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 (May – August 2017): I am currently training for the Suncadia Multisport Festival, a road 26.2 on Saturday, August 12 and trail 15k on Sunday, August 13, and am following a Runner’s World 12-week Marathon plan that builds speed first and then endurance. The marathon, which I ran in 2016, has nearly 2,000 feet of gain. I’ve been running well this year, however, and have inadvertently come close to a marathon PR several times on flatter courses. While Suncadia is not an ideal course for a PR, I’m going to attempt to shave even a few seconds off, and will try for another, more substantial PR at December’s Kiawah Island Marathon, a flat course. In a way, this will be a test — if I can squeak out a PR on the Suncadia course, it will give me the courage to try and shave minutes off my time in Kiawah Island. The plan features two key workouts per week, allowing me to customize the remainder. I am running six days per week (Tuesday through Sunday), and will peak at 60 miles per week. Tuesday and Friday are weight training days, and I will run 3 miles on each of those days, immediately before weight training. Speed workouts will consist of those in the plan, or workouts through the Aaptiv app, which I find particularly motivating, as I generally dislike speedwork. My 40bibs races will substitute for long runs on the weekends.
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.
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.
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.