Home > The Challenge > Off on the Right Foot…Or Should it be the Left?

Off on the Right Foot…Or Should it be the Left?

I started down the 2000 mile road today with an easy 3 mile run (9:32 pace) during the lunch hour.  Weather was a breezy 50 degrees, without a cloud in the sky.  I’m planning a 17 mile week for this, the first week of January, as I continue to build a solid mileage base and chip away at the monumental task ahead.  As New Year’s resolutions go, I’m on track with only 1,997 miles to go. 

I debated whether to post about this breathtakingly forgettable start.  I feel a bit like a competition eater taking a break to notify the world that I’ve consumed the first french fry of a gravy-laden meal so large that it’s served in a claw foot bathtub.  Or, for the health conscious runner, I’m taking a moment to report that I’ve successfully eaten exactly one celery stick, and have only to finish consuming the entire Garden Bar© at Ruby Tuesday©.

Anyway, I do actually have a reason for sharing.  As I was running (remember in the first paragraph I told you this was an “easy run”), my running buddy, a fellow attorney/fellow runner/generally nice fellow, asked me the following question: “So when do you plan on doing your speed work?”  I considered making something up so I would seem like a cool, seasoned marathoner like him (my buddy completed his first marathon last November), but thought the better of it, as it occurred to me that he would know I was fibbing.  Or worse, he might call my bluff and offer to join me, in which case I would actually have to DO speed work, which, of course, would require that I first google “speed work” to find out what it is.  So I took a middle road, and asked my buddy what day he would recommend.  Turns out, that was just a faux pas of another kind.  I know this because he responded with a whole series of other questions as follows: “Well, that’s something you have to decide based on your larger training schedule.  It needs to be balanced with your long runs (author’s note-I actually know what long runs are), and with your recovery runs, interval work, fartleks (author’s note: turns out these have nothing to do with the effect of a high-fiber diet on running performance), tempo runs, race days and easy runs (remember the first paragraph above, when I told you this is what today was?).

The point is, I have a pretty good handle on how I’ll build my mileage base in coming months, how I’ll taper before my planned races, and even how I’ll recover during my “post marathon” weeks.  That is, I know how far I plan to run and when, but I’ve paid absolutely no attention to what kinds of runs I should be doing, or at what paces.  I could ask my buddy, but, notwithstanding his (one) marathon experience, I thought I’d better ask someone who knows.  That’s why I’m asking you, the running blogosphere.  Coming soon, I’ll be sharing my “2,000 miles in a year” running schedule.  For now, check out the extremely cool and useful running log template prepared by David Hayes that I’m using to track my progress.  And in the meantime, please offer any suggestions you have that might help me structure my running plan to incorporate the right kinds of runs to help me achieve my best times when race day(s) arrive. 

Thanks in advance, and stay tuned for periodic updates as I venture further into the fray.  Gotta run.

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  1. January 6, 2012 at 11:42 AM

    At this stage, I would say the greatest return on your running time investment is to build your aerobic endurance all the way to the marathon race day – even at the expense of speed work training. The marathon is an endurance event in the sense that the best times and marathon experiences are achieved when you slow the least during the race. (Having to walk the last 6 miles of my first marathon was an eye-opener). Aerobic endurance (if lacking) is the #1 ingredient of good marathon training – a steady pace from start to finish.

    Depending on your level, a beginning marathon may take 3 1/2 to 4 hours to complete. Your body can store about 2 hours worth of glycogen (sugar). That means you need to train your body to use fat as a signficant portion of the fuel mixture being consumed when running the marathon race. This is what endurance is about. Training the body to use the right fuel mixture at the fastest pace possible. Too fast and the body uses too much glycogen and you hit the wall.

    To get your body to use fat as a main fuel source, you need to build your miles up and run these miles at an easy pace. How many miles is limited by injury risk and that depends on prior condition / experience. It takes awhile to build up the tolerance for high mileage. Add the time and fatigue factor, and too many miles will wipe away the joy of running. But too few miles, and you’ve trained for a much shorter race. So balance is needed. It is pretty safe to say, the more miles and years in training, the faster your marathon becomes.

    A very good rule of thumb is the 10% rule. Start at your current condition and base and add no more than 10% of mileage per week. You’ll see that in the beginning this equates to a very slow build up. This is to prevent injury and to delay the onset of fatigue. Varying your paces somewhat in each workout is proper as well. If you run 4 miles on Monday, run it easily. Then 3 miles on Tuesday – run slightly quicker. Back to an easy 4 on Wednesday and another quicker 3 on Thursday. Follow suit through the week with one longer run on the weekend (but not too long at first). Repeat each week but add 10% to the mileage. Keep steady and get the long run up to a weekly 18 – 22 mile run. The key is not to run any workout too hard as the benefit you receive won’t help in your first marathon (it will help in a shorter race).

    This is the economics of training. Time spent training one system is generally at the expense of another (until you develop aerobically – then your can do some concurrent training). That is why I recommend focusing on the training that will develop the key aspect to finishing a marathon healthy, happy, and relatively quickly.

    I’ve generalized this quite a bit, but a quick internet search on training aerobic endurance will give you the details. Good luck!

    • January 6, 2012 at 11:52 AM

      Thanks for the great advice! My program follows the 10% rule you describe, to a greater or lesser extent, and seems to be working so far. By “working”, of course, I mean that my aerobic capacity seems to be increasing incrementally, althought modestly as you predicted. My runs seem challenging, but not burdensome (I REALLY look forward to my runs). Thanks, too, for your insight regarding “training the body to use the right fuex misture at teh fastest pace possible.” I’m guessing you’re a running coach? If not, you may have missed your callilng (jk). In any event, your input is invaluable, and cements in my mind the truism that “athletes run; everyone else is just playing games.” All the best.

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