Monday, October 8, 2012

Marathon PR Training Plan???

I always love reading about other runner's training, so today I thought I'd post my training log from the past 16 weeks that I used to get ready for the Prairie Fire Marathon in Wichita, KS this weekend. As you know, I called it Project 3:09 because I would love to run under 3:10 (so 3:09:ANTHING would basically meet my goal).  However, that's more than 10 minutes lower than my current marathon PR, so it's gonna be a huge task.  But honestly, I really feel stronger than ever, and ready to do it.  Plus, I got a huge confidence booster on Sunday.  My friend that I speed trained with all summer (and often outran in various drills) ran a 2:57 at the Twin Cities Marathon yesterday. So based on his amazing race, I think I probably have it in me.  But of course there's always that lingering doubt that surrounds every PR attempt - a lot of things are gonna have to go right.  At this point, I feel like I've done pretty much everything I can do to get ready - so wish me the best!

I didn't use any specific plan during this training, but rather basic concepts from various plans I've studied, and also past experiences.  I've ran 21 marathons over the last 4 years, so by now I have a pretty fair idea of what works for me.  I've only trained for 16 weeks specifically for one marathon one other time in my life - that was my first marathon.  All of the others have been condensed training plans. And to be honest, a 16 week plan is a little too long for me.  It's probably fine for runners who don't have a high mileage base when they start the training, but when I started this schedule, I was already running 75-80 miles per week. I've just found it pretty hard to keep the same training intensity for almost 4 months without testing myself in a marathon.

I know the mileage looks higher than most runners usually log for marathon training, but I took the "bulky base" approach for two reasons:

First, I've found I run my best when I really load up on miles.  Admittedly, it's burned me in the past.  A few times I've stood at the starting line thinking, "Man, I'm exhausted ... I should have tapered a little more!"  But more than anything, it allows me to not "worry" about the 26 mile distance I'm running on race day, but rather the pace and tempo.  It never ever crosses my mind that 26 miles is too far, or that I might not finish - and that confidence is from knowing I did it over and over in training.

Second, even though I'm  not an elite level runner, I wanted to train like one.  I noticed from most elite runner training logs that I studied, they ran an enormous amount of miles in preparation for a race.  And even though I couldn't match their speeds, I thought if I pushed  myself a little, I could come close to  matching their miles.  I ran more 20+ mile long runs than ever before and also added quite a few double runs during the week.  As a result, my legs feel stronger than ever.  Here is specifically how I trained ...


  • Every weekday started with a 30 minute core workout consisting of hip bridges, planks, various crunches, push ups, and shoulder work.
  • Each of the weeks are highlighted with a color on the left.  BLUE was the Base Phase where the main goal was build high mileage and a good base, YELLOW was the Prep Phase where I started increasing speed and intensity a little, and finally RED was the Peak Phase where I maxed out my training times and hopefully hit the peak of my physical fitness for race day.
  • I did a lot of double workouts during this training.  "Run 1" was always early in the morning before work - usually around 5AM.  "Run 2" was early in the evening after work - typically about 5PM.  They are labeled with the miles and overall pace that I ran that day.  If there was something special about the workout, such as a specific amount of miles at a faster pace in the middle of the workout, it's listed in brackets below the run.
  • Four types of workouts are shaded in grey, they are SPEED, HILL, TEMPO, and LONG RUN workouts.  I tried to do three of these per week.  These workouts were the key to me increasing speed and endurance.  Occasionally my job forced me change days, but I tried to always make sure I did them.  All other runs were slower recovery runs at 1:15 to 1:30 slower than my projected marathon pace. In the past I had never ran this slow, this often.  But the slower paces on the non hard workout days helped keep me healthy and recover properly.
  • On most days when I didn't do two runs, I tried to add a leg strengthening workout or Plyometrics. This really helped with strength and agility, and also kept me healthy with all the extra miles I was logging.
  • I actually still have "Week 1" to go this week, but I'll be pretty exact on the paces, so I went ahead and filled them in.
If you read my blog, you know by now that I'm by no means an expert. I just like sharing my experiences and what has worked for me.  I stayed more consistent than ever before with this training plan.  Maybe you can take a few things from it that will help you.  And  hopefully after next Sunday, I can look back and know it was the recipe for me to accomplish Project 3:09!
... be great today!


  1. This is all science. I'm into Language Arts but I think you can carry out Operation 3:09.

  2. Did you plan out this whole thing at the beginning of training, or did you kind of go from week to week?

    Good luck on going sub-3:10! I'm sure you can do it and I can't wait to read about your results.

  3. I love this kind of stuff. Thanks for sharing. And seriously just know that you are awesome and I am incredibly proud of the way you have dedicated yourself to your training.

  4. It doesn't seem that long ago that you were changing your running technique. Now look at you - running technique changed, no injuries and a substantial training program under your belt. I'm looking forward to reading your race report after next weekend.

  5. Good luck Jim. I fully expect to see sub 3 hour based on this. No pressure. :)

  6. I know you can reach your goal. You are a phenominal runner! One question, why 3:09? or did I miss the reasoning behind that number?

  7. Hide in that bubble this week, do not get even get one single germ - got it? Cuz that's the only thing that will bring you SO can do this. I will be cheering you on virtually every single stinking mile!!!

  8. Wow. 50 marathons in all 50 states. It's definitely achievable. We all set goals for ourselves and when we finally achieve them it can be such a rewarding feeling. Keep at it. With hard work and training, you'll succeed.

  9. I love looking at other people's plans. I was most intrigued by the core only days - interesting!

  10. Need a super great effort to achieve it


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