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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

OK, so I keep my promises… and my Marathon Training Choices

I feel quite good about the whole thing.

But first, the REALLY good news. I went for a 4k run tonight and it was good. Really good. I have NO lingering pain in my right foot. I did notice that my Achilles was tight for the first few hundred meters so I stopped and did a little stretching (I never ever stop to stretch during a run, but boy did it make a difference). I ran the rest of the run at a slow to medium pace (for me) and ran completely pain free. Super-Duper and *WoOt-wOoT* to me! The other thing was, I used my Iphone and the app for and it worked fantastic. I was really surprised how well it tracked, being stuck in my fleece vest pocket.

I wore my Vibrams along with a pair of Injinji socks and it was much better than I expected.  Holy reflective cold weather running pants Batman!

vibrams in the snow

Ok, I have been studying and researching, and have hummed and hawwed, but nothing is final yet as to what marathon training plan I am going to follow. I am going to lay the whole thing out here.

The choices that are in front of me, awaiting my decision include:

  • What Chris K Says
  • What Andrew O Says
  • What Adam Says (he runs a modified Hal Higdon, see below)
  • What Clint Says (Run slow, Run lots and don’t run when it hurts) um… ok. So what do you say about breathing? Do it? Come on man, you follow a plan don’t you? (I know the plan you follow Clint, so there is no need to get nasty here… LOL)
  • The Non-Runners Marathon Trainer – all I can find on it is that it’s book based. Lindsay says it allows you to train less and still be able to complete the marathon. It focuses on Cardio and the Long runs.


  • Run with a Hal Higdon program. I ran Hal’s free and very basic self guided program for the Calgary Half last May. It was ok. It is very popular as he has tons of free info on his site. You can get the full interactive programs ranging from Basic $5 t0 $20.00, Premium $20 to $50, and Ultimate Training plans run $99.00. I assume the levels of accountability and contribution from the site is greater with the more money you send them.
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  • Training Peaks. I know Coach Jill said to look at a Jack Daniels or Matt Fitzgerald plan, called Brain training for runners. Matt’s original work is found in his books, but Training Peaks seems like the place to go for just about any plan written by many plan authors at all price levels. Hal Higdon’s work is also offered through Training Peaks. Training Peaks offers specific plans for a number of specific races too. What Training Peaks is best known for is as an online workout log. It pretty much tracks every bit of metrics you can throw at it, from just about any device or platform you choose to use. It has the Mobile Apps, as well as all the product makers bending to their standards. The Basic (Free) membership allows you to upload workouts, log exercise and meals, map routes, journal etc. It is pretty much the same setup that you can get from MapMyRun, DailyMile etc… Once you pay the $20.00/month subscription you get many more features such as Calendar Sync, No advertising (huge), and Virtual Coach season planning. But just to clarify, if you want a tailored running plan, you have to pay the fees for whatever plan you choose, which can be anywhere from $20.00 to hundreds of dollars.



  • Runners World Smart Coach – Free for DIY, $9.99 to make it interactive. Free account required for access. There is also a corresponding Iphone App. (that app caught my attention for a moment)
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  • Now this one popped up out of nowhere for me. It’s brand new. Scott left a note in the comments inviting me to take a look at the site. I did, and it looks really good. Scott is an Olympic 1500m specialist and Coach Lee Troop is an Olympic Marathoner. These 2 guys have taken on the daunting task of building a marathon training site. It looks like these guys are  really on track. You can go and have a look at the first week of each training plan for 3 levels of Marathon and 3 levels of Half Marathon without committing to anything, and if you like what you see, you can buy an annual membership for $40.00 this week! $50.00 after the launch week. The one thing you need to have when you set up your plan is your goal time. They have pretty broad ranges when initially choosing your plan, but inside the program it requires you to get more specific. Personally, I like that. It’s not a generic plan. All the built in tools give you a very specific plan to follow including exact paces for all the different workouts. The other cool part of this program is the support videos they have produced. All good stuff in my book. Additionally, they are almost ready to unveil (couple weeks from now) an interactive component called Marathon Guru as part of the membership which predicts your marathon time after each training run and which will:
    • Adjust your Schedule "on the run"
    • Record your sessions
    • Graph your training

Click this big image, it will take you to the actual page so you can look around.

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Here is what I mean when I say they get very specific. This is what you’ll see when you click on KM Pace chart for the Sunday long run.

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I like these guys. I was invited to take an in depth look at the site, and with all the extra info I can get on a full featured complimentary basis, how can I really say no to this? So far this program is the leader for me. I have been in contact with Scott a number of times, so you know he is keen and proud of his product. It is always nice to see the creators of a program be so involved!


  • Running Room (Clint runs or used to run with the Running Room, as well as Alanna and it is also where I got my start in running). Whatever you may have read on this blog in the past, I like the program they provide. They have a ton of retail stores all over Canada that provide in-store group instruction, as well as on-line programs that are easy to follow. Typically the instructors are volunteers, as well as the support people, but they are supported nicely by a set program that is the same all across the country. Running Room is very good at attracting and helping new runners achieve their initial running goals (group accountability is paramount). Costs are $69.00 for an instore program (includes a tech shirt) and the online program is $49.00 (no shirt). They have programs from walking, to Learn to run all the way up to Marathon. (The program is a Run-Walk deal, like Galloway’s)


I know there are MANY more online and book programs, and feel free to let me know what those are, but these are the ones that YOU brought up, so that’s that. If money wasn’t tight (and money was the original strike against Vancouver being my Marathon choice, but it’s nothing a Loonie/Toonie jar won’t fix over the next 4 months) I would hire a coach. It would probably be Jill. I like the idea of a tailored plan, with feedback and that extra bit of accountability, but I think for this one I will be able to use YOU as my inspiration/motivation/accountability.

Well, what do you think of this whole deal? I am obviously leaning toward so you marathon vets have a look at it and let me know what you think of it.


  1. They're all variations on a theme, with the difference being in the details of the documentation. That is, I bet you will run just as well with a plan you got from than a private, customized plan you pay for.

    What the benefit of the detailed (and at a cost) plans is you might have a better understanding of what you're doing.

    No matter what, though, your plan is going to be this (assuming four runs a week):

    Day one - medium distance and easy pace
    Day two - medium distance and fast pace
    Day three - short distance and easy pace
    Day four - long distance and medium pace

    Or something like that. The whole point is to practice running long distances.

    Blah blah blah. I think your schedule looks good, although I wouldn't look to set any records for your half marathon after the full.

    Glad the foot is better!

  2. I'm still waiting to see a site that integrates better with my Garmin... ie, I can easily upload my workouts, and see how close I got to the goal pace/ heart rate/ etc. and I should be able to upload specific, personalized workouts back to my Garmin.
    As great as pace-based training is, one of these days I'm going to get my VO2 Max tested, and do some serious hr-based training... maybe when I win the lottery.

  3. Yes I agree with Josh, the plans are basically all the same!! The paces or miles differ on different days.

  4. Nice research, just bummed you didn't sign up for a race down under.

  5. I just got mapmyrun on my iphone also. I use Garmin but ever so often when i am away from home I go on a run and don't have my garmin with me. Feels like running naked or something.
    How will you ever pick one plan out of all those? I would say flip a coin but there a more than two. Toss a die?

  6. All I have to say about any training program is that if it doesn't have enough built in rest time is could mean more chances to injure. Smart training is what you need to focus on.

    And remember that for any first timer, don't make any unrealistic goals especially a hard and fast time goal. You should really focus on finishing the training and the race with a smile on your face and enjoy every moment. You can worry about PB on your next marathon!

    Happy Running!

  7. I'm so glad your foot is better! When I had to lay off for a whole month with my achillies, I was so irritated. But rest was the only thing that would fix it.

  8. Fantastic Stuff Keep the comments coming!! I do know that the plans are all a variation of the same theme, but I lean toward an interacive plan (possibly at a price) because it needs to be fun for me! I am not person who runs just for the sake of it. The Running Room program worked for me because of the social element of it, along with the structure it provided! So its a definite NO to the plan. Sorry AdamDotCom.

    I am going to plan for 'no plan' for the Marathon, but I don't think it's unreasonable to have a plan for effort and training, which will shape an overall expectation. If I don't have that, it makes it too hard to set training goals. Am I right?

  9. @Josh: The Half in Red Deer is more about Camping for the Long Weekend than it is running! I am looking to have a PR in Family time fun!

  10. Some people thrive with the structure of a plan, especially for their first marathon.

    Just remember you are the expert of what works for you, as demonstrated by ditching your shoes. Seriously, the people who come up with these plans really don't know much more than you do about running.

    Glad your back at it! Good luck with the training though the winter.
    We are about to head out into the slush and freezing rain, which I think belongs to you.

  11. Overall goals are good - I trained for a 4:15/30 marathon, but things conspired against me and I finished in just over 5 hours. I'm glad I didn't train for a 5 hour marathon, but I can't be disappointed in my finish. It was my first and it is what it is. NOW I can try for a PR!

  12. Have you looked at the Nike+ site? I thought they had plans as well, and it's integrated with the Nike+ software, which you can run on your iPhone and use the GPS (I think). And it should all be free, since you have the phone already.

    As far as me and the Running Room stuff... I used them to get me started with the "Learn To Run" and then the 10k clinic. That took me up to October of 2009. After that, I started with a coach I met online, who designed a custom training program for me, based on the goals I had and the time I was willing to invest. It was a very significant departure from the RR philosophy. Their focus is getting people to be able to "complete" a specific race distance. My current program is designed to make me as "competitive" as possible for the race distances. I still only compete with myself, but I'm working on it... :)

    The first 4 months of my training program were base mileage building... Ramping up from 35 k/week to 85, and from 3 days per week to 6. The only speed work I did during this period was occasional marathon-paced sections in some long runs.

    In February 2010, I hit my original HM race goal 4 months early, which was 1:55. So we reset my training goals, and started the "quality" training portion for another 4 months. Same mileage, but with tempo and interval runs. In May of 2010, I hit my new revised goal of 1:39.

    From what I saw, I like the marathon-training plan, although I personally don't like the idea of setting up your training paces based on your goal. Rather, I've been taught to train based on your current fitness level. By that, I mean that I could say my current goal is to do a 2:45 marathon. But if I went out and started doing my runs at a pace based on that, I'd seriously hurt myself. But if I take my last race results and use those for determining my paces, I'll work my way up in an appropriate manner. It could be that I'm mis-understanding the wording or functioning of the site though, as I've only seen the Week 1 charts.

    I've also been taught to do either base mileage building OR quality workouts... Combining the two together increases the risk of injury.

    Just my $0.02... I'm definitely not an expert, and I've never run anywhere close to a sub 3:00 marathon! These are just things that my coach emphasized over the last year.

  13. I think a plan is invaluable first time around. It's reassuring to know you have some expertise on your side. And how can you go past Lee Troop - he's a great Aussie runner.

  14. That plan looks pretty sweet if you ask me. Weird that your, mine, and Q's achilles have been hurting. All of a sudden for me. I have been stretching during my runs too and boy does it help. Glad the shoe/sock think worked too. Remember, no time goal for a 1st marathon.

  15. I think you could easily go with any of those online plans, as someone said above, they are basically in the same ballpark as far as mileage and intensity, but personally (and you knew I'd throw this in - ha) what I don't like about them is the adjustment along the way. Your pace will adjust as your V02max increases with training, and a slew of other variables. RW gives you a plan from start to finish, that's it, here you go. I don't know enough about the others but maybe they're similar. That's why I like Jack's book - if you went with an non-coached plan. Plus, it's a little more Bad Ass then some of these other plans because it is a little more personalized according to your current fitness level and adjusts as you improve. Now...if you wanted to go totally personalized - then I know just the person who can help you :).

    Really, though - email me if you have any questions!!

    And thanks TONS for the GU, haven't tried that flavor and will be anxious to do so. Thank you. Oh, and the pictures are great - going to put those on bulletin board at work!!

  16. Wow, that's really interesting - I love how you researched and compared some of them. Thanks!