Wise Running

Train smart, eat well, and enjoy the run.

Graduating to a New Marathon Training Strategy

There was no cap and gown.  There was no ceremony, no pomp & circumstance.  But there was a graduation.

In 2011, I followed the philosophy & rhythm of Hal Higdon’s marathon training schedules.  I most recently used the Advanced 2 schedule.  The routine goes something like this:  Run easy on Monday & Wednesdays.  Tuesdays & Thursdays were about speed work with tempo runs, pace runs, hills, and track work.  Friday was the sacred rest day to prepare you for a long weekend.  Saturdays the runs were longer but Sunday was for the really long run of the week.

Before I started Hal’s programs, I was a train wreck waiting to happen.  I had no plan, unless you count running a bunch and having a couple of really long runs.   No nutrition plan.  No clue about making a schedule.  I was going by feel.  That led to my first marathon… 18 miles of running & 8 miles of agonized walking.

Hence, when I found Hal Higdon’s plans, I was suddenly enlightened.  His plans are well thought out.  Each day has a purpose.  The workouts vary quite a bit so you never get too bored.  And they worked.  In January of 2011, I went from no plan straight to the Advanced 1.  That took me from a 5:35 in 2010 down to a 3:56 in April of 2011.  I switched to the Advanced 2 schedule and followed this with a 3:27 marathon in October of 2011.  So, yes, Hal Higdon’s plans do work.  They took me from 5:35 down to 3:27.

Hal’s plans could probably take me farther, but I have been doing so thinking & some reading.

As for the thinking, I have been thinking that as my intensity and pace have increased, so have my aches and pains.  I am 44 years old and I have known for a little while that I need a plan that incorporated more rest.  Discussions on the Twitter running community have convinced me that there is a way to get better training AND more rest.

So, with that in mind, I picked up that book that my friend suggested.  I told my new friend Jeff that I was gradually increasing my mile repeats at 6 minute pace.  My plan was to eventually run 16 mile repeats at a 6 minute pace.  That, I thought, would prepare me to run a marathon at a 7 minute pace.  Thankfully, Jeff had an alarmed look and suggested the book by Jack Daniels, PhD.  Dr. Daniels had done the research and knew exactly which type of workouts would net which specific results.  This appealed to me because I wanted to know exactly what would happen if I did those mile repeats as planned.

After reading the book, Daniels’ Running Formula, I came to the conclusion that I was planning on overdoing it.  I would have been a victim of my own training scheme if not for Jeff’s advice.  Thanks, Jeff!

So now here I am, wanting to move on from Higdon’s program, wanting more intensity, more miles, & more rest along with less pain.  Several things appeal to me about Daniels’ way of thinking.

Like Higdon, Daniels offered several suggested programs.  I personally like the rhythm of three days of easy runs, two days of high intensity workouts, and two days of rest.  The days can be arranged in any order, so it is flexible enough.  Most of the time I will take a rest day right before a quality day so that I am always freshest on the most intense days.  That sounds like it offers the three most important things I have been looking for in a marathon training program:

  1. Purposeful, intense, quality workout days
  2. Multiple rest days
  3. Days to just go out and run!

That last one is really important.  Sometimes the quality days are wonderful, but sometimes a runner wants to just go out and run!  There may be a prescribed distance, but you can go a little more or a little less and even it out by the end of the week.  There may be a range of paces defined for the easy days, but they are easy for the level of intensity of your training.  So it FEELS like just going out for a good run.  I like that.

Daniels’ basic premise is that each type of run on the track or on the road should have a specific purpose.  He has done the research to know what each type of workouts can do for the runner.  Just as important, he has done the research to know how the level of intensity that a runner is ready for.  Too intense leads to overtraining (where I was headed) and too little intensity leads to poor results.   Daniels has written a great book. I highly recommend it.

So now I understand a little more about why Hal Higdon has things designed the way he does and why the programs worked for me.  I also understand that I am ready to branch out and work from Daniels’ plan for a while.  I have graduated from my first set of plans to my second set of plans.  Maybe in a few years I can publish plans for others to follow based on my experience.  For now, I am happy to be learning as I go and sharing with you along the way.

I will let you know how it goes!    Please give me feedback – what plan are you following?

You can keep up with my running on

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“Train hard, race easy, & enjoy the run!”  — P. Mark Taylor



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