Wise Running

Train smart, eat well, and enjoy the run.

Tag Archives: mileage

The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners and Future Runners

My first book, The Gift of Running, is available in both paperback & ebook

Paperback Version – Amazon.com   $9.00

Ebook Version – Kindle Store $2.99

I wrote this book for several reasons.  Many of the books on running are tough to read, a lot like technical manuals.  I wanted to offer something more personal, runner to runner.  Moreover, I wanted it to be easy to read for the inexperienced runner.  I think I have accomplished this with The Gift of Running .

Below is the official description.  A small excerpt is included at the bottom of this page.

Book Reviews by Runners:

Book Reviews on Amazon.com:

If you would like an autographed copy of the book, please email me at pmark67@gmail.com


The Gift of Running: a book for runners and future runners

by P Mark Taylor

Running is a gift, but not only for the gifted.  Whether you run just for fun or want to become a more competitive runner, The Gift of Running is for you. In The Gift of Running, P. Mark Taylor shows runners how to get started and stay motivated.

The book includes:  advice on how to get started as a runner, tried & true methods of running faster and longer, how to prepare for a marathon, tips on staying healthy & happy, motivation to keep you running, an insider view of the running community, & training programs for a 5K, 10K, half marathon, & marathon.

P. Mark Taylor is a runner & author of the blog at http://www.WiseRunning.com.

Publication Date:    Jul 20 2012
ISBN/EAN13:    0615668607 / 9780615668604
Page Count:    196
Binding Type:    US Trade Paper
Trim Size:    5.5″ x 8.5″
Language:    English
Color:    Black and White
Related Categories:    Sports & Recreation / Running & Jogging

How to read this book:   (an excerpt from the book)

“This book is not a technical manual.  I have intentionally tried to keep my explanations brief and simple.  I have avoided technical terms and explained what I mean whenever needed.  It does offer important research-based information, but it offers more than that.

The book is about:

  • the human side of running,
  • becoming a runner,
  • working to become a better runner,
  • & staying safe, sane, and happy as a runner. 

It moves back and forth between personal stories, quotes from runners, and advice on running.

Most of the subsections of the book could be read independently, but I encourage you to read it from front to back.  This is especially true for the inexperienced runners.  Read the whole thing first, then go enjoy the run!

This book is the culmination of years of running, studying, and life experiences.  Most of all it is about the love of running and my respect for runners.

This book is dedicated to all of those who share my passion for running & to all those who are trying running for the first time.”


 Click here to see my second book on running:
Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life
Wise Running Book COVER mockup

What Is a Custom Training Program and Why Do I Need One?

What is a Custom Training Program?

A custom training program is a schedule of training runs in preparation for a specific race with a specific time goal.  My next major goal, for instance, is to finish the Indianapolis Marathon in under 3 hours.  In order to accomplish this, I know that I will need to average a pace of 6:49 per mile.  That is a tall order,since my last marathon was completed at a 7:24 pace.  How in the world do I expect to accomplish this goal?

1)  I have a plan.

I have an 18-week plan laid out.  I know what to run each day and how fast to run it.  Every day has a specific purpose.  There are days designed for speed & days designed for rest.  Some days, all I have to do is relax and run a few miles.  Weekends runs are more ambitious than weekdays because I have more time and energy to spend on the weekend.  On most Saturdays, I run mile repeats.  On every Sunday, I have the long run of the week.

The weekly mileage gradually increases from 30 to 50 miles per week.  Every third week, miles are reduced so as to not overwhelm my body with the new work load.  In the last few weeks of the schedule, there is a decrease in miles on the schedule.  This is designed to rest, heal, and store up energy for the actual race.

The intensity and speed of the daily runs also increases over time.  Just before the taper period, near the end of my training schedule, I intend to do 16 mile repeats at 5:45 minutes each.  This is a full minute faster than my intended race average.  If I can accomplish this, then racing at a 5:50 pace will seem somewhat relaxed. 🙂

2)  I will follow the plan.

Will I follow the plan exactly on every day of the schedule?  No, but it does guide my daily decisions and keeps me on track.  The only variations I make will be because of soreness & life issues.  Some soreness is a good sign of hard work.  I have planned for that kind of soreness.  I alternate fast/intense days with relaxed or rest days.  The other kind of pain, however, is a warning that something is not right.  It means that either you trained a little too hard or that your body may soon be injured.  In either case, I may choose to ease up on the speed and/or distance.  In a worst-case scenario I may take an extra day or two off.  In my last marathon training program, I had to take it easy for two weeks.  Once I felt better, I resumed the training program.  No extra miles to make up, just resumed the program the way it was written.  I still managed to PR by 28 minutes, so resting worked!

3)  I realize that I may not make it this time

Sometimes we just set our goals too high.  Sometimes we meet our goal, but sometimes we don’t.  In that fall of 2011, I wanted to qualify for the Boston Marathon.  In order to BQ at my age, I needed to run it in 3:25 or less.  Even though I PRed by a full 28 minutes, I fell short of the ideal goal by finishing in 3:27:27, just two and a half minutes from glory.  Was this a failure?  No!  I PRed by 28 minutes.  That is a huge win.  I had set my “Lofty Goal” at 3:25, but I had a “Happy Goal” of 3:35.  I knew that it was more reasonable.  The fact that I exceeded my happy goal and just missed my lofty goal means that my training program was a big success!

Why do you need a training program?

You need both a goal and a plan to meet that goal in order to achieve.  It is that simple.  Runners training without a plan are likely to take more days off.   Runners without a training program are likely to increase mileage either too quickly, which leads to injury, or to slowly, which leads to disappointing results.

A Running Coach can help you set goals and develop a custom training plan to meet those goals.  What do you want to accomplish?

Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!

P. Mark Taylor

Marathon Training Report – Half way to the Shamrock Marathon

Well, here we are in another training schedule.  Yesterday’s 15 miler marked the half-way point.  Nine weeks down, and nine weeks to go before the Shamrock Marathon.  Here is what my training schedule looks like as it hangs on a kitchen cabinet…

training schedule pic

This time I am using the Hansons Marathon Method as a guideline and tweaking it with my own thoughts.  As you can see, most days have gone as planned.  Some paces went as expected, some had to be adjusted.

Tomorrow will be my last true speed workout at the 5:30 mile pace.  My legs will be glad to hear that.  They are quite sore.  On the other hand, I only had to run 3 miles of speedwork at that pace.  Starting next Tuesday, I slow it down to a 6:10 pace, but I will be doing 6 miles instead of 3 miles. [ Don’t tell my legs, okay?]

One interesting thing about this schedule is the “long runs.”  Instead of doing a long run every week.  The Hansons suggest doing a long run every other week.  Easy, right?  Wrong.  Instead of running the long runs at an easy pace, we run them fairly fast.  My easy pace in this training schedule is anywhere between 7:23 and 7:56.  My long run pace is 7:05.  Not easy.  Still, it is much slower than my actual goal of a 6:30 pace for the marathon.  🙂

Oh, I almost forgot to tell you.  There are no 20 milers in this training program.  Research shows that the most positive effects of the long run come if it takes between 2 and 3 hours.  The average marathoner needs only 16 miles to reach that point.  Instead of 20 milers, the Hansons plan uses a “cumulative effect” to mimic marathon conditions.  It wears you out in 2 week cycles so that your legs will feel like they have run a marathon.  The weeks in which you do not have a long run are the one’s that allow you to recover with 4 straight days of running at an easy pace.

So, there it is.  The mid-training schedule report is sore legs today and for the foreseeable future! The taper doesn’t start until March 7.  This is because research shows that the last workout that can possibly make you faster happens a full 10 days before the marathon.  After that, you should be maintaining speed, healing, and getting fresh legs through a well designed taper.


Train hard. Race easy. Enjoy the run!


The Gift of Running,by P. Mark Taylor, is available in both paperback & e-book

– Paperback Version – Amazon.com $9.00

– Ebook Version – Kindle Store $2.99

– Ebook Version for Nook $2.99





Barefoot Running: Why, Where, and How

I have started running barefoot again.  For the last few days, I have run at least 1 mile each day with no shoes or socks on my feet.

Why am I running barefoot?  Because I want to improve my form.  The logic is this:

    1. We were created to run.
    2. We were not born wearing shoes.  We added that later.
    3. Hence, our natural running style will emerge if we run in bare feet.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not giving up shoes.  Shoes were created to protect our feet from a variety of things that can cause pain.  Shoes are good.  The problem is that it has been so long since I ran without shoes, that my feet and legs have adapted to running in them.  Too much support and protection has allowed my naturally active foot and calf muscles to relax and take it easy.  My form has suffered.  Eventually, I became less efficient.

This was not always the case.  When I was 8 years old, I would play outside for hours with no shoes.  I specifically remember sprinting down a hot blacktop street in the middle of summer.  I could make it as far as Johnny Williams’ house before my feet were too hot to continue on the pavement.  I clearly remember the relief of stepping into the cool grass and eventually into the shade under the big tree in John’s yard.

How is this relevant to my current goal of running a marathon under 3 hours?  Simple.  When I sprinted down the street at 8 years old, my form was natural.  I leaned at the ankles, not the hips.  I didn’t put my foot too far in front of me.  My strides were short and efficient.  I landed near the forefoot.  None of these things were true of my form when I turned 44 a few months ago.

After decades of running in shoes, I knew that I needed to get back.  For the last few months I have studied books, web sites, videos, and anything else to find out what the best form for running would look like.  I tried to emulate the best ideas that were consistently in the most trustworthy resources.  Nothing felt natural.  It all felt forced.  I ended up pulling muscles trying to force myself into an efficient stride and footstrike.

How can I return to my natural, efficient running stride?  As I studied, one of the themes that emerged was that the most efficient stride is our natural barefoot stride.  Once I gave up the fight and accepted that I needed to try barefoot running, I stepped out on to the hot blacktop.  That is when my memory was triggered.  I could see that bright summer sun back in my old neighborhood.  I could feel the heat coming up from the driveway of my old home in St. Louis County.  I could feel myself start into a sprint, driven by the intense heat as I stepped onto the blacktop surface of Fairmeadows Lane.  I remembered the thrill of accelerating to a full sprint and being in wonder at how fast I was passing the mailboxes that lined the path to Johnny’s house.

At that moment, as this memory overwhelmed me, all of that running research made a lot more sense.  Run like a barefoot kid on hot pavement.  Don’t worry about form.  Just take your shoes off and run.  I realized that I do not need to work on my form.  I need to run barefoot and allow my form to emerge.

How do you run barefoot without pain?  I don’t.

Skin:  My eyes guide me around big rocks and other dangers, but I can’t avoid the tiny rocks that scrape my feet.  Over time, my feet are getting acclimated.  There is less pain every day.

Joints/Muscles:  As for the support that shoes provided, I am a pronator and always enjoyed soft cushioned shoes with motion control.  Barefoot allows for none of those things.  What pains have I experienced because of that?  Very little.  That is the point.  Shoes actually caused the need for all of that support.  My natural stride and footstrike have emerged as I run barefoot and try to avoid these pains.  My muscles are getting stronger.  I do not pronate because I have no shoe to lean on.  I have to stand up on my own.  If I run barefoot with poor form, a pain will start to emerge.  I naturally begin to tweak my form based on the feedback from my body.

In short, better form means less pain and more gain.  This is the reason to adopt barefoot running as a part of your training regiment.  I am not forcing myself into good form, I just listen to my body and naturally move towards good form.

My transition was made much easier because I have been running in Vibram Five-Fingers shoes.  I started using these for the same reason that I run barefoot.  Vibrams are very thin and have no support, so training in them has moved me towards good form.  I am adding barefoot runs to keep me moving in that direction.

It is worth repeating:  Better form means less pain and more gain.

I am using barefoot running to move me that direction.  If you can manage to improve your form without going barefoot, then do it.  If you are struggling to find that good form, then think about trying some barefoot running.

Important guidelines for Barefoot and Minimalist running:

  1. Start slowly.  VERY slowly.  Many experts suggest going barefoot 3 times a week to start.
  2. Start short. VERY short.  Your first few weeks should go from 50 yards gradually up to a quarter-mile.
  3. Build lower leg & foot strength.  Exercise your feet by picking things up with your toes.  Do calf raises.  Stretch your calves and feet regularly.

I have worked on  these three things on and off for months before I worked up to doing a daily mile in bare feet.

I have not decided how far I will end up running in bare feet.  I may build up to doing a few 5k races, but I have no intention of doing my long runs in bare feet.  My goal is better form, and that is starting to work.  I’ll let you know how it goes.  🙂

Happy Running!


The Gift of Running is now available in both paperback & e-book

Paperback Version – Amazon.com

Ebook Version – Kindle Store



Table of Contents – Gift of Running

Here is the final version of the table of contents of my new book “The Gift of Running

The book is is now available in both paperback & ebook

Paperback Version – Amazon.com

Ebook Version – Kindle Store

Table of Contents

How to Read This Book 

Running Is a Gift for All

… A Precious Gift

…E Pluribus Run-em

……Where I Fall In the Spectrum of Runners

……Why am I writing a book on running?

…Receiving the Gift:  A Word to the Newbie Runner

Enhancing the Gift: Running Longer &/or Faster 

…Running Faster

…Running Longer

…Threshold Pace

……Threshold Pace and the Perfect Race

…Running a Marathon

…My Marathon Story:   From 5:35 to 3:27 in 18 months

Renewing the Gift: Motivation  

…Recapturing the Joy of Running

…Motivation: Getting Out of the Door

…Slaying the Specter of a Bad Run

…Potential, Risk, & Failure

…Racing as Motivation

…Aging Gracefully

……The Fountain of Youth

……Setting Age-Appropriate Goals

Renewing the Gift: Health

…Rest Days

…New Thoughts about Old Stretching

…Where to run: Surfaces, Sites, & Treadmills

…Philosophy of Pain

…RICE for Pain

…Weather Affects Running

…Staying Healthy in the Heat

…Running and Weight Loss

Giving Back: Community & Coaching 

…The Running Community

…Running Buddies

…You Will Never Run Alone

…Encouraging, Exhorting & Coaching

…Charity Fundraising

Training Schedules & Other Resources 

…What is a Training Plan?

…Following My Training Plans.

…From Walking to Running a 5K..

Training Programs:

– Walking to 5K
– Racing a 5K
– Racing a 10K
– Racing a Half Marathon
– Racing a Marathon

…The Right Stuff: Running Tools & Supplies

Wrapping Up the Gift 


The Gift of Running: a book for runners and future runners

Tips for Your First Marathon

There will never be enough advice in the world to prepare you for what is coming.  Running your first marathon is an adventure in the truest sense of the word.   It is both exhilarating and exhausting beyond your wildest imagination.  Lots of people will have tons of advice, but I would like to focus mine around one basic idea:

Do all of your experimenting in training. 

There should be exactly one thing that is different on marathon day: the distance. Beyond that, every little thing you do during your first marathon should be something that you have done many times before.  Anything that you do, wear, eat, or drink for the first time on marathon day can ruin your race and possibly hurt you.  26.2 miles is a very long way.  I know that you are aware of this, but you need to think about what that means.   If you make a mistake, you may have to live with while running for the next 3 to 7 hours!

Now that I have scared you enough, let’s begin our talk about experimenting!  If you do all of your experimenting ahead of time, then you have little to worry about.  On marathon day, you can simply go out and do what you did in practice.  No big deal, just a little farther than usual.

Training Runs

You do not need to run a marathon in order to train for one.  It is smart, however, to run 20 miles at least two different times during your training.  It will take many weeks of training to build up to that distance slowly and carefully.  The last 20 mile run should be about 3 weeks before the race.  That will give your legs plenty of time to recover.  Thankfully, at the end of that three weeks the rest of your body will still remember your 20 mile runs and the lessons about efficiency that it learned during them.

Clothing & Shoes

What works for a 5K or even a 10K may not work in a marathon.  Make sure that as you are gradually building up mileage, that you are paying attention to what you are wearing.  You are not just training, you are road-testing different outfits and shoes to see which are the best for the really long runs.  Clothes that give you mild chaffing on a 13 mile run will cause bleeding on a 20.  Lots of marathoners cross their first finish line with blood stained shirts and/or shoes.

In addition to good clothing, it is smart to get some extra help against chaffing.  Body Glide and other products exist to protect parts that seem to chafe no matter what you do.  There are other things like nipple guards, although a band-aid often works just as well.  With all of these clothing-related issues, practice and routine is the key.  If you find what works in your longest training runs, you are much more likely to avoid this dilemma during the marathon.

Food & Drink

Most of us have no interest in going 3-7 hours without a snack and something to drink.  Now figure in the calories burned running and liquid lost sweating.  Thankfully, you do not need to consume as many calories as you burn.  You do, however, need to prepare to consume anywhere from 400 to 1,000 calories on the run.  It varies by your weight, conditioning, and how much time you will take.  Here again, you must experiment on your long runs.  Most runners consume packets of energy gel or some gummy equivalent.  Go to a running store and ask what choices they have.  Try several early in your training program.  Make sure you find the one that best suits you before your 20-milers.  You will want to practice that one source of fuel for all of your long runs in the last 6 to 8 weeks of your training program.

Always start fueling early in the race, specifically before you have gone two miles!  If you don’t start by then, you are very likely to have low blood sugar late in the race.

Drinks are even more critical!  Dehydration can be a huge problem with rookie marathoners.  The current wisdom being shared by running experts is “drink to thirst.”  That means drink when you are thirsty and not when you are not.  Personally, I have to drink a little more than that to be okay.  Guess how I found that out?  Through experimenting, of course.

On the marathon course, plenty of water and sports drinks will be available.  On your training runs, however, you will need to think carefully about how to get your drinks!  Will you carry enough drink to last you 20 miles?  Not me.  I carry enough for ten miles and make sure my running route circles back so I can get refills for the next 10 miles.


Electrolytes are the minerals that keep your nervous system and your muscles running.  You lose electrolytes through sweat.  You sweat a lot in a marathon.  I know that I have run out of electrolytes when my muscle start threatening to twitch. The next stage is full cramping. It often starts in the hamstrings, but can begin anywhere.

While sports drinks offer some electrolytes, many runners find that they run out of electrolytes on a long run.  There are electrolytes in some energy gels, but I have to supplement beyond that.  I live in Knoxville, and I have to take electrolyte supplements throughout the sweating season (April through October).  It IS possible to get too many electrolytes, so find a source and use them sparingly.  Figure out how much you need through experimenting.

Routine, Routine, Routine

Routine is important.  Warm up for a marathon like you warm up for anything else.  Do your stretches and any other part of your running routine the same on marathon day as any other day.  Drink what & how you drank in training.  Wear what you wore in training.


On marathon day, you will still be human.  Plan your potty break before the race, but also be prepared to go during the race.  No body should have to go four, five, or even eight hours without a bathroom break.  There are bathrooms along the route, I promise.

Going the Distance

You may need to walk.  You may have gone out too fast, you may just be legitimately tired.  It is okay to walk part of the way.  Walking will not exclude you from the rank of marathoner.  In fact, there is at least one major marathon expert that touts walking as an important part of his marathon racing strategy.  Personally, I walk through the aid stations.  The Powerade goes down much more smoothly.  🙂

The first twenty miles should be just like in practice.  The last 6.2 miles are tough, but you can do this.  If you have taken care of all of the above details, then you can do this last 6.2 miles.  There is no question about it.  You will be pushing longer, but you have been replenishing your supplies of energy, liquid, and electrolytes.  It works the same as the previous 20 miles.  Just put one foot in front of the other.  Do not think about how far you have to go or how far you have gone.  Instead, remember your training runs.  Remember how you pushed yourself to go just a little farther each week.  You know what it is like to challenge yourself and succeed.  Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and the finish line will find you.

You can do this.  Experiment, practice, and follow your routine all the way to the finish line.


“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”  — P. Mark Taylor


Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:


The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & Future Runners  Wise Running Book COVER mockup


Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life

Going to the Next Level: Gradually Increasing the Fast Mileage

Everyone has their own pace.
If you want to go faster, read on as
I share my current strategy for getting to the next level. 

Keep in mind that  in order to apply the idea to your running,
you will need to adjust the numbers accordingly.


I have been doing a careful analysis of my runs over the last month.  Typically, when runners talk about their training they report miles per week.  Yes, it is easy to add up all of the miles I have run, but that will not tell me about my speed.  I need to know more detailed info.

The big question:  How fast am I running?

To find out, I added up all of the little sprints & intervals on the track, the tempo miles, & all the other types of runs.

In the last month, I have run:

  • a total of 4 miles under a 5 minute mile pace
  • a total of 8 miles between 5 & 6 minute mile pace
  • a total of 21.85 miles between 6 & 7 minute mile pace
  • a total of 74 miles at 7:00-8:40 minute mile pace

Why have I chosen these pace zones?  Becauselast year I ran almost every race at around a 7 minute pace.  I ran 5Ks & 10Ks just below 7 minute pace and half marathons just above a 7 minute pace.

To move to the next level, I’m gradually increasing the distances at the faster speeds.  I am accomplishing this in distances that are short enough for me to safely run at that pace.  The idea is simple enough:

  • When I wanted to race at a 7 minute pace, I ran as many miles as I could at a 6 minute pace.  To get to the next level, I just extended the logic.
  • If I want to eventually race at a 6 minute pace, then I have to gradually increase the total mileage that I run at a 5 minute pace.
  • Likewise, if I ever want to get comfortable running races at a 5 minute pace, then I have to gradually increase the total mileage that I run at a pace much faster.
  • I have no plans to train at a 4 minute pace. My body can’t handle that.  I can, however, complete some 200 meter repeats  and 400 meter repeats at a 4:30-ish mile pace. That will have to suffice for now.

Just to be clear: I am NOT making 1 minute jumps!   I am using 7, 6, & 5 as cut-off points to create pace zones for the sake of analyzing running paces.   I am not trying to run at exactly a 6 minute pace for some things or exactly at 5 minute for some things.   I am running a wide variety of paces at distances at which I can run those paces in a safe, relaxed form.  As I have pointed out in previous posts, it is important to keep a relaxed form while doing speed work.  To avoid injury, I am focused on maintaining relaxed form as I gradually increase the distances.  When I can no longer maintain it, then I know that I am done with my speed work for the day.  Better to ease up and stay healthy so that I can gain speed on another day!

From now on, I will keep weekly totals of overall miles AND miles in each pace zone.  I will make sure to very slowly increase the mileage in the faster zones.

Gradually, over time, I will run faster farther.

I want fast to feel normal.  🙂


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



Speed & Endurance Miles: Quality Over Quantity

“Why should I do speedwork if I plan to run a long slow marathon?”   Eddie’s question makes sense.  Why does everyone tell him to do speedwork if speed is not his goal?

My Answer:  Because speed, strength, and endurance are actually closely related.  How does this make sense?  If you are a little bit faster, then you are a little bit stronger.  If you are a little bit stronger, then it becomes a little bit easier to run longer.

My oversimplified technical explanation:  It has to do with adding muscle.  When you have more muscle fibers, then the impact of your weight in running is then distributed over more muscle.  This makes the job a little easier for each muscle fiber.  Each muscle fiber does a little less. So, if each muscle fiber does a little bit less with each step, then enduring a longer distance becomes a tiny bit easier.  Hence building muscles through speedwork increases both strength and endurance.

You still have to run some long distances to train your newly added muscle for the long race.  In the end, however, a little more speed work should mean that it takes fewer really long runs to build up the endurance you need.

For some of us, the goal is to run a long, fast marathon.  Speedwork obviously helps with our increased need for speed as well as helping the endurance aspect.  This is in agreement with the basis of the book Runner’s World Run Less, Run Faster.  It is the idea of quality miles as opposed to a large quantity of miles.  A high number of miles can do wonders, but it can also wreak havoc on a runner’s body.  Hence, we replace a certain portion of our really long runs with a smaller number of miles of speed and/or pace work.  In the end, we are still just as prepared for the marathon or ultra.

In my own experience, I ran my first half-marathon with no runs over 10 miles.   I ran it in 1:20:48.  What was my training?  The cross country season of my senior year in high school.  I had only a few weeks after the season before I ran the half.  I trained almost exclusively at 5 miles or less with a 7 miler once or twice a month.   I did track work once or twice a week.  I raced 5k cross country courses once a week.  It was less quantity and more quality.  My speedwork over the previous years made my 6:10 pace look relaxed.  It was my cumulative miles over the previous years combined with the strength through speedwork that helped me do so well.  Quality over quantity.

What does all this mean to Eddie?

For the Eddies & Bettys out there that are satisfied with a long, slow marathon:  if you do some moderate speedwork in training, your long slow marathon may be just a little easier and a little more enjoyable.

Happy Running!

How to Think About the Long Runs – Marathon Training

Well, I am at it again…over-analyzing my running.  This time the focus is the long training runs.  Most training schedules have a long run, usually on Saturday or Sunday.  Most marathon training schedules build up to two 20-milers late in the schedule.

The questions I have had about the long run of the week are these:

1)  How fast?

2)  How far?

They seem relatively simple, but there is a lot going on in there.  The root of my questions comes from my marathon performances.  For me, the weakness in my marathon racing has been the last miles.  In my first, I cramped up at mile 17 and ended up walking the last 7 miles.  In my second, I slowed down at 17 but didn’t cramp up until 22.  I ran the whole way, but I faded from mile 17 gradually until the last mile.  This, of course, was a great improvement over the first marathon.  Still, 9 miles of gradually slowing down was not what I had planned.  In my third marathon, I the fading was at the same point.  This time, thankfully, the fade was much more gradual.  I kept a very good pace until mile 22.  The last 2 miles are kind of foggy.  I don’t remember every detail, but I know I was moving very slowly compared to the rest of the race.

If I am to meet the goal of not fading, then I must change my training.  I must learn how to maintain when I feel weak. I must get used to running that long AND not fading.  My thought was to extend my longest training runs to marathon length or beyond.  If I schedule a couple of 30-milers, then 26.2 will seem like taking a break.  A small percent of marathoners take this approach.  Those that do it, claim that it solved their fading issue.  Problem solved, right?  Wrong!

The vast majority of marathon experts claim that the longest you should need to run on your longest training runs would be 20 miles.  Awesome people that consistently finish under 2:20 do this.  It works for the experts.  Why wouldn’t it work for me.  Easy answer:  I’m not an elite athlete.  I am a relative newbie when it comes to marathoning.  That is why I am still working these issues out.  I can’t compare myself to them.   At the same time, there is something there for me to learn from.  Why does running less than the full 26.2 miles work for them?

The answer to that question came to me via friends on Twitter.  They said that the time you spend on the longest training runs matters more than the distance.  “Hmmm,”  I thought.  “Maybe for you, but…”  Then I remembered what Hal Higdon said about the long runs.  He agreed with them.  Its more about the time than the distance.  It is about getting your body ready to be constantly active for that amount of time.  Okay, there must be something to this idea of a timed long run.

Another issue to throw into this mix before making a final decision is intensity level.  Experts agree that you should never run your longest run at full marathon pace.  It would be like running an all-out marathon, which might prepare you mentally but it wears you out physically.  You might actually run a faster marathon in your training run than in the race.  Not what we have in mind.  So how fast, how intense, should your long run be?  Experts vary on this one, between 30 seconds above marathon pace up to as much as 90 seconds above marathon pace.  That is a wide range!

How do you make sense out of this?  How fast? How far? How much time?  How should I know?

After reading a lot of experts and hearing lots of experiences from my friends on Twitter, here is what I think:

For the Novice:

If it is your first marathon, stick to the training schedule of a full-fledged expert.  Do not stray from the plan.  It should max out at 20 miles for the longest training run.  As for intensity, by that point in the schedule, you should know what your goal marathon pace will be.  Run the long run at least a full minute per mile slower.  Stick with the program.  Learn the lessons of experience within the safety of those expert recommendations.  It will keep you healthier and happier.  The goal of the first marathon should be to finish healthy.

For the more experienced marathoners:

After your second or third marathon, you will begin to understand your body’s personal preferences and limitations.  For some, going beyond 20 more than once or twice a year may be hazardous to your health. If you think you might be in that category, limit your longest training runs to 20 miles. It works for most runners and it works for elite athletes.  If you are making good progress and meeting your goals, there is no reason to try running more than 20 miles in a training run.

For others, however, we need a little more.  Some of us actually enjoy running distances over 20 miles.   Some marathoners feel the need to try runs longer than 20 in order to solve problems and meet their goals.

If you are sure that you are one of those that must train beyond 20 miles, then go ahead and try it out.  Just like your prior long runs there are some important guidelines to follow:

1)  Gradual Increase:  Just as in your previous training, you must continue to increase your mileage slowly.  You must have a strong base to gradually build up to 26 or 30 miles on training runs.  If you aren’t running 15 miles near the beginning of your 18 week training schedule, then you probably cannot safely increase your mileage to 30 by the end.  Plan it out and limit yourself.  Try to remember that it is more about the amount of time you are continuously running rather than the distance.  With that in mind, you find that the longest you need to run is less than you originally thought.

2)  Low Intensity:  Your pace on these marathon distances and beyond, should never be anywhere near marathon pace, EVEN IF YOU FEEL GREAT!  Just don’t do it.  Remember what the experts said, it is more about the time spent.  Hence, it is okay to take your time on these really long runs.

What will I do on my current training schedule?

My short answer:  I will switch to a time goal rather than a distance goal.

My long answer:  I originally planned two 30-milers.  I may or may not stick to that.  What I will focus on is time.  My goal time for the next marathon is 3 hours.  I want to train to avoid the fade, so I plan to run a little longer than that.  I will run for 3.5 hours on my longest training runs.  If it takes me 30 miles to do that, that is what I will run.  It will most likely take less than 30 miles to run for that amount of time.  Whatever that distance I have run after three and a half hours, that is my distance for the day.  I will walk it in from that point.  I will not run another step for any reason.  I may be crazy, but I ain’t no fool.  I want to heal up and run a fast marathon after this run!  The training run should help, not hurt.

As for the intensity of those long runs, I intend to take the first 3 hours very slowly.  My focus is on finishing the last 30 minutes well.  Remember, I am working on the fade.  I will speed up in the last 30 minutes of my 3.5 hour runs.  I will not run fast, just faster than the first three hours.  I want to mentally and physically prepare to run the last part well… not blazing fast…just not slow.  This is how every long run will be for me.  Slow on the front end, and faster in the last 30 minutes.

Be wise.  Be Safe.  Run long.


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



Feel the Heat! Staying Healthy in Hot Weather

Summer is known for fun times with family and friends, but it has another side to it…the dog days of summer. These are the longest, hottest days of the year. For people that only work out inside, it is not much of a bother. For the runners and other patrons of the great outdoors, however, there is no escaping it for very long. With a heat index over 100 degrees, how can you get in a good workout AND stay healthy? Here are a few pointers:

Staying on Course

The right course for running on in the heat is shady. Even among shady areas, some paths are naturally cooler than others. A low-lying path next to a cool stream will be much cooler than your average route. Find a cool, shady course and it will be much easier to stay on course with your workout.

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!

Water and sports drinks are your friends. Staying well hydrated before, during, and after a run in the heat is absolutely critical. You should be drinking water all day. Not all liquids are good for hydration. Stay away from diuretics such as caffeine, as these can dry you out and set you up for disaster.

A hydrated body functions better. If you want health and performance, you will keep your body topped off with liquids as you go. So, on a hot day, drink about a cup of water or watered down sports drink every 15 minutes. If you put it in as fast as you sweat it out, your body will thank you by staying healthy and performing as best as it can.

You should still be careful after the run! Most of us continue sweating long after the last step of the run. Hence, it is important to keep your tank topped off! There are now quite a few choices for sports drinks to recover after the workout. The top choice remains the same as it has always been… good old water!

Ease into It

Imagine you are about to get into a really hot tub of water. Do you jump in as quickly as possible or do you ease into it slowly and get used to it. If you are smart, you choose plan B and ease into it slowly. The same idea applies to running in extreme heat. If you have been running just about every day for moths, then it is likely that you gradually acclimated to the rising temperature as summer approached. Now that it is oppressively hot, it is only a little different than what you have been doing. That is easing into it. You still have to be careful, but the heat is just not a big deal. If you have been on a treadmill every day in an air conditioned gym, however, switching to running outside can be deadly if you choose to make the switch on an oppressively hot day. Don’t even think about it!

The Alternative: Heat Stroke

What if you were not careful? What if you ran in direct sun and failed to stay hydrated while you run outside in the heat for the first time in a long time. What would that be like?

Cause:   Extreme exertion and dehydration impair your body’s ability to maintain an optimal temperature

Symptoms:  Core body temp of 104 or above, headache, nausea, vomiting, rapid pulse, disorientation

Treatment:  Emergency medical treatment is necessary for immediate ice-water immersion and IV-fluids


Play it safe!   Stay hydrated and go easy so you can stay healthy and survive to run hard on a cooler day.


Train hard, race easy, & enjoy the run!



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