How to make adjustments to your training schedule when you need rest or you’re busy [Follow-Along Week 7]

How to make adjustments to your training schedule when you need rest or you’re busy [Follow-Along Week 7]

How to make changes to your marathon planThis was a busy week for me as I departed Monday morning for a week of business travel. This week I was in Denver, which is at altitude, where it can hard to run. The key during these weeks where you’re pressed for time and not always feeling fresh, is to try to plan your workouts in advance. Sometimes, flexibility requires that you run early or simply get in anything you can.

IMPORTANT – Following is a key point for any runner following a plan.

It’s important to be disciplined and do your best to follow a plan, but sometimes you also have to use common sense. I believe that to ensure success for a 1/2 or full marathon, it’s important to have a plan, but it’s not written in stone. There should be room for adjustments. At this point in my training (with the race about 6 weeks out), I sometimes feel the effects of what’s called, “accumulated fatigue.” It’s essential to be attentive to how you feel and how your body is responding to your training. We can’t just think of the plan and it’s workouts as a bunch of boxes to check. It’s important to speak with your coach regularly to provide him or her with feedback during your training.

In order to prevent over training, I like to plan some recovery weeks into my schedules. I’m also open to adjusting the schedules of my athletes when it makes sense (due to life getting really busy, fatigue, etc).

This doesn’t mean that you take the week off (unless you’re injured). Instead, you may cut back on the distance and/or intensity of your workouts. In my case, with a week at altitude, I completed a few more runs at an easy pace and simply accepted the effort and stimulus, while not being concerned about the pace of every run.

During this week, because of commitments most evenings and 85+ degree temps in Denver, I completed my runs early. I did a modified strength run, some 7-8 mile runs at easy pace and a short tempo run. Also, as you can see below, my available time on the weekend was minimized due to some family commitments. In summary, my weekly distance was slightly less than each of the last 4 weeks, but I completed some quality runs and set myself up for a good long run to begin Week 8.

Here’s the link to my Strava Dashboard so you can see the details of each of the workouts that I’ve completed as I train for my July 4th Marathon.

Monday May 21st – strength run

I had to get out the door early to complete this workout. By 6:45am I was running along the Columbia river on a crushed rock/flat trail. In this workout, I completed 2 x 2 miles at 6:30 (10k pace). Ideally this workout should be 3 x 2m, but I didn’t get started early enough so I could get to the airport for a 1000am flight. As with other strength running workouts, the purpose of this workout was to improve endurance (by running at a faster (than Marathon) pace) and improve lactate tolerance (running fast with heavy legs). Although this workout can be run on a track, I find that running it on marked trail is far more appealing.

My pace was a little slow the first 2 mile. I did run faster (more on target) the 2nd 2 mile interval.

1 mile warm-up at easy pace
2 miles at 13:20 + 6 minutes recovery jog
2 miles at 12:50
1 mile cool down at easy pace.

Run Distance, Time & Average Pace: 7.2 miles, 56:50 minutes, ave pace 7:52

Tuesday May 22nd – brisk run

My first full day in Denver. I got out early and ran around Washington Park (one of the bigger parks on the south side of Denver). Even though I had run a strength workout the day before, I felt fresh throughout this run and actually ran a number of miles near 7 min pace. I wasn’t consciously trying to pick up the pace, I just felt good and moved a little faster. I doubt the effects of the altitude had hit me. After the run, I completed 10 minutes of conditioning exercises (push-ups, mountain climbers, planks, etc). The purpose of today’s workout was to recover from the previous days’ strength run and just get some miles on my legs.

Brisk run for marathon training

Run Distance, Time & Overall Pace: 8.8 miles, 1:06:45 & 7:33/mile

Need Marathon Training Info
Wednesday May 23rd – Easy Run

Today was an example of why it’s important to keep easy runs, easy. After 2 relatively difficult runs (strength & then medium distance at a brisk pace), I did not feel strong or well rested. It could have been the altitude catching up to me or maybe that I was just tired, I’m not sure, but as I ran alongside my sister (who was biking), from the beginning of the run to the end, my legs felt heavy. So, I decided to keep things easy, not elevate my heart rate too much, not worry the pace and just get easy miles on my legs. The purpose of this workout was recovery and build my aerobic fitness.

Run Distance, Time & Overall Pace: 7.0 miles, 55:58 & 7:54/mile

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.

Thursday May 24th – Off Day

Business meetings all day and dinner with family at night. Rest & Recovery Day

Friday May 25th – Another easy run

I just wasn’t feeling it again today. My guess is that poor sleep and the travel to/from Denver caught up to me. So, I completed another easy run, although this run included a big hill near the end.

Instead of getting in the planned long (9 mile) tempo run, I decide to just adjust the schedule and make it more of a recovery week. With 6 weeks until the marathon and more business travel each of the next few weeks, it’s better to listen to my body with these 7 mile runs at relatively easy pace, than to push through with tired legs. I’ll push the tempo to the next day.

Run Distance, Time, Pace: 7.1 miles, 54:45, 7:37

Saturday May 26th – Shorter Tempo

I’m finally at sea level. However, I was out of the house early for a 2 hour drive up to the Tacoma area, so I could watch the Washington State High School Track Championships. This is an all day event, but I came prepared with my running gear, with the hope of getting in any kind of run. When a gap in the events opened up, I took opportunity to run and was able to get out for an hour.
Remarkably, after an easy mile, I felt really fresh, so I decided to gradually pick up the pace and turn the workout into a Tempo run at Marathon Pace. Below are my splits. I was able to get in quite a few miles below 7 minutes/mile without any strain.
I knew that the next day I would not have much time to run, so getting in a 5+ mile tempo was perfect. Although I would have been happy with just getting in about 5 miles easy (to continue my rest week), this run was another marathon specific workout. The more of these that you can get in with proper rest, the better.

Run Distance, Time, Pace: 7.0 miles, 50:02, 7:07

Sunday May 27th– Easy Run + Strides

Family commitments today. With only an hour after Church, I completed 5 miles at an easy pace + strides right in front of my house. I felt good. It was important to go easy because tomorrow will be a 17.5 mile long run.

Run Distance, Time, Pace: 5.0 miles, 43:26, 8:38

Weekly total = 42.3 Miles

Strength Training for Marathon Runners [Follow-Along Week 6]

Strength Training for Marathon Runners [Follow-Along Week 6]

Strength Training for Marathon Runners

Week 6

During this week, I will combine strength (running) workouts, longer tempos and my long run to start the most marathon specific training of my plan. Over the next few weeks, I will increase the length of the intervals in my strength workouts, get in longer mid week runs and increase the distance of my long run. I’m moving from the lactate threshold and endurance mesocycle (portion of training) to the race preparation mesocycle.

This week you will learn about the importance of strength training for marathoners. Strength training & conditioning exercises for runners should complement your training, not tire you out so you’re too sore and fatigued to run. Below you will also find links to some videos detailing workouts that I complete. I’ve broken the training into level 1 for those just beginning their strength training and level 2 for more advanced/experienced athletes.

Here’s the link to my Strava Dashboard so you can see the details of each of my workouts.

Monday May 14th – Easy run

The purpose of this workout was to continue recovery from the Saturday’s 16 mile long run and also to include an easy/rest day prior to my Tuesday strength workout.

Run Distance, Time & Average Pace: 7.1 miles, 57:08 minutes, ave pace 7:59

Tuesday May 15th – Strength workout

1 mile (or 10 minute warm-up @ easy pace) + strides
3 x 2400m w/ 4 minute rest
10 minute c/d

This week I’m increasing the distance of the interval for my track workouts again. Now I’m up to 1.5 mile repeats at slightly faster than 10k pace (approx. 6:20/mile). Last week I discussed the benefits of these strength workouts. The biggest benefit is that preparing my body to handle the fatigue that comes with marathon running. This workout is combined with a longer tempo and long run to give me the best marathon preparation possible.

I like to keep the rest relatively short (in this case it’s about half the time of the interval) so I can really get my body used to dealing with some lactic acid accumulation.

Repeat 1.5 mile strength workout for marathon

My times for each 2400m ranged were 9:34, 9:30 & 9:22 (I actually miscounted laps on the last interval and briefly stopped after 2000m, then I realized I was a lap short). I hit my goal pace (slightly faster than 10k) and actually felt good. Splits for my workout are below.

Run Distance: 8.2 miles

Wednesday May 16th – Easy Run

6 mile easy run. The purpose of this workout was to recover from yesterday’s track workout. I also have a hard/Tempo workout on Thursday, so keeping this run easy is essential to get the most benefit from my strength and tempo workouts.

Run Distance, Time & Overall Pace: 6.1 miles, 50:07 & 8:06/mile

Thursday May 17th – Tempo Run

Ten Miles total, 8 miles at Tempo
1 mile warm-up at easy pace
8 miles at or near Marathon Pace
1 mile cool down at easy pace

10 mile tempo run for marathon training

Run Distance, Time & Overall Pace: 10 miles, 1:11:26 & 7:08/mile

Friday May 18th – Cross & Strength Training + 2 miles on the treadmill

Today I completed a 45 minute “bike blast” cross training workout at the gym. It’s been 3 weeks since I completed this workout. Although I have been completing other conditioning/strength exercises, this workout is particularly useful because it combines rotating 1 minute on a stationary bike at a brisk pace with 1 minute of conditioning. It’s a great aerobic + strength workout.

After the workout, I like to get a few miles in on a treadmill or outside. Today I completed 2 miles on treadmill.

Strength training for runners won’t bulk you up and slow you down as long as you complete runner-specific training that emphasizes movements that directly correlate to running performance.

Today’s conditioning exercises were both upper & lower body strength with barbells and my body weight. A few of the exercises with a shorter barbell and 20lbs of weights include squats, lunges, chest presses, arm curls and shoulder presses. The body weight exercises included push-ups, jump lunges, mountain climbers and various forms of planks and core exercises.

Increased strength contributes to improved running in a number of ways. First, it helps to improve form when your fatigued. Strength training assists in preventing injuries because you have stronger muscles. Runners with better endurance can run longer. Stronger runners are able to recover faster from their long runs because strength training makes their bodies more efficient at converting metabolic waste into energy. The stronger you get, the more resilient your body will become to the demands of running.

Mountain Climbers for Marathon Runners

It’s important to remember that strength training should supplement your running. I like to keep my strength workouts short and fairly simple. I complete these bike blast classes every 2-3 weeks + the 15 minutes of conditioning exercises that I complete twice per week.

I have created some videos showing 2 levels of conditioning exercises:

Level 1 –

These are beginner exercises that should be completed if you’re just starting conditioning exercises. It’s very important to start new runners or runners who aren’t accustomed to conditioning at an easier level. Also, I recommend starting with one session per week and work up to 2-3 and also including multiple sets of exercises per session as you get stronger.

Level 2 –

Run Distance – 2 miles

Saturday May 19th – Long Run

10.7 miles at easy pace. Today’s run serves a dual purpose. I’m continuing to get time on my legs. Because I had some tough workouts (strength run on the track & tempo) this week and I had a long run the week before, the length of this run was only 10-12 miles.
Many plans include slight increases in long run mileage every week. At the beginning of the plan, I do gradually increase my long runs week-to-week. However, during the harder, Marathon Preparation Mesocycle, I like my long runs of 15+ miles to be every other weekend. This helps me avoid injury.

Run Distance, Time, Pace: 10.7 miles, 1:24:04, 7:49

Sunday May 20th– Easy Run + Strides

5 miles at easy pace + strides
The purpose of this run was to recover from the previous day’s long run. The pace is easy.

Run Distance, Time, Pace: 5.3 miles, 43:29, 8:07

Weekly total = 49.7 Miles

Long Runs & Strength Workouts [Follow-Along Week 5]

Long Runs & Strength Workouts [Follow-Along Week 5]

Long runs for marathon training

Week 5

In this week’s post, I review some of the best workouts to prepare you for marathon training. The marathon specific finish fast long run and strength workouts are essential if you want reach your goal time, but these workouts must be completed at the appropriate time during a marathon training plan in order to receive the max benefit.

My weekly mileage continues to stay in the mid 40s. Due to professional commitments, including business travel, I complete the most essential workouts in my plan as best as possible and on other days I only have time for a 5-6 mile easy run. In my experience, the marathon specific (harder) workouts, in between these easy runs, adequately prepare me to reach my goals. The easy runs build my aerobic capacity and help me recover and most important, avoid injury.

Here’s the link to my Strava Dashboard so you can see the details of each of my workouts.

Monday May 7th – Easy run + strides

The purpose of this workout was to recover from the previous day’s 12 mile long run. The previous day was actually pretty tough on legs due to the warmer temps and long hill at the end. The goal of running easy + including strides in this workout will help me recover and be ready for the next days’ planned track workout.

The key to this workout is to go easy. Even the strides are not too fast. I also include a little extra rest between each stride. This workout is not meant to be hard in any way.

Run Distance, Time & Average Pace: 5.0 miles, 44:14 minutes, 8:48

Tuesday May 8th – Track/Mini Strength workout

1 mile (or 10 minute warm-up @ easy pace) + strides
4 x 1600m w/ 3 minute rest
10 minute c/d

We’re continuing with weekly track workouts. This week I’m increasing the distance of the interval and keeping the rest at approximately half the time of the interval. This workout is boarding on what’s called a strength workout or a marathon specific adaptation. The primary goal of these workouts is to prepare the body to handle the fatigue that’s associated with marathon running. This portion of the training is truly marathon preparation.

Mile repeat marathon training workout

Some of the benefits of these workouts include:

1) Improve running economy
2) Improve endurance at faster paces
3) Improve lactate tolerance – by forcing the runner to adapt to running longer distances with some lactate accumulation.

Ultimately, we want to train our body to work through this lactic acid accumulation.

My times for each 1600m ranged from 6:14 to 6:20, so I was right on target. I incorporated short rest.
To make this workout a true strength workout, we would run a little slower for each interval (10 seconds below Marathon Pace) & increase the number of intervals from 4 to 6. I will start that work next week.

Run Distance: 7.3 miles

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 May 9th – Easy Run + Conditioning Exercises

6.2 mile easy run. The purpose of this workout was to recover from yesterday’s track workout. With 2 challenging workouts in the last 3 days, it’s really important to get in an easy run. I also completed some conditioning exercises at the gym (push-ups, planks, dips, squats with a 16lb medicine ball & lunges with a 20lb kettle bell).

Run Distance, Time & Overall Pace: 6.2 miles, 48:42 & 7:50

Thursday May10th – Off Day

Business travel & meetings today. I planned the day off to coincide with my busy day.

Friday May 11th – Easy Run

I was on business in Scottsdale, AZ where it’s extremely hot at this time of year. I got up at 5:30am to beat the heat (and also prior to my business meetings) and completed a 6 mile run at an easy pace. Since I planned for a long run the next day, it was important to simply get an easy run in.

This run was also good practice for my early race (the July 4th marathon start time is 630am). Also, I ran without having anything to eat, so this will help my body adapt to running without carbs. I have found some benefits to training your body to use stored fats instead of always having a lot of carbs right before you workout.

Run Distance, Time, Pace: 6 miles, 48:13, 7:55

Saturday May 12th – Long Run

16 miles at easy pace with last 3 miles at goal race pace. Today’s run serves a dual purpose. Obviously because of it’s length, I’m getting plenty of time on my legs which is essential for marathon preparation. You must include long runs in your marathon training. Also, I finish the last 3 miles at harder (Marathon Race) pace in order to start get my body acclimated to running race pace, when my legs are tired. Coupled with my Tempo & Strength runs, these finish fast runs are some of the best ways to prepare your body to complete your marathon at your goal pace.
The idea behind these runs is that physiologically we’re training the body to work more efficiently at marathon pace. Also, mentally, it’s tough because you’re already experiencing some fatigue (tiredness) and then you just add to it during the final few miles. Also, the distance for finishing fast should increase as you progress through the plan. So with my next 2 long runs, I will be finishing the last 6-7 miles at a fast pace.

Finish fast long run

There’s a lot of debate as to the length of the longest runs in marathon training. I typically get 3-4 runs in the 16-18 mile range. I have also previously included 20 – 21 mile runs in my plans. However, I know that one of the drawbacks to these longer 20 + mile runs is the damage they can cause to your legs (specifically capillaries & mitochondria (responsible for producing energy). The other challenge for me is that with weekly mileage in the mid 40s to low 50s, it’s generally discouraged to include long runs at a distance that make up 40%+ of my weekly mileage.

I have found that as long as I have numerous longer Tempos (8-12 miles) and the repeat 1, 2 & 3 mile workouts, I don’t need to complete 20 mile runs in my plan. As a general rule, if I’m targeting a 3:00 hr marathon, I don’t have any runs longer than approximately 2 hr 15-20 minutes in my marathon training. The key is, my runs of 15+ miles need to include finishing fast (anywhere between 20 – 40 minutes at race pace).

Run Distance, Time, Pace: 16 miles, 2:01:41, 7:36

Sunday May 13th– Easy Run + Strides

5 miles at easy pace + strides

The purpose of this run was to recover from the previous day’s long run. Instead of taking days off after my long runs, I like to either run or get on the elliptical. The pace is easy. I also allow plenty of time between strides and keep them at a controlled, but quick pace.

Run Distance, Time, Pace: 5.0 miles, 44:48, 8:55

Weekly total = 6 days of workouts, 6 with running – 45 Miles

What are Yasso 800s and why you should include them in your training [Follow Along – Week 4]

What are Yasso 800s and why you should include them in your training [Follow Along – Week 4]

Yasso 800s

Week 4

After you read this week’s post and follow along with my workouts, you’ll get a better understanding of why the Yasso 800 (VO2 Max speed workout) is included in many marathon plans. I also reveal, based on my experience, what workouts best correlate to your finishing time. Yasso 800s, among other workouts are good “reference” workouts that will give you an indication of the likelihood that you will hit your goal finish time.

What Are Yasso 800s?

We’re continuing with weekly speed workouts. This week, I decreased the distance of the interval, compared to last weeks mile repeats. This week I completed my first set of a workout called “Yasso 800s.” My goal was to run the 800s at the pace generated by the McMillan calculator (2:57-3:04). The rest between each 800 is equal to the length of time of your 800. In my case, 3:00 after each interval for my rest.

Bart Yasso started his workout with 3-4 800s and then once a week he would add an additional 800 to the workout until he could complete 10 x 800m. Typically the last workout is 2-3 weeks before your race. The theory behind this workout is that the average time of your 800m over 10 intervals in minutes and seconds roughly correlates to that of the marathon time you can expect to run in hours and minutes. So, if your average time is 4:00, then this correlates to a 4 hour marathon finish time.

Yasso 800’s are really a VO2 max workout. Which means you run at max speed for your designated time (computed on the McMillian, Daniels or whatever pacing calculator you use) and then take an equal amount of rest between intervals. The purpose of VO2 max workouts is to increase your overall running fitness. These workouts improve the speed at which you can run, which would in turn should make running at marathon pace feel “easier”.

Why do coaches include Yasso 800s in Marathon Plans?

A number of coaches include the Yasso 800 workouts in their plans. Some consider it an indicator of your marathon fitness, while others use it to build up to longer intervals (1 mile, 2 mile and 3 mile repeats).

Regardless of whether you or your coach believe that this workout correlates to your marathon finish time, I think that Yasso 800s serve a valuable purpose in any ½ and full marathon plan because they help to make you faster. I typically run Yasso 800s twice during my marathon training. The first time is about 9-10 weeks out, with the 2nd being around 3-4 weeks prior to my race. In my experience, I don’t believe that Yasso 800s always accurately correlate to your finish time. I’ve run the workout each of the last 5 years and averaged under 3:00. In each of my subsequent races, my finish time was 3:05 – 3:14. Close, but not under 3:00.

I also have included this workout in numerous custom plans and the athletes whom I coach either struggled to hit the goal 800m time or reported that their marathon time didn’t correlate with their average 800m time from when they completed the workout.

Other Marathon Specific Workouts

For me, I think that marathon specific workouts like longer tempo runs of 10-12 miles or finishing fast for the last 6-7 miles of 16+ mile run are much better indicators of your marathon fitness. If I can comfortably complete these runs at Marathon Pace, then I know I’m on track to achieve my goal time.

My weekly mileage stays in the mid 40s this week, but I continue to add quality volume (combining VO2 Max and stamina workouts). You will also see in this post how I manage my busy schedule and fit in all the necessary workouts and recovery days. I’m now into Weeks 4-8 of my 12 week program, so with high mileage and intensity workouts, along with a busy professional schedule, it’s critical that I take care of my body and plan my workouts around business travel.

Here’s the link to my Strava Dashboard so you can see the details of each of my workouts.  In order to complete and track my workouts this week, I used a Polar M430 GPS watch

Monday April 30th – Easy run

The purpose of this workout was to continue the recovery from Saturday’s 15 mile long run. I was also setting up the rest of the week to accommodate my schedule. 6 mile easy runs are really important to not only optimize recovery and build aerobic capacity.

I get questions from people about which workouts they can skip if/when they get really busy and have to prioritize. I’m a firm believer in the 5-7 mile easy run. I like to include 2-3 of these runs in my schedule each week (some days I may only have time for a short run). I would not recommend skipping your short/easy runs because they really are the best way to optimize your recovery.

Run Distance, Time & Average Pace: 6.1 miles, 47:25 minutes, 7:40

Tuesday May 1st – Track/Speed workout (Yasso 800s)

1 mile (or 10 minute warm-up @ easy pace) + strides
8 x 800m w/ 3 minute rest – Yasso 800s
10 minute c/d

This week my times for each 800m ranged from 2:59 to 3:03, so I was right on target. I completed 8 x 800m. Next month, I’ll run the workout again and do 10 x 800m.

Run Distance: 7.9 miles

Need Marathon Training Info

Wednesday May 2nd – Easy Run

4.5 mile easy run. The purpose of this workout was to recover from yesterday’s track workout. Nice & easy run.

Run Distance, Time & Overall Pace: 4.5 miles, 39:44 & 8:48

Thursday May 3rd – Off Day

Business travel & meetings today. I planned the day off to coincide with my busy day. This was first break from running or conditioning exercises in 2 weeks, so the rest was well earned.

Friday May 4th – Tempo Run

Another 7 mile Tempo this week with approx. 1 mile warm-up and 1 mile cool down.

I completed this run on a local bike trail. It’s fairly flat, but does include a couple of hills which adds a challenge. My McMillan paces for tempos are 6:30 – 6:46. As you can see below (image from Strava), I’m still slightly slower than target. However, I started in the low 7:00/mile range and gradually picked up the pace to 6:39 pace the last mile. I did feel strong this last mile, which is good. The first and last 2 miles of this course are flat, so I believe that allowed me to more easily pick up the pace.

Tempo Run

Run Distance, Time, Pace: 9 miles, 1:03:59, 7:06

Saturday May 5th – Easy/Recovery Run

6 miles on flat course. The purpose of today’s run is to recover from yesterday’s Tempo/hard run.

Run Distance, Time, Pace: 6 miles, 47:02, 7:47

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.

Sunday May 6th – Long Run

12+ miles at easy pace

The goal of today’s run is to continue to build strength and get used to spending 90+ minutes on my legs. Because last week’s long run was 15+, I like to bring down the subsequent long run to between 10-12 miles. The pace is easy. However, on this run, the last 2.75 miles are uphill. Since I started late (after 1100am), the weather was hot. Although I try to drink a lot on my longer runs, the last portion of the run with the incline was tough.

Run Distance, Time, Pace: 12.2 miles, 1:36:31, 7:51

Weekly total = 6 days with workouts, 6 with running – 46 miles

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How to determine your goal marathon time & training paces [Follow Along – Week 3]

How to determine your goal marathon time & training paces [Follow Along – Week 3]

How to determine marathon training paces
The challenge many athletes have when they sign up for a marathon is determining a realistic goal time. How do you know what is a realistic time for 26.2 miles if you’ve never run this far before? Even if you have run numerous marathons, many middle age runners are not only getting older (with the glory days well in their rear view mirror), but they simply don’t have the time to train like they may have in the past.

In this post I will provide you with a simple, yet proven system to help you determine a realistic marathon goal time and also how to figure out the paces at which you should be training to achieve your goal.

Understanding what you could potentially run at your upcoming race based on a recent performance helps to take the guesswork out of your training. If you are able to set realistic race goals, then you will be able to train at the appropriate paces for your ability with the end result being a performances that is consistent with your training and fewer disappointments in your races.

biggest running challenge
How To Determine Your Goal Time

Unless your goal is to simply finish the marathon, most people have a goal time in mind. The key to determining a realistic goal & proper marathon training is having a finishing time that corresponds to your abilities and current fitness levels. Once you determine this realistic goal time, it’s easy to map out your training paces.

IMPORTANT: “Your goal time should be based on the physiological realities of your current fitness.”
First we need to understand the concept of Equivalent Performance. This is the equivalent race time of one race distance based on a recent race time of yours from another distance. Ideally you want to use a finishing time from a recent race (within the last few months). A marathon or half marathons is best, but not completely necessary. What’s important is that you don’t choose a goal time that you simply want. There is a process which works very well, that I will discuss below.

Besides previous races, your current fitness level and the kind of plan or coaching you plan to use to prepare for the race will be used to determine your realistic goal. If you haven’t raced for a while, then there’s some workouts we can use to help establish our current condition.

I use pace/performance calculator to determine my equivalent 5K, 10k, 1/2 or full marathon time. The best calculators are from Jack Daniels or Greg McMillan. Although there’s others available, I’ve actually had Greg McMillan help to coach me (through one of his programs), so I tend to use his calculator. Although the calculation won’t be exact, it will be close enough for you to determine a reasonable goal based on your current condition. It’s important to remember that actual results will vary depending on the course, the weather, how well your training has gone and a number of other factors. Also, when using a recent race as your basis for determining a realistic goal, it’s important that the race time accurately reflects your conditioning (where you happy with the result, were the conditions fairly optimal, etc).

As an example, I will show you how I used the calculator to set up my goal from last year. Unfortunately, I haven’t run any races since a July 2017 marathon. So with this example, I’ll look at how I developed my goal time for my 2017, 4th of July Marathon.

In late February of 2017 I ran a 1:27:45 half marathon at Vancouver Lake, WA. I thought that this may set me up nicely for a goal of a 3:00 marathon. If I plug in the 3:00 goal time and my 1:27:45 into McMillan’s calculator, I instantly get 2 columns of results. One shows me my current times and equivalent performance (or fitness level) for distances from 100m to 100miles. The other column shows my goal times for all of these same distances. It also shows the per mile pace of these times for reference.

I find these per mile paces to be very helpful. Sometimes a marathon time doesn’t really mean a lot until you break it down into a per mile pace. As you can see below, there’s an approximate 20 sec/mile difference between the 1/2 and full marathon times.

McMillan Calculator Results:

My Most Recent Race – 1/2 Marathon – 1:27:45 = 6:42/mile pace
Equivalent Performance – Marathon – 3:04 = 7:03/mile pace

1/2 Marathon – 1:25:32 = 6:32/mile pace
Marathon – 3:00 = 6:52/mile pace

As you can see, my fitness level at the beginning of March 2017 (approx 16 weeks prior to my July 4th marathon) was the equivalent of a 3:04 marathon. My goal time of 3:00 was the equivalent of 1:25:32 1/2 marathon. So, my current fitness level wasn’t quite at 3:00, but it wasn’t too far off. Bottomline, my 3:00 goal was a stretch considering that I needed to improve my pace by 10 seconds/mile. However, this 3:00 goal wasn’t completely unrealistic considering that it was based on a recent race and my goal race was 4 months away, leaving me plenty of time to train and get in shape for a faster race.

CRITICAL, VERY IMPORTANT, READ THIS: Even though you use a reputable calculator to come up with a time, there are 6 other factors you need to consider when determining a realistic goal.

1) Course Review – it may be necessary to pick the right race or understanding race course topography to reach your goal. Chicago Marathon is a flat course, but depending on where you start, you may be slowed by the thousands of runners around you. It might be easier to pick a smaller race.
2) Timeline – do you have enough time to train for the race. If you’ve been running and racing and aren’t burned out, you’ll need at least 12 weeks. Otherwise 16 – 20+ weeks is necessary.
3) Expected/Realistic Progress – considering past results and training, if you really put your mind towards training, you can expect to get better. However, how much depends on your ability level, age, etc
4) Other necessary considerations – Do you have time to increase your mileage? How much will you Strength and Cross train? Are you open to using a coach? Are you willing to train with others who can help give you apush?
5) Are you committed to quality recovery (running slow when on your easy days) & 7 – 9 hours of sleep/night.
6) Are you committed to proper nutrition throughout the duration of your training?

These are all important factors to consider when developing your goal, especially if you have a goal of setting a PR.

How to calculate your goal if you don’t have a recent race

If you’re a beginner and haven’t run a race before or you haven’t run a recent race, you might consider running a 5-10k. If you don’t have much of a running base, I wouldn’t run a longer race (in fact, unless your marathon is 6+ months away, you really should consider building in a base or foundation (I discuss how to do this if you follow this link to a beginner runner training plan) to help ensure you can successfully finish your race. There’s so many races in most major cities, it won’t be long before you can complete a race so you can establish your current level of fitness. If you’re a beginner, this will give you some race experience (so you can see if you enjoy running long races).

If it’s not possible to run a race, then try one of the following to determine your level of fitness.

1) Run a 5k mile time trail. I recommend getting some training in before you attempt this. If you’re a beginner runner and just getting into shape, follow this link to a beginner’s training plan that will help you develop a base. Just don’t simply go from the couch to a 5k on the next day.

After you have a base time, go through the above exercise using a performance calculator to determine your goal time. In this case, you can plug in any goal time. You’re actually only looking at the column that’s current times and looking at your equivalent 10k, 1/2 marathon, marathon or whatever race distance you desire.

2) Run a predictor workout. This option is really only for someone who has been running and can complete this type of workout. As the name indicates, predictor workouts are often used by athletes to gauge how their training is progressing and to give them an idea of what time they should expect if their race were to be run within the next 2-3 weeks. In this case, you could run one of these workouts to “predict” your time for a 10k. Then you could use the predicted time and a calculator to find your equivalent goal time.

Famed running coach, Jeff Galloway, recommends the following proven workout to predict your 1/2 marathon time.

After completing a warm-up and strides (100m), run one mile at a difficult pace, working to pace each 400m evenly. By taking your mile time and multiplying it by 1.2, you will have a fairly accurate half-marathon prediction.

How to Calculate Training Paces

Once you determine your goal time. Then you can use the calculator to determine your workout paces. The McMillan Calculator makes this very easy. Just click on the link near the top left that’s labeled “Training Paces.” The specific workouts you run will be outlined in your marathon training plan.

In my case, I haven’t run a race since last July when I ran a marathon. I had some issues with my feet during that race and I finished well off my goal time, but still a respectable 3:14. I have been running regularly since last July, so my goal this year, is to break 3:00. This is what I plugged into the McMillan Calculator. Below is a screen shot for my paces using this calculator.

Using McMillan Calculator to determine paces

Tempo Runs & Cruise intervals at medium-hard effort with short recovery

Using McMillan Calculator to Determine Training Paces

Speed Paces for Intervals of Less than 10-15 minutes

As you train for the first 3-4 weeks, hopefully you’ll start to see improvements in your fitness. If you established a realistic goal, you’ll likely be running at or very near the assigned paces. Remember that your rate of performance isn’t something that can be standardized. You can follow these guidelines to follow, but the every runner can be different.

After about four weeks, if you believe you’re in better shape than your most recent race or you simply want to measure your rate of improvement to see if you’re improving, then run another race. One word of caution is to keep the race as integrated with your training as possible. I suggest running a race instead of a planned hard workout, but make the race consistent with the distance of that workout so you don’t negatively impact your long-term progress.

Now, with the new race data, you can plug your time back into the performance calculator from step 1 and see how much or if your goal needs to be modified.

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.


Workouts from this past week.

Week 3 – April 22nd

Monday April 23rd – Easy run

The purpose of this workout was to recover from yesterday’s 10 mile run. It’s really important to run your easy runs at an easy pace. Even if you feel rested and could go faster, you won’t properly recover unless you keep the pace easy (varies by a runner’s ability, but for me is 8:00 – 8:30/mile pace).

Run Distance, Time & Average Pace: 6.1 miles, 49:21 minutes, 8:01

Tuesday April 24th – Track/Speed workout – repeat 1600m

1 mile (or 10 minute warm-up @ easy pace) + strides
3 x 1600m w/ 400m rest
10 minute c/d

Weekly speed (also called interval or track) workouts are an essential part of my marathon training. This week, I’m increasing the distance of the interval, compared to last weeks’ ladder workout. I’m completing 3 x 1600m (or mile) with 400m (or 2:30 – 3:00 rest).

My times for each 1600m were 6:21, 6:21 and 6:09. My target time for 1600m was 6:14 – 6:25, so I was within the range and even a little faster on my last interval.

Wednesday April 25th – Easy run

In Clovis, CA on this morning for business. Ran 6 miles at easy pace around the Fresno State campus. The purpose of this workout was to recover from yesterday’s track workout. Nice & easy run.

Run Distance, Time & Overall Pace: 6.31 miles, 49:55 & 7:54

Thursday April 26th – Tempo Run

Sometimes you may forget your watch. If you do, don’t panic. Just complete the run at your best effort. Today was one of those days for me.

My training plan called for a 7 mile Tempo with approx. 1 mile warm-up and 1 mile cool down.

This run was a bit challenging because I rarely run hard early in the morning. However, this is great practice for the marathon (which will start at 0630 on July 4th). Also, this run was different because there were no mile markers on the bike trail (Clovis Old Town bike trail).

I simply noted that it was 700am when I started the run. I warmed up briefly and then gradually picked up the pace throughout the rest of the run. Same as the previous week, my tempo pace is 6:45 – 7:00/mile.

When I returned to the car, it was 8:10, so I believe I was somewhere around 8.5 – 9 miles (I had to stop for a traffic about 4 times which added to the time. Regardless of the distance, the effort was definitely there. I was feeling a little tired and stiff on this run (after a lot of driving the day before) so my guess is that I probably didn’t complete all 7 miles in at target pace.

Run Distance, Time (estimate): 8.5 miles, 1hr 10 min

Friday April 27th – Conditioning Workout at Gym

Bike Blast workout at my local gym for 45 minutes. Workout consisted of alternating 1 min hard on stationary bike at varying levels of resistance and then barbell and body weight exercises. The purpose of this workout was to take some time off my legs and build strength to help injury proof my body.

I strongly recommend completing conditioning & strength work at least 2 times/week during your training. 3 times per week is optimal during the off season.

How Middle Age Runners Stay Injury Free
Saturday April 28th – Long Run

The goal of this run is to get time on my legs and complete my weekly long run. Bi-weekly, I increase the length of the long run as I progress through my schedule. Ultimately I build up to 18-20 miles. On weeks where I’m not running 14+ miles, I typically run 10-12 miles at easy pace. With tough Tempo and Track workouts every week, I believe it’s important to slowly ramp up the length of the long run. As long as my schedule is long enough (14 – 16 weeks), I have plenty of time to get in the long runs and recover.

On this day, I actually was committed to join some friends for a 5k charity run, so I ran 12 miles prior to joining the charity run. Below is my Strava results of the run. Pace was easy, but I did run a few miles in the mid to lower 7 minute/mile range. I felt good/strong. The last 5k was at easy pace.

Marathon Training 15 mile long run

Run Distance, Time, Pace: 15.8 miles, 2:03:28, 7:47

Week 2 Summary: 7 days with workouts, 6 with running – 47 miles

Why are Strides So Important For Marathon Training [Follow Along – Week 2]

Why are Strides So Important For Marathon Training [Follow Along – Week 2]

Importance of Strides for Marathon Training

In this series of posts, I’m giving readers a behind the scenes look at how a busy middle age professional, prepares for a sub 3 hr marathon.

Here’s my Strava link. If you’re a member, you can view my training.

Week 2 – April 15th

Sunday April 15th – 5 miles at easy pace (8:00 – 8:30) + strides.

The purpose of this workout was to recover from yesterday’s long run of 14 miles. Strides are completed at 3k pace (controlled, but not sprinting) after the run. Typically, I complete strides after an easy recovery run or before a track workout. As a part of my warm-up they help get the blood flowing to my legs and my heart rate slightly elevated. They are important because they help provide quick leg turnover. The key with strides is to relax, stay controlled and concentrate on your form. Strides can ultimately help you run faster. I typically complete strides 2-3 times per week.

Run Distance, Time & Overall Pace: 4.3 miles, 37 minutes & 8:40

Here’s a video of how to perform strides:

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.

Monday April 16th – Track/Speed workout (ugly weather – 40 degrees, wet & windy)

1 mile warm-up + strides
400M, 800M, 1200M, 1600M, 1200M, 800M, 400M
10 minute c/d

Speed Workouts

These workouts are essential for all runners that are preparing for a race. In the next post, I’ll review in detail how I determine paces for speed workouts.

These workouts are important because they increase your body’s ability to process & store oxygen. This will help the muscles function better for all distances. To be most effective, you don’t want to run at your speed workout pace for more than 7 minutes per interval. Anything longer then becomes more of Tempo Interval which would be run at a slightly slower pace (we’ll get into that in a later post). The bottomline is that speed or track workouts will help you develop endurance, speed, and stronger legs and lungs.

Today I completed what’s called a “ladder” workout. As you can see, I start with a 400m interval at the desired pace and then in increments of 400m, I work my up to 1600m before decreasing down in 400m increments back to 400m.

Following are my target & actual paces for each distance. The weather today was pretty nasty (low 40s, raining and windy). Hitting the right pace in these conditions is tough. The key on these days is to consider the effort and not worry about the times. As you can see, I started a little slow, but was able to get close or within the target times for 1200m & 1600m. Unfortunately I had to cut my workout slightly short because I had to get to the airport to pick-up friend. I ended up skipping the 2nd 800m. I was feeling fine during the 1600m and after as is reflected in my times, so I have little doubt that I would have been able to get the 800m in at desired pace.

Run Distance, Time & Overall Pace: 6 miles, 47 minutes & various

Tuesday April 17th – Easy day at the hotel gym

35 minutes on elliptical + 15 minutes of conditioning exercises at hotel gym
(body weight & core exercises)

I didn’t get to the hotel until about 730pm and up to the gym until about 900pm. The purpose of today’s workout was to recover from the previous days’ track workout. My preference is to do some kind of easy running or crossfit in a hotel gym the first day of travel. The key is to get something in.

Need Marathon Training Info

Wednesday April 18th – Easy run on treadmill + conditioning exercises

35 minutes on treadmill @ easy pace + 15 minutes of conditioning exercises.

Cool/damp weather in St. Louis area, so I hit the treadmill. To add a little more to the workout I typically complete bodyweight exercises to strengthen my core, legs and upper body.

The alternative to running easy on the treadmill would be to complete a workout where the speed and/or incline are varied. Since my plan in the next few weeks includes an increase in mileage and intensity, I decided to keep today’s workout fairly easy.

Bottomline, when you’re on the road, try your best to get some kind of workout completed. At a minimum, I try for 30 – 45 minutes. Depending on the time of day and/or how I’m feeling, I can go hard or easy.

Run Distance, Time & Overall Pace: 4 miles, 55 minutes total workout time

Thursday April 19th – Rest Day

Off/Rest Day. Traveled back home. I typically use one of my travel days as a rest day.

Friday April 20th – 6 mile Tempo Run

1 mile w/u @ easy pace, 6 Mile Tempo @ Marathon Pace, 1.25 mile c/d @ easy pace
In the next post, I’ll discuss purpose of Tempo Runs. These runs can be tough, but next to the long run, they’re probably the most important part of my marathon training because it helps you get used to running at a faster pace for longer periods of time.

Run Distance, Time & Overall Pace: 8.3 miles, 58 minutes, 7:00

Saturday April 21 – Easy run with strides
40 minutes @ easy pace
The goal of today’s run is to recover from the previous days’ Tempo run. It’s really important to include rest (running at an easy pace)

Run Distance, Time & Overall Pace: 5 miles, 45 minutes @ various paces

Sunday April 22 – Long Run. 42 degrees, sunny & no wind
10 miles @ easy pace, finished last mile at sub 7:00/mile pace.
Ran with friends. This helped to ensure that the bulk of the run was at an easy pace.

Run Distance, Time & Overall Pace: 10 miles, 1:23 & 8:17

Week 2 Summary: 6 days with workouts, 5 with running – 33 miles