March 9, 2008

Thoughts on Marathon Training Programs

For those of you into this stuff, I thought you might like to know my thoughts on this 3rd pseudo-Jeff-Galloway-inspired approach to marathon training that I'm doing versus my previous experience using Hal Higdon's Novice Program and a slightly modified version of his intermediate program.

Both approaches have focused on gradual build-ups and neither of them has left me feeling likely to be injured. The max long run in Hal's program is 20 M. With Jeff, it could be as high as 28, but since I got a late start and seem to be dropping mileage, mine will likely be 22 M. The max mileage per week is 40+ in Hal. Jeff seems to keep me below 40 until a 24 M long run (which I won't be hitting).

#1 -- the mid-week speed-building sessions are probably the biggest difference between my Jeff-inspired-program and prior programs. I started at 25 minutes straight at an 8:30 pace and have been adding 1 minute per week. Last week was 29 minutes straight at an 8:30 pace. This week will be 30 minutes. I do these on the treadmill and they push me to run consistently at a faster pace than I otherwise would maintain (I tend to be more variable).

#2 -- The lack of longer medium length run during the week makes it easier to hit the mid-week mileage goals. With Hal, I often found myself doing make-up runs on the non-long-run day on the weekend. Now, I run 4 days a week and find it relatively easy to fit in all 3 mid-week runs (2 6-milers and the one speed session), and I have been able to fit in some short bike rides or walks on the weekend off day with E, which is nice.

#3 -- For some reason, many of my ultra-long weekend runs have a way of getting cut short by life. This weekend was 18.5 instead of 21. Two ultra long-runs ago was 14.6 instead of 16 or 17. It's only 20 minutes or so in each case, and yet, those minutes seem to be hard to come by.

#4 -- The run one mile, take a minute walk break approach does make it easier to make major mileage increases between long runs (Over 4 weeks, I jumped from 13, to 15, to 14, and then up to 19.5 without too much trouble). But, I'm starting to have concerns about my speed. I know, I shouldn't really worry about it 'til taper, but given my struggles yesterday with the distance, and the fact that I was going relatively slowly, I can't help but be concerned.

#5 -- In terms of overall mileage, 17 weeks on the Jeff-inspired program will put me about 35 miles over the last Hal-inspired program for the same number of weeks. But, the last 7 weeks on this one will total 16 miles less. In theory, that's because I'll be recovering and pushing speed during the week with shorter runs, while simultaneously doing longer long runs on the weekend for endurance. Again, I'm skeptical, but that's why I'm doing this experiment, to be disciplined and see what works for me.

#6 -- Overall, this program works into my life better than the other two programs I followed, which means regularly running marathons is more likely to be sustainable on this program. So, I'm hoping this approach does result in Jeff's promised benefits (although I'm already falling behind on the long runs, so it would be reasonable to find that it does not deliver).

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