I completed 4 miles @ easy pace on a treadmill. 5 The purpose of this run was to recover from the previous days’ very demanding run.

    Run Distance, Time & Average Pace: 4 miles, 32:00 minutes, ave pace 8:00

    Thursday June 21st – Short Run @ easy pace

    Not much time due to business commitments. Early morning run around Horseshoe Bay Resort, TX – 4.5 miles @ easy pace. Hot & humid at 630am.

    Run Distance, Time & Average Pace: 4.7 miles, 40:11 minutes, ave pace 8:31

    Friday June 22nd – Off Day

    Rest & Recovery Day – Business Travel

    Saturday June 16th – 12 mile Tempo

    This was the last and toughest tempo of my training. The purpose of this day’s workout was to build strength & provide the best indication of my marathon fitness. This week we increased the distance of the tempo by 2 miles. Target pacing was Marathon Pace (around 6:50/mile). If I can complete this run on target without being too tired, I’m good.

    Ideally you also want to complete this last long tempo around 2 weeks prior your race. In addition, to give you a most accurate indication of your fitness, complete the run on a course that has similar terrain as your race. Fortunately for me, I have the perfect location (where I completed last week’s 10 mile tempo and the 10km time trial a few weeks ago). After this run you will start a gradual taper with lower mileage and shorter intervals/tempo runs.

    With 3 days of easy or rest prior, I should have been ready to go for this run. However, my challenge with this run was my late return from a long flight the evening before. Although I performed well by finishing the 12 mile tempo in 84 minutes (7 min/mile pace), I was off on Marathon Pace. I think lack of quality sleep the nights before probably slowed me. My plan is to be home, getting plenty of rest for 5 nights before my race (not counting the night before the race because it’s hard to sleep).

    12 Mile Tempo for marathon training

    Run Distance, Time, & Average Pace: 13.4 miles, 1:37:31 minutes, ave pace 7:16

    Sunday June 17th – Short Run @ easy pace + strides
    The purpose of today’s run was to recover from yesterday’s very difficult tempo run. Strides are to practice quick leg turnover.

    Run Distance, Time, Pace: 5.1 miles, 47:46 minutes, ave pace 9:13

    Weekly total = 43.1 Miles