Wise Running

Train smart, eat well, and enjoy the run.

Tag Archives: track

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

My Unreasonable Running Goals for the Next 5 Years (don’t judge me)

These are running goals I would like to accomplish within 5 years.

No, they are not reasonable for my current level of fitness.

This is my dream.

Encourage me or keep it to yourself.


P. Mark Taylor


Goal Time


400 meters


   Training for the 800

800 meters


   US record for 50-54 age group



   Because it is faster than 4:30  😉



   Training for 1/2



   Training for 1/2

½ Marathon   


   This is my main goal.


Sub 3

   At Boston.  Pride mostly.  🙂

My Running Form: In Pictures 7/25/2013


running form 7_25_2013

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

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

Ask P. Mark: The Difference Between a Tempo Run and Intervals

This was the first question posted to me via the Ask P. Mark page.
Please visit that page to post a new question.  Thanks!

Q:  What is the difference between a tempo run and an interval?

A:  The short answer is that in an interval workout, you speed up and slow down several times.  In a tempo run, however, you gradually build up to the target pace and hold it until it is time to slow down for a cooldown.

There are a few people who will do more than one tempo run within a long run.  This is an advanced maneuver that I do not recommend for the average runner.

Here are the definitions for the Tempo and Intervals that I gave on the Getting Faster post:


Intervals are a lot like repeats, but have a different goal in mind.  While repeats are about increasing raw speed, intervals are more about maintaining your new speed over a distance.  Because of this, intervals should be at a little bit longer distance.  Aim for a distance that you could complete in less than 5 minutes.  800 meters (1/2 mile) is a common distance for interval training.

  • Run your intervals at race pace, but no faster.  Remember: Race pace is the pace at which you could run a 5K now, NOT the pace that you hope to achieve later.
  • Instead of being fully rested as you did in repeats, interval training does not allow for full rest.  The time between intervals should be about the same time as you took to run the last interval.  Unlike repeats, you jog during the recovery time between intervals.
  • Since the distances are longer than the distance for repeats, the number of intervals that you complete in one workout should be less.  You can do 3-8 intervals as long as you continue to maintain your relaxed form.

Tempo Runs

If you are racing longer distances, then you will want to practice running faster for even longer periods of time.  This is the goal of a tempo run.

  • Run your tempo miles a little slower than race pace, about 80-90% of the full effort that you would use in a 5k race now.
  • Tempo runs can be anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour depending on your fitness and goals.
  • You can choose to do one or more tempo runs as part of a longer run or have it as a stand-alone workout.  In either case, make sure that you run a warmup and a cooldown in addition to the tempo miles.
  • To get faster, seek the combination of distance & speed that pushes you consistently near the limit of what you can maintain.  If you can’t maintain relaxed form, you are pushing too fast or too long.


The Gift of Running is now available in both paperback & ebook

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

Using VDOT Numbers to Inform Your Running

I recently mentioned VDOT scores to my running friend Cait.  We were discussing her goals for improving her 5K performance.  I know that she can cut several minutes off of her 5K PR by doing the kind of speed work I have been blogging about.  Of course, cutting several minutes will take a couple of years, but through hard work & wise resting she can definitely accomplish this.

But what is a VDOT and why should a runner care?  It is a measurement created by Dr. Jack Daniels to track the progress of the runners that he has coached over the years.  Daniels goes into great details in his book, the Daniels Running Formula. If you want all of the information straight from the source, I recommend buying the book.  If you just want a quick summary, keep reading here.  🙂

What is a VDOT?

Without going into the detailed scientific stuff, your VDOT number represented the amount of oxygen you consume during a minute of running.   If you have the money, you can go to a lab and get your VDOT tested exactly.   Thankfully, your VDOT can be estimated fairly accurately by your recent race performances.

How is VDOT useful to the typical runner?

1)  Tracking Progress over Various Distances.   It is a system that allows you to track your overall running performance and progress in getting faster.  It is especially useful for runners that run a variety of distances.

2)  Determining Productive Training Paces.  Over the years, Daniels has perfected a system that determines paces for various types of training runs that are fast enough to make progress but slow enough to be safe.

Personally, I have been using VDOT calculations for a little less than a year.  I have found that the numbers to be right on target.

Below is a brief VDOT chart.  To use it, look up a recent performance.  Let’s say that you have recently run a half marathon in 2:14:03.  Look at the half marathon column and find the time closest to 2:14:03.  The closest number is 2:13:49.  Looking across that row of numbers tells us a few details.  First, a 2:14:03 translates roughly to a VDOT of 32.  On the same row are equivalent performances at 5K, 10K, and marathon distances.  This is a rough estimate of what you may have been able to do on that day if the race was those distances.

Also on the same line are the suggested paces for your training runs.  These paces should be reasonable & achievable for you at this stage.  Even if you can go faster, it may not be a good idea.  This is fast enough to make progress, but slow enough to reduce the chance of injury.






Easy Pace (Per Mile)

Tempo Pace (PM)

Interval Pace (400 M)









































































































































































A couple more tips:

  • There are VDOT calculators available on various web sites with more detailed information.   I always find it best to use more than one to double-check the numbers, but that’s just me.
  • NEVER look up your goal time to estimate training paces.  Only use recent race performances.  Using your goal time can lead to training too fast and being injured!

If you are serious about making progress and setting new PRs, I suggest that you being using VDOT numbers & corresponding paces.  If you do it right, you can make consistent progress!

“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


Running Faster: My New Weekly Routine

“I’ve always felt that long, slow distance produces long, slow runners.”   – Sebastian Coe

I am in the “Crazy Speed Training” phase of 2012 as determined by my annual goals & plan.  As I plan my weekly routine, I have to think about the types of runs to include.  I have blogged recently about “How to Run Faster” and it is time to follow my own advice.  In that blog, I listed several general types of runs:  repeats, intervals, tempo runs, & easy/long runs.  Hence, that list was my starting point when I sat down to establish a basic weekly schedule or runs.

Repeats:   1 Day of 400 meter repeats

Crazy speed is my main goal for the next few months, so any training routine must begin with repeats.  Since the biggest goal I have for this time is running mile in less than 5 minutes, it makes sense to run my repeats at 400 meters.  400 meters is a good distance to train because it is about 1/4 of the goal distance.  I can run 400 meters at a much quicker pace than the pace that I can maintain for a mile.  Training at this new speed will gradually strengthen my legs.  The plan is to run eight to ten 400 meter repeats at a pace that is a little faster than my goal pace.  Remember that in repeats you get full rest in between.  It is speed training, not endurance training.

For the next few weeks, I will run the 400s between 71 seconds and 75 seconds.  When that seems comfortable, I will speed them up a few seconds for a few weeks.  Once my legs have adjusted to this, the pace for a 4:59 mile will feel easy & relaxed compared to the pace on the repeats.  🙂

Intervals:  1 Day of Yasso 800s

Bart Yasso, the Chief Running Officer at Runner’s World magazine found a relationship between his 800 meter interval training and the pace of his marathons.  He noticed that if trained regularly on ten 800 meter intervals with  jogging 400 meters in between and no rest, that his pace on the 800s would predict his race results.  If he ran the 800s at 2 minutes & 50 seconds, then his marathon time was around 2 hours and 50 minutes.  If he ran 800s in 2:40, then he would finish his marathon in around 2:40:00.  That is why this workout is named after him.  Not everyone gets the same exact results, but it is a good starting place for training for a faster marathon.  Since my secondary goal is to run a faster marathon, this workout seems to be the next piece of the puzzle as far as a training regimen.

Remember that this is interval training, so these will not be nearly as fast as the pace for the repeats.  Repeats are about building speed.  Intervals are about getting used to a slightly faster pace.  In the first week, I intend to run my Yasso 800s in 2:40.  I was running them around 3:00 a year ago, but I am a lot faster.  In a few months, I want to be running the Yasso 800s in 2:30 or a little below.

Tempo Runs: 2 Days of Short runs (3-5 miles)

Even though I am working on raw speed for a while, I have already gotten quite a bit faster over the last year.  I want to use my two short runs of the weeks to embrace that new level of speed.  In my last training schedule, short runs were supposed to be run at around an 8 minute mile pace.  In this speed-focused phase, I want to keep the pace of my short runs between a 6:40 mile pace and a 7:10 mile pace.  This is a lot slower than my repeats and intervals but it is still a lot faster than my pace a year ago.  In a few weeks, this pace will feel routine.

Long Runs:  1 Day of 8 to 15 miles

I love long runs, so this is my day to rekindle the passion for running deep in my heart. On my long run days, I will not display my pace or time on my Garmin.  I will only use it to tell me how far I have gone.  I am setting my third screen to only display the distance.  This is my day to relax and enjoy the run.

As for the distance, I have just wrapped up a marathon training phase.  Hence, any long run less than 20 miles feels like taking a break.  I will set a minimum distance for the day and run farther if I feel like it.  I can do that because my mileage will be so much lower on the other days that I can afford to add a few miles safely.

Rest Days:  2 Days of “Full Rest”

By full rest, I mean days in which I don’t run.  I can still mow the lawn or go for a walk in the park.  Full rest just means no running.  No running, even if I feel healthy and refreshed.  I am 44 years old.  I need these days to heal.  Rest days are an important part of getting faster!

So that is my new weekly routine.  I have not preset the order in which these days occur.  The details of my life and how my legs feel will determine this.  I just have to get it all done.

After a couple of months, I will add the sub-5 minute mile to my list of accomplishments for the year and begin a new training routine.  I’ll let you know as I go.


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




Running Faster: Training at the Right Pace

“Training too fast, too soon is the quickest way to failure.”  — Greg McMillan

Once you have set goals for your running, the next decision is how you will get there.  Train too slow and you are in danger of not meeting your goals.  If you train too fast, you are likely to end up injured.

legsThis is the dilemma that I was facing after the Knoxville Marathon.  I knew that I wanted to do some serious speed workouts for the next few months, but I was not sure how to get there.  Everyone sets a goal appropriate for their level.  For me, my next major goal is run a mile in less than 5 minutes.  I know that I can run a 5:20 to 5:30.  I need some speedwork!

Dilemma:  I want to push as hard as I can without getting injured.  Where is the line?

How fast should I run my 200s, 400s, & 800s in my bigtime speed workouts?

Thankfully,  a lot of research has been done in this area.  There are tools on the internet which can guide your decision-making about the pace for your training runs at any distance.  The tool that I use the most is the MacMillan Running Calculator.  [click there to visit the page]

It is relatively easy to use.  Choose a recent running performance: Select the distance and input the time.  It is absolutely critical that you only input something you have done in last few months.  DO NOT enter your goal time.  If you do, it will give you times that are less than ideal and may lead to injury!!!!!

Since I have raced and trained at a lot of different distances over the past few months, I actually examined 5 different performances which gave 5 different sets of training paces.  Since my current goal is for the distance of 1 mile, I put more trust in the numbers generated when I put in shorter performances.  If I were training for a marathon right now, I would go by the numbers generated by inputting my most recent marathon and half marathon performances.

Here are the suggested training paces based on my recent performance of running 400 meters in 59 seconds:

  • 400m  1:11 to 1:14
  • 800m  2:25 to 2:32
  • 1200m  3:48 to 3:58
  • 1600m  5:11 to 5:23

Those are the numbers from the “Speed Workout” section, specifically under the middle distance column.  I am choosing middle distance numbers because I am working on my mile.  If I were training for a 10K or longer, I would be going by the “Long Distance” column.

Double-Checking the Numbers

I wasn’t 100% confident in these numbers.  When I ran that 400m in 59 seconds, it was on the dangerous side.  It took me a few days to fully recover.  To make sure that these numbers weren’t too fast for my training, I headed out to the track today to test myself a little.

After warming up, I ran the first 400m at 1:18…a lot slower than the suggested pace which assumes that you can run as many as 8 to 10 repeats.  I rested up and found my legs with a 1:08 on the second 400m, a little faster than the suggested time.  On the next two 400m repeats, I ran a 1:08 and then a 1:10.  Since this was just a test, I had no intention of doing a full workout today.  For me, this little test confirmed that I can probably handle running eight to ten 400 meter repeats in the suggested zone without risking injury.

Not Just for Short Distances

The calculator also gives suggested times for the other kinds of workouts that runners commonly do:  recovery runs, long runs, easy runs, tempo runs, cruise intervals and more.

No matter what you are training for, you can use this calculator or others on the web to inform your choices of how fast to run.


“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

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