While I’d run a few half marathons in my life, my running changed (that is, improved greatly), when I bought and followed by first training plan for the Runner’s World Half Marathon in 2012. Since that time, I’ve been in a near perpetual state of “training plan,” which I manage through the Training Peaks app.
Some plans I’ve bought online, some are from books also purchased online, and some I’ve found and downloaded for free. I’ve also learned to customize these plans to meet my own scheduling needs. For example, I like Monday as an off day; if I’m traveling on business, it’s most likely to be a Monday. I like my long run(s) on the weekends, because they are not work days for me and I have more time. I like two days per week of weight training which means, even with high mileage, I need to both run and lift on some days. Conventional wisdom says the lifting should happen before the running, but that doesn’t work with my schedule; I run first.
My first marathon plan in 2014 (below) peaked at 40 miles per week, which I worked up to slowly over the 20-week plan. Today, 40 miles is my base, and I’ve run as much as 90 miles in one week while training for the TransRockies 6-day stage run in 2015. For the Umstead 100 (2016), Black Canyon 100k (2017) and Badwater Salton Sea 81-miler (2017) I peaked in the 70s. Where “long runs” in these plans call for 22 miles or longer, I often substitute a marathon if there is one nearby, and shave the extra miles from another day. I do this, not to “race” per se versus “train,” but because I run alone, and doing so in a race atmosphere is more enjoyable than being by myself. It also forces me onto other courses that I wouldn’t otherwise run. The majority of marathons and 50ks I have run in the last two years have been training runs.
Current Training Plan (July – December 2017): I am currently training for the the Kiawah Island Marathon, a flat course during which I am training to shave 13 minutes off my current marathon PR, or 30 seconds per mile. A 20-week plan, this is the first I’ve ever built myself from scratch. I’ve used the Lydiard training method to build this plan, following a week-long run training program I completed with Active at Altitude during which we studied the Lydiard method.
The Black Canyon 100k (November 2016 – February 2017) and Badwater Salton Sea 81-miler (February – April 2017): Ultrarunning expert Hal Koerner published the Field Guide to Ultrarunning, which includes plans for 50k, 50 miles, 100k and 100 miles. I used his 100k plan for Black Canyon. For Badwater, just 10 weeks after Black Canyon, I loosely followed Wolfgang Olbrich’s Western States 100 plan. This plan, just 8 weeks long, is far too aggressive for me in terms of distance. However, Badwater is only 81 miles (not 100), and is a far flatter race (18,000 feet of gain in Western States, versus just 9,000 in Badwater), so I took the bones of the Olbrich plan and shaved much of the distance. I peaked at only 61 miles for this race, but focused on elevation gain. The result was less miles, but more time on my feet and more climbing. This, along with the foundation I built while training for Black Canyon, proved successful, and I finished Badwater stronger than I’ve felt in any race I’ve run over 50 miles.
The Umstead 100 Miler (January – April 2016): I chose the Umstead as my first 100 miler because it is beginner friendly. The race is run in North Carolina in April, a time when the weather is generally “good” for running, and has 1000 feet of gain per 12.5 mile lap — 8 laps and 8,000 feet of gain in total — a “flat” race as far as 100-milers go. And, to give runners the best possible chance of success, the race publishes it’s own training plan, complete with per-lap tips. I highly recommend this race for anyone who is contemplating a first 100 miler.
My First Marathon Plan (January – May 2014): My first marathon was the Great Wall Marathon, which features 5,164 stairs on the Great Wall of China. This Stack Fitness 20-week plan was perfect, as it built very slowly, and allowed me to easily incorporate both strength training and stair training into the plan. I also used this plan for my second marathon in San Francisco.