Wise Running

Train smart, eat well, and enjoy the run.

Tag Archives: running

Identifying Who I Am As an Athlete: P. Mark Version 3.0

As I shared in my last blog, a lot of my efforts have shifted from running goals to bodybuilding goals.  As I have fully engaged in heavy lifting more frequently and long runs less frequently, inner conflicts began to surface.  I began to ponder…

  • Am I shifting just because I am getting older and slower? (I turn 52 tomorrow)
  • Should I focus on muscle measurements or strength goals as the primary target?
  • How does this effect my long-term participation in the local running community?

And…  For heaven’s sake!  Why is this question of athletic identity so important to me?

Athletic Identity

Let’s start with that last one. I am a father, grandfather, husband, Christian, professor, researcher, author, and so much more.  Why in the world does my athletic identity feel like such an important matter?

Certainly, it was absolutely critical to me in my teenage years.  I belonged to my church, my school, my cross country team, and my track team.  I had a place.  I had some personal success, but I scored points for the team.  So many teens feel lost.  I knew who I was.  The teen years were difficult, but running was part of what made them good for me.

When injury took me away from running, I let it go for nearly a quarter of a century.  I would lift weight periodically, but never with competition in mind.  I would go for runs, but almost always just to go relax.  There was no formal training or competition.  For about 24 years, my athletic identity was more like a relic of the past rather than a current need.  The glory days were gone.  I was doing important work in the field of education, in church, and serving my community.

Why, then, did the importance of athletic identity once again rise in importance?  Okay, so life did not go as planned.  Around 2008, I was trying harder than ever to make a difference and I got knocked on my butt.  My midlife attempts to save the world backfired.  At one moment in 2009, I was at the same kind of identity crisis as I was at a teen.  I knew I had a lot to offer the world.  Jesus was still my rock, but I was reeling with self-doubt and in need of some direction.  I had achieved great things up to this point, but I suddenly felt like I needed to re-establish my identity.

I responded to this identity crisis in many of the same ways as I had when I was a teenager.  I joined new groups, tried new relationships, but most importantly I started running again.  Not just running, but training.  I joined the Knoxville Track Club and started training and racing.  I did a half marathon, then a marathon… I eventually set my sites on qualifying for Boston.

My renewed identity as a runner was an important part of rebuilding my self-identity as a strong, capable person.  My new job a Carson-Newman University helped tremendously as well, but it was my running achievements that connected me back to that strong feeling of identity to which I clung as a teenager.  Here I was clinging to it just as strongly.  If my high school running identity was version 1.0, then my new running career started at 42 years old was “P. Mark 2.0”

I went on to achieve some pretty cool things.  I wasn’t world class, but I was the best runner I could be.  I also had the hardware to prove it in medals and trophies.

What happened to P. Mark version 2.0?

After I finished an Ironman, ran Boston a few times, and set a solid personal record in the marathon, I just sort of lost some steam.  I was training hard, but lacked the same intensity which developed this late-blooming athlete.  I had some extra duties and a packed personal life as well.  I was getting worn out.  I would set goals once in a while, but I never could stay focused on one goal long enough to achieve it.  I burned the candle at both ends until the fire went out.

To be honest, I was glad to let P. Mark 2.0 fizzle out.  I focused more on just doing the things I felt like doing.  By late 2018, I was still an okay runner by my own standards but I was getting more out of achieving weightlifting improvements.  I had no major goal to set my sites upon.

Why P. Mark version 3.0?

As I am writing this blog, it is finally dawning on me.  P. Mark version 3.0 is necessary.  It is only part of who I am.  It does not define me in any major way, but it is absolutely critical.  I realize that I always feel the most like myself when athletic endeavors are a part of my life.  It does not need to be running.  I am as happy going for a two hour swim as I am going for a two hour run.  I love to ride my mountain bike on the trails near our house in South Knoxville.

I feel joy when I lift hard, run hard, bike hard, and swim hard.  God has built it into my soul.  To deny my athletic identity is to deny a part of what God has designed.

Version 3.0 will simply have some tweaks.  Goal setting gives direction to the workouts. God gives me joy while I am working out.  I can set any goal I want and be happy with it.

For now, here is what I understand about P. Mark the athlete as of July 5, 2019:Kiawah 2018

  • I will continue to lift weight with specific goals of size for arms, legs, chest & back.
  • I will continue to focus my running on shorter distances for now (800 meters to 5K).
  • I will begin to build my bike power numbers to prepare for cycling and triathlon in the years to come.

In short, the distance runner in version 2.0 has been replaced by an athlete building power.

Although I anticipate a return to Ironman races in a year or two, I will not train long distance until that time comes.  I am a 52 year old athlete (as of tomorrow) who is building power for the next round.  That is who I am right now.

Blessings to you and yours,

P. Mark




What Runners Do: Courage and Encourage

wise running logo 7_25_12Running takes courage.

  • It takes a lot of courage to look in the mirror and decide you need to change.
  • It takes a lot of courage to take the first step.
  • It takes a lot of courage to run out where everyone can see you struggle.
  • It takes a lot of courage to step out of your comfort zone and set a high goal.
  • It takes a lot of courage to face tough speedwork.
  • It takes a lot of courage to choose to run up a steep hill on purpose.
  • It takes a lot of courage to run that extra mile to run a distance you never imagined you could run.
  • It takes courage to register for a race.
  • It takes courage to pin that numbered bib on your shirt and step up to the start line.
  • It takes courage to finish when you do not believe you have the strength.
  • It takes a lot of courage to decide to walk when your pride says to run.
  • It takes a lot of courage to choose a DNF because you do not want to make your injury worse.

Courage is what we runners do.  It is who we are.  Courage defines us.  Courage makes us stronger.  Courage molds us into a new and better person.

Runners know this about courage.  Hence, when we see a racing 1potential runner or a fellow runner that is having doubts, we encourage.

  • We encourage our friends to run because we know what it will do for them.
  • We encourage our friends to run a little farther, a little faster.
  • We encourage our friends when they are injured and let them know that resting is smart and that they will run again soon.
  • We encourage those that are struggling, on the run or in life.
  • We encourage newer and/or younger runners & become their mentors for a while.
  • We encourage others with our presence.
  • We encourage others by sharing our struggles and our successes.

Encouragement is what we runners do.  It is who we are.  Encouragement defines us.

Remember This:

Courage without encouragement will fade. 
Inspire and encourage future and fellow runners. 
I promise that the running community will
pay back what you gave and much more.


Train wisely, eat well, & 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

The Gift of Running – a reflection on my first book about running

It has been just over 4 years since I published my first book on running.  It was written to gather all of the basic info about running into one easy to read source.  I just wanted to share what I had learned.

The response was surprisingly awesome.  I have heard from a lot of folks over the last four years that have gotten stronger and faster.  One of the things they often share is not about the technical info, but about my stories of trials and tribulations.  I never claimed to be perfect or know it all.  I just wanted to share what I learned.

Well, 4 years later I am still working on my third book.  I have been waiting for the time when I felt like I had a strong enough new message to make it worth the reader’s time and effort.  Well, I finally have the ideas.  Instead of writing a brand new book, however, I am going to update and expand the original book with new info and new stories.  The original book still stands the test of time.  I just have a few ideas to update and some new research based ideas to offer.

  • updated training plans
  • research insight: How long should the long run be?
  • low mileage and high performance
  • no more wasted miles:  placing effort where it will make the biggest gains
  • balancing the social and achievement aspects of running
  • strength training updated
  • cross-training and triathlon

The 2017 updated version of “The Gift of kindle book cover prototypeRunning” is under construction.  I expect it to be available for purchase early next year.


Here is the first book:


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

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.

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 .

Assessing Progress: Keeping Race Results In Perspective


wise running logo 7_25_12At last night’s track meet, my 800 meter result was two seconds slower than last year.  My first reaction was disappointment and frustration. I am sick and tired of not making significant progress.  Upon reflection, however, my slower performance is a sign of good things.

How could this be?  When you look at race results you must ask yourself some key questions:

Was that the best I could do on that given day, under those specific conditions?

For my 800 meter race last night, my performance was solid during most of the race.  My first lap was a couple of seconds slower than the plan, but the strong wind accounts for that.  Good start.  I lost some mental focus in the first 100 meters of the second lap.  By the time I realized what was happening and managed to refocus, I had run about 130 meters slower than the planned pace.  From there, I was able to regain my intended pace and then accelerate for the last 150 meters.

Does it show progress from recent performances?

Yes.  Even though I finished slower than last year at the same event, I did make progress.  My most recent 800 meter race in June was 2:29.  This was 4 seconds faster.  So, compared to recent performances, this 2:25 is progress.

Moreover, the comparison to last year might not be fair.  There have been three events that occurred in the last year that made me slower: two wrecks and a knee injury.  In light of the fact that I took one full month off from running, it is a pleasant surprise that I am only two seconds slower.  That is a fairly good recovery.

What did I do well during the race?

The thing that went very well in yesterday’s 800 meter race was mental focus.  In many recent events, I have lost my mental focus about half way through the race and never regained it.  I have tailored my training to overcome this by practicing getting fatigued and then running at race pace.  It has pushed my body to prepare to battle through fatigue.  It has prepared my mind to recover focus.

What aspect of your race do I want to improve on before the next race?

I still had 130 meters in this 800 meter race where I did not maintain focus, so I will continue to work on that.  I know that training is working.  I see the improvement.

With all of this in mind, I know that my current training is effective.  I have every reason to expect some personal records to fall over the next few months.

Every race is another opportunity to assess progress and make changes if needed.  I have another 800 meter race in four weeks.  I would like to see a 2:15 this year.  🙂

Remember This!

Aim high, but keep in touch with reality.
Give yourself credit for every little bit of progress.
This becomes your courage to push for your best in the next event.


“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

Experimental Training: Staying the Course

Back in January, I reported that I was engaging in “experimental training” focused on building speed.  I summarized by saying:

  • I will run less frequently, but with greater intensity.
  • The speed-work I run on the track is going to be much faster and more intense than I would ever recommend to a client.
  • I will work harder on power through intense speed-work and additional weightlifting.
  • My long runs will still gradually increase as I prepare to run the Boston Marathon.  This remains the same.  There is no substitute.  The experimental side of the long runs for now is that my tempo runs will be embedded within those long runs each week.
  • I will replace my easy running days with cross-training on the bike and in the pool.

Has the experiment paid off yet?

No.  At least not in terms of scoring personal records.

In fact, I have had some relatively slow races lately.  Am I getting slower?  No, I am not.  I am training as fast as ever. ImplementationDip

What I am going through right now is called an implementation dip.  I am challenging my body in new ways.  Hence, my body is changing in subtle but important ways.  In the graph at the right, I am somewhere in the red zone.  My performance had plateaued, so I implemented alternative training and my performance dipped down.  As I continue with the new training, the performance will begin to rise again.  When the change is complete, I can expect my performance to not only match my prior level but to begin exceeding it.  By staying the course on this plan, I should begin setting personal records again before fall rolls around.

On a related note, this is messing with my head a little.  In races this year, I have not felt exactly the same as before.  As a result, I have not been able to make good pacing decisions.  When I get past the implementation dip, the feel of races will be more consistent.  This will help me better adjust my pacing during races and maximize my race performances.

Have I seen any benefits so far?

Yes.  I am healthier, with fewer aches and pains.  At 46 years old, that is a big deal.

I am running fewer miles and doing more cross-training that causes less wear and tear.  I am still doing a lot of cardiovascular work to enhance endurance.  It is just in different formats.  Fewer aches and pains means I am more comfortable doing strength training.  This in turn allows me to get faster.

It also breaks up the daily grind by offering alternative training sites and experiences.  Having fewer runs per week makes my runs feel even more special than before. Even though I have added biking, swimming, and some triathlons, I am still a runner.  That is where my goals are.  That is where my heart soars.

“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



My Running Form: In Pictures 7/25/2013


running form 7_25_2013

What to Eat Before Running a Race

wise running logo 7_25_12

I recently wrote about the question of whether to eat or not before a run, but a friend recently asked me a more specific and detailed question:

What should I eat during the days before a race and on the day of the race?

The very clear answer: it depends on the race you are running.

If you are racing a distance of 8 miles or less, what you eat on the days before is not quite as critical.

  • Feeling Good:  It is always better to stick with healthy foods, especially as you approach race day.  This will help you feel your best.
  • Avoiding GI Issues:  There is no avoiding this topic.  It is hard to run your best when you feel bloated or suddenly feel the need to poop. You know your body best.  Eat foods that agree with your body and encourage regularity.  Eat early enough on race day to allow any extra pressure in that area to work itself out well before you head to the starting line.  Specifically, eat at least 2 hours before start time.  Three hours would be better, but do not lose sleep over it.
  • Energy:  Assuming you are eating enough calories to maintain your current weight, you are naturally storing enough calories to run a race of this length.
  • On Race Day:  You really do not need to eat much on race morning.  Stick with easy to digest carbohydrates.  Avoid fat, which can slow digestion and slow you just a bit.

If you are racing 10 or more miles, what you eat in the days before a race makes a much bigger difference.

  • Feeling Good:  It is still true at any distance; It is always better to stick with healthy foods, especially as you approach race day.  This will help you feel your best.
  • Avoiding GI Issues:  This is especially relevant for racing longer distances; it is hard to run your best when you feel bloated or suddenly feel the need to poop. You know your body best.  Eat foods that agree with your body and encourage regularity.  Eat early enough on race day to allow any extra pressure in that area to work itself out well before you head to the starting line.  The difference on the longer distance races is that you should limit your intake of fiber starting the day before the race.
  • Energy:  You must consider carb-loading.  At 10-13 miles, you might naturally store enough calories to run a race of this length., but you should keep your tank topped off to make sure.  For marathons (or anything beyond 13) it is absolutely critical!  Gradually increase the percent of your calories that you get from carbohydrates.  By the day before the race, as much as 80% of your calories should come from carbs.
  • Hydration:  An important part of carb-loading is hydration.  In order to store those carbs as glycogen in your legs, your body must store some water with it.  Most experts suggest sipping on sports drinks for a day or two before a marathon.  It delivers the carbs and water together.
  • On Race Day:  For a marathon, you need to have a substantial number of calories in the morning.  One expert suggests consuming enough easy-to-digest carbs to provide 200 calories for each hour you are awake before the race.  Keep it simple.  Avoid fat of any kind on race morning.  Whatever you eat that morning, get it in your body about 3 hours before the start.  As the start approaches, shift to your race fuel.  (gels, sports drink, …)
  • Calories DURING the race:  This one is complicated.  For a half marathon, most just need one or two gel packets to make it through.  There are mathematical formulas involved in the calculations for marathons and other races longer than the half marathon.  At 160 pounds, I know I personally have to consume around 1,100 calories through gels and sports drinks along the marathon route in order to avoid running out of energy.  I will save that technical info for another post.

What you eat in the days before the race can make or break your attempt at running a personal best.   Think about the consequences before you reach for something to eat.  Get enough of the right things at the right times and you will be happier with the results.

Eat well & enjoy the run!


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

Paperback Version – Amazon.com $9.00

Ebook Version – Kindle Store $2.99

Ebook Version for Nook $2.99


Ask P. Mark: How Much Protein Do Runners Need?

wise running logo 7_25_12

Today’s question comes from a half marathon maniac who has been trying to find the right fuel for every day running and recovery.

Question:   How much protein do runners need?

P. Mark’s Answer:  With all the conflicting dietary info out there, deciding what to eat can feel like a minefield.  As an athlete, however, we should always be concerned about giving our bodies what they need to recover.  We do specific workouts to cue our bodies to make specific adaptations to enable us to run farther faster.  One of the major components of of “recovery nutrition” is protein.  Hence, this is a question that I have been asking, too:

How much protein should I be consuming daily?

The answer is not obvious.  It is also not simple.  I started with one of the most trusted sources for runners around the world, Runner’s World magazine.  According to an article in that journal, runner’s should consume between .45 & .72 grams of protein for each pound of body weight.  By that standard, a 200 pound runner should consume between 90 & 144 grams of protein each day.  A 150 pound runner would consume between 67 & 108 grams of protein each day.

Is this the final answer?  No.  I read a review of research literature on the topic and found that there is not universal agreement.  Based on a meta-analysis of the research, the author recommended an intake of .63 to .81 grams of protein per day for long distance runners of any age less than 62 years old.  Beyond age 62 the recovery process slows, so less protein would be required.

If we combine these, then you, my distance runner friend, will need somewhere between .45 and .81 grams of protein per pound of body weight each day to maximize your health and get the most out of your training.  Below is a table to help you examine the possibilities.

 Weight 0.45 0.5 0.55 0.6 0.65 0.7 0.75 0.8
100 45 50 55 60 65 70 75 80
110 49.5 55 60.5 66 71.5 77 82.5 88
120 54 60 66 72 78 84 90 96
130 58.5 65 71.5 78 84.5 91 97.5 104
140 63 70 77 84 91 98 105 112
150 67.5 75 82.5 90 97.5 105 112.5 120
160 72 80 88 96 104 112 120 128
170 76.5 85 93.5 102 110.5 119 127.5 136
180 81 90 99 108 117 126 135 144
190 85.5 95 104.5 114 123.5 133 142.5 152
200 90 100 110 120 130 140 150 160
210 94.5 105 115.5 126 136.5 147 157.5 168
220 99 110 121 132 143 154 165 176
230 103.5 115 126.5 138 149.5 161 172.5 184
240 108 120 132 144 156 168 180 192
250 112.5 125 137.5 150 162.5 175 187.5 200

With this scientific evidence, it is still not easy to know how much protein to consume daily!  If you weight 170 pounds, your protein needs could be anywhere between 76.5 grams all the way up to 136 grams.  That is a huge range.

How then shall we make the decision of how much to eat on a daily basis?

First, make sure you are falling within the range of grams for your weight.  If you are consuming less than the amount in the .45 grams column, then you know that you are not getting enough protein.  Within that range, your gender matters.  Men break down a bit more during a workout than do women.  Hence, men will be in the higher half of that range, and  women will be towards the lower half.

For me personally, I have decided that I would rather have a bit too much than to not have enough when it comes to protein.  As a 160 pounds male, I am going to aim for about 110 grams of protein per day.  That represents a 10 gram increase over what I had been aiming for in my daily intake of protein.

What Are My Protein Sources?

Determining which sources of protein are best is another tough issue.  It depends on who you ask.  Rather than go through all of the choices, I will just tell you what I have been doing for my most consistent protein sources:  eggs, chicken, beans, quinoa, peanut butter, peanuts, plain nonfat yogurt, and my protein powder supplement (plant-based protein from peas, hemp, & rice).  You may differ in your opinion of what is best.  I have tested foods out one by one to see how my body responds and this is the list of the best for P. Mark Taylor & his running performance.  I recommend that you do a similar experiment and see what your body likes the best.

Unfortunately, I can’t tell you exactly what you should eat and how much.  My hope in posting this information is that you would seriously consider changing your diet to make sure you are getting the right amount of protein as a part of a balanced healthy dietary lifestyle.


“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

Designing My Race Schedule

wise running logo 7_25_12

I train hard for my races and always have a training plan, but those plans revolve around particular races.  How do I go about deciding which key races to choose each year?  How do I go about choosing smaller races?

First Things First – Marathons & Halfs

I prioritize my longest runs first for two important reasons.

  • They take the most planning in order to be effective.
  • Training for the longer runs helps me get faster on the shorter runs.  🙂

The longest races that I run each year are marathons.  Hence, it makes the most sense to start there.  Some of you may recall that I recently qualified for the Boston Marathon.  You would expect that I would plan around that, but I qualified for the 2014 Boston Marathon.  Hence, it barely factors into my decision about this year’s races.

For my spring marathon in 2013, I chose a nice flat course.  The Shamrock Marathon is run near the beach at Virginia Beach on March 17 (St. Patrick’s Day).  Hence, my planning starts there.

For my fall marathon, I have chosen a very fast course.  The BayState Marathon has a very high percent of its runners qualify for Boston.  It is run in late October in Lowell, MA.

I also love my half marathons as well.  Each year I run the Strawberry Plains Half in February and the Secret City Half in November/December.  Both are events that are close to home and perfectly scheduled.  I use the Strawberry Plains Half as a tune-up for my spring marathon.  I use the Secret City Half to display the new speed I developed in training for the fall marathon.  🙂

Second Things Second – Choosing the Shorter Races

I have a few basic rules for scheduling my smaller races.

  • They should not interfere with my marathon training schedules, so they need to be early in the training schedules or during the months when I am not training for a marathon.
  • They should be local and fun!

Looking at the rest of my calendar, that always leaves me available for these Knoxville Events:

  • New Year’s Day 5K
  • Expo 10K in late May
  • Fireball 5K in early July
  • Hal Canfield Mile & 5-miler in early September.

Third Things Third – Volunteering at Races

I do not actually place these on my schedule, but these races are important, too.  As a general rule, I like to follow the suggestion for the Knoxville Track Club:  Race 3, Volunteer for 1.  If everyone follows this guideline, then we should have enough volunteers at each race.  🙂

So, putting it all together – here is my racing schedule for 2012

  • January 1 – New Year’s Day 5K
  • February 9 – Strawberry Plains Half Marathon
  • March 17 – Shamrock Marathon
  • May 25 – Expo 10K
  • July 3 – Fireball 5K
  • September 2 – Hal Canfield Mile & 5-Miler
  • October 20 – BayState Marathon
  • December 1 – Secret City Half Marathon

So Far for 2014:

  • April – Boston Marathon


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






Making Progress in the Half Marathon

I had a good morning.  I won the Masters level of the Secret City Half Marathon.  This has been a long hard road to get here since getting back into running in 2009.  I was barely able to finish that race.

  • 2009 Oak Ridge Half Marathon – 1:59:27
  • 2010 Secret City Half Marathon – 1:48:53  (same race, new course, new name)
  • 2011 Secret City Half Marathon – 1:33:31
  • 2012 Secret City Half Marathon – 1:28:41

What have I been doing to steadily make progress?

Everything I tell you on this blog.  I practice what I preach.  Consistent, persistent, and purposeful training.


Train hard. Race easy. Happy Running!


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

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