August 14, 2013

Which training plan will get you the fastest marathon time?

Recently I received an email asking me about which training plans I used with which races/results. I think the point of the question is to figure out the answer to the title of this post: which training plan will get you the fastest marathon time?

On the overall scale of things, I got faster with more time and experience, but there were a few hiccups in there due to intestinal non-fortitude (my personal worst time at Rocket City) and weather (Nashville, why does it always have to be you?). Each training plan has its benefits and drawbacks. Right now I'm training with a coach, who is obviously much better with giving feedback and advice than any Excel file. He even ran with me to help me set a new half marathon PR, and that's not happening when you get your plans from a book or online. If you have a minute, check out this blog post that one of his other students wrote. At the end is my coach's advice. Gotta love the tough talk. 

I didn't include trail runs in my timeline because it's just not as easy of a comparison as road racing. Even though you can have hilly courses and some headwind during a road race, you will not likely have to hike, with arms pulling as much weight as your legs, for miles. All of the terrain changes make it really hard to make any across-the-board comparisons with trail racing, unless you're comparing the same course from one year to the next. 

Sidetracked much. 

Back to the point of this post.

My marathon/training plan timeline

11-5-11: Hal Higdon's Intermediate training plan. Savannah Marathon, 4:03. Plan was easy to follow and free. My legs cramped a lot during the race! More 20+-mile runs would have given me more confidence for race day. 

1-22-12: Hansons Marathon Method. Ocala Marathon, 4:01. Longest runs are 16 miles on tired legs. Legs recovered faster and didn't feel as fatigued during the race.

2-19-12: Hansons Marathon Method. IMS Arizona Marathon, 3:46. Great weather combined with a lot of downhill during the race. Tried running through water stops for the first time, and that saved a lot of time.

4-28-12: Hansons Marathon Method. Nashville RNR Marathon, 4:06. Brutally hot weather. Hilly course. Not a good day of running. Ready to take a running break for the season.

11-3-12: Run Less, Run Faster. Savannah Marathon, 3:40:02. It hurts to remember those two measly seconds that kept me from qualifying for Boston. Check out the race report because at least a few laughs came from that day (in between crying into my pillow). This training plan gave me a lot of confidence because of its very specific plan for various time goals, and with only three running days a week, I never got injured.

12-8-12: Run Less, Run Faster. Rocket City Marathon, 4:37. Going for BQ and instead had a big bust. Intestinal problems from carb loading with too many bagels made this race a no-go. Soon after this, I decided to take wheat, dairy, and processed sugar out of my diet.

2-9-13: Resolute Running with Coach Alex. Mississippi River Marathon, 3:40:12. Missed BQing again by 12 seconds even though I felt like I ran stronger than at Savannah. Course was long and headwind was strong.

2-17-13: Resolute Running with Coach Alex. Mercedes Marathon, 3:34:42. I was going to use this as a training run but ended up deciding to race when I couldn't get over the disappointment from the last race. Turns out that I respond well to hometown races. My training at the time was targeted at running slower for my 50K, but the killer group speedwork sessions did their job too.

And what about now? I'm continuing to train with Resolute Running, but I'm not sure if I'm going to shoot for a marathon PR again anytime soon. I'm pacing a friend in my next race (Savannah Marathon again), and I've pretty much decided to have fun at Boston if I'm able to get registered (not sure how hard it will be with all the folks returning from last year). I don't want worrying about splits to ruin my experience there because most likely, because of the expense of travel and planning it around family time, I won't be going back again anytime soon even if I do BQ again.

Right now, I'm really most interested in hitting new distances with trail running. The 50K is still a huge challenge, and a little voice on my shoulder keeps chirping about a 50 miler. And it's so tempting to try and go for it, but at the same time, I just don't know if I can dedicate that kind of trail time to it.

And complete side note, I have to gush about how much I love the members of our Life Time run club. When we pulled up to the gym tonight to start run club, the rain started to pitter patter, and we dodged lightning bolts on our way to the front door. Instead of calling it quits for the night, these bad mothers (and fathers, and neithers) took their buns up to the treadmills and worked them over. In a pretty massive club, we filled up ever single treadmill.

You know how some people run their butts off -- looks like the runner on the right ran his legs off.

They're so fast that every picture I have of them is a blur.

Excuse me, Mr. Blur, may I jot down your total mileage so we can win a contest?

As I've mentioned (a lot lately), we have until Labor Day to try and get more mileage than another Life Time club in another state, or we have to run in our boxers. You do not want to see me in the raggedy boxers around this piece, so I really want to win this contest. Although someone tonight told me they thought it would be more fun to lose and have a boxer run.

Would you love or hate a boxer run? It would be totally fine if I had cooler boxers to wear. Is it too disgusting to buy those at the thrift store?

Which training plan did you use for your fastest marathon/half/other distance? Would you use it again? 

Do you ever run in lightning? I have before but don't recommend it. I actually sometimes love running in the rain (minus lightning) but not if it's a really cold rain. It took me a while to get over the wet feet thing, but without that, rain running could be a small step away from glorious. 

17 comments:

  1. Wow, such huge improvements from early 2012, to late 2012 and 2013. Awesome!

    I personally don't follow training plans, I feel like "you" become obsessed with getting in all of the workouts, and ignore "your" body. I just make sure I get in my long runs, and I usually only run 3 or 4 days a week.

    There is an actual race, that's HUGE, that everybody runs in their under clothes. Looks fun to me! Everybody says it's a blast.

    I have ran in lightning, but not on purpose. I don't like it, and paired with loud thunder, I definitely run faster!

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    1. Maybe I just need to embrace running in my underwear! Running shorts aren't much more than that anyway, right. Right??!

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  2. I got chased off the track by lightning last week. I am SUPER SCARED of lightning as my dad has been hit TWICE. The first bolt was HUGE but in the distance. Then the 2nd came. And by the third, I ducked and held my head and ran for my car. When I shared this in a running group on Google+, some jagoff said I should have checked the weather before I went out. Uh, hi. Pop up storms happen in the summer. It wasn't supposed to rain for 4 days. BUT THANKS FOR THE SUPPORT. Sigh. Some people.

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    1. OK, how freaky that your dad got hit twice by lightning. You are definitely never allowed to run in lightning with that family history. And I love it when people state the obvious. Oh thanks, I didn't realize that there were sites that told you things like weather. Please tell me more, kind sir!

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  3. I used Hansons Marathon Method and it was OK... I wasn't overly in love with it. I think I need more miles under my belt? I am doing the Advanced Marathoning plan for the second time and really enjoy it. Surprisingly, my PR is from my shortest and worst training period ever. I hope there isn't a correlation there!

    ~ Lora at Crazy Running Girl

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    1. I have that book too, although I've never used the training plan. Although based on my quick read of the plan, it is similar to what I do with my coach. Coach, feel free to confirm or deny this. And I forgot to mention that my coach did not advocate those back-to-back marathons that resulted in a my BQ, but he is of course very cool with me reaching my dreams, no matter what unorthodox means I go about to get there. Sounds like you have similar luck!

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  4. I need to come run with you some time on Tues night! Once my Tues night bike rides end in about a month... I'm joining in ;) haha

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    1. Holding you to it! And we need to figure out something new for Monday nights too.

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  5. I love this post. Thanks for putting all this information together. I didn't realize you used the Hanson's Method that many times. I used it for Boston this year and really liked the plan, but had a little injury, so the race wasn't my best. Right now I'm using a plan similar to Run Less, Run Faster. I've been running 3-4 times a week, occasionally 5 times, with lots of cross training. Looks like you ran a great marathon (darn those 2 seconds!) with that plan, so I'm hopeful it will get me the BQ that I desperately need next month.

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    1. So hoping you nab that BQ at your next race! Good running vibes being sent your way.

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  6. I only use training plans as a guideline and listen to my body as well. Even when I had a coach he was constantly tweaking and changing things on the plan depending on how whimpy and complaining I was about being sore or tired. :)

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    1. Yes, I'll take unplanned rest days or swap things around based on how I feel too. If it's a small change I don't worry about it, but for big changes, I like to get my coach's opinion.

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  7. I love that gym picture! Everyones legs are blurry which means that they're like super hero fast! ;o) I enjoy running in the rain too, but I'd never do it with lightening. And considering I've only run one marathon and my plan was a hybrid of other plans put together by my RP I can't really chime in on that one. I am using the Daniels plan for my fall half in which I want to improve my PB from 1:51 to 1:45, we'll see how that goes....

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  8. Geez where do I start? I trained with the Running Room for my first 2 marathons (2001, 2002), then had a coach for when I did Boston the first time. After that I got into triathlons and didn't go back to straight up marathons until 2010. Used a runners world plan for my 2010 marathon and completely died that day, mostly b/c I was an idiot and went out way too fast. The next marathon I ran in 2012 I was aiming to B.Q again. I think I used one of Hal Hidgeons plans and modified it slighly to 4 days a week of running. Got my B.Q. Trained for Boston this year using Run Less Run Faster and nailed my fastest marathon time to date there. SO, I will use that program next year when I run Boston again.

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  9. First, I hope none of you are fooled. All of the above books and plans are great, but Yo Momma is bursting with natural talent and a strong work ethic. When those two items are combined, look out! As her coach I have done little but nudge her in a certain direction and then get out of the way. She is a gifted athlete.

    Yo Momma, regarding your question about Advanced Marathoning, it is a fantastic book with some sage advice and strong plans. I agree with much of it. I would say a bigger influence on me, however, is Coach Jack Daniel's Running Formula.

    While my training philosophy is a blend of my own thoughts and bits and pieces of several different coaches, I often find myself going back to Coach Daniels. I like his methods and in the interest of full disclosure, he was my coach at one time. :-)

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