Wise Running

Train smart, eat well, and enjoy the run.

Tag Archives: overtraining

The Toughest Days on the Schedule [a rest day]

Is it just me?  Am I the only one that feels this way?  I think rest days are the toughest ones on the schedule.  I mean… well… think about it.  If you think God made us to run, then our bodies should be clamoring to run.  And today, mine is.  It is screaming out with every fiber of its being.  The message is loud and clear:  “Go, Run, Play!”

Maybe the first and last words of that command would be okay, but my schedule says no running today.  My mind says no running today.  I have qualified for Boston three times now with schedules that included at least 1 rest day per week, so I know it works!  We need this day to recuperate before the big Saturday pace run and the long Sunday run.  With no rest, these runs could go flat, or much worse things like injuries and overtraining could sideline me for a while.  So, I faithfully take the day off.

Still, my body cries out: “Go, Run, Play!”

Is it just me?

Happy Running!

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

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

Twitter:  http://twitter.com/#!/Wise_Running

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/pages/Wise-Running/223617527674175


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



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



Going the Extra Mile or Overtraining?

Are you going the extra mile or running down the road to ruin?  This is a question that you must ask yourself periodically.  Too much of a good thing can hurt you.  In this case, running too many high mileage runs and/or speed workouts without adequate rest could mean that you get weaker and slower.  Worse yet, serious injuries can happen when you overtrain.

How much rest is enough?    Runners at all levels are susceptible to overtraining.  Hopefully, you have already realized that going hard every day is bad.  It gets more complicated when you decide how much to cut back on your “easy” days.  What does it look like when you are taking it easy enough?

Here are some basic guidelines:

Alternate tough training days with very easy, short runs.  Your pace should be at least 60-90 seconds slower per mile than your race pace.  The mileage on your short runs can vary between 1/4 and 1/2 of the distance of your one weekly extra-long run.   Schedule a day off each week.  Some recommend taking the day off after a significant tempo run, which includes at least half of the distance at race-pace.

What are the signs of overtraining?    By the time you get a stress fracture, it is far too late.  There are over 130 symptoms that can be associated with overtraining, which makes it quite complicated.  One of the earliest signs of overtraining, how3ever, is the runner’s psychological state.  It is common to become irritable after a tough workout, but this should only last a day or two.

Thankfully, Dr. Jack Raglan has created a method of screening yourself on an ongoing basis to check for overtraining.  This questionnaire can be found at the end of this article at www.runnersworld.com.

Take this quiz once a week–or once a day during periods of hard training.  A score of 40 or more means you should rest more and run less.  A score of 15 or less suggests you’re balancing your training and recovery well.  A score that falls in the middle isn’t of immediate concern, but should be monitored. “Look for rapid changes,” Raglin says. “If your score suddenly skyrockets, it’s time to take a break.”

1) How is your mood today?

Very, very good (-2 points)
Very good (-1 point)
Good (0 points)
Average (1 point)
Bad (3 points)
Very bad (5 points)
Very, very bad (7 points)

 2) How many hours did you sleep last night?

More than nine (-1 point)
Eight or nine (0 points)
Seven (1 point)
Five to six (3 points)
Less than five (5 points)

3) Last night I slept:

Same as normal (0 points)
One hour more than normal (1 point)
Two or more hours more than normal (3 points)
One hour less than normal (1 point)
Two hours less than normal (3 points)
Three or more hours less than normal (5 points)

 4) Have you been sick the past week?

Yes (5 points)
No (0 points)

 5) How would you rate yesterday’s workout?

Very, very easy (-3 points)
Very easy (-1 point)
Easy (0 points)
Average (1 point)
Hard (3 points)
Very hard (5 points)
Very, very hard (7 points)

6) How do your muscles feel?

Very, very good (-3 points)
Very good (-1 point)
Good (0 points)
Tender, but not sore (1 point)
Sore (3 points)
Very sore (5 points)
Very, very sore (7 points)

7) Do your legs feel “heavy”?

No (0 points)
A little (1 point)
Somewhat (3 points)
Very (7 points)


If you even begin to suspect that you might be suffering from overtraining, the smart move is proper rest.  When in doubt, take an extra day or two off.  If your issues persist, however, check with a doctor or other medical professional.

Conclusion:  Run hard, rest hard, and stay hydrated!

Happy Running!


%d bloggers like this: