I am trying something I have never done before. I have selected a training plan (Runner’s World Break 4:00 Marathon) and I am sticking to it. Previously, I have loosely followed plans…always running faster or farther than it said to run and, as a result, found myself fatigued and sore, falling short on other key workouts, and then not quite meeting my pace/time goal on raceday. This time, however, I am training for the 2017 Erie Marathon in September and really do not care about my finish time. (Those who know me realize this means that: as long as I PR it, I will be happy.) I was originally registered for Erie so that I could make my first BQ attempt. After taking a brutally honest look at myself, my training, and my most recent marathon performance, I decided that I am not yet ready to make such an attempt. Therefore, I am only running Erie this year because I was unable to negotiate a refund, deferral, or transfer. I selected the Break 4:00 Marathon plan and, upon examining it closely, was concerned about the “easy” paces and the majority of the long run paces. The plan blatantly instructs me NOT to push myself on certain workouts and suggests paces as slow as 10:35-10:50/mi average. There are intentionally hard workouts scheduled throughout, as well, but it really seems to stress these very short and easy runs in between. I have had this approach echoing in the back of my mind since I read Meb Keflezgihi’s training book, “Meb For Mortals”, which you can purchase here:
I have, however, ignored this advice; despite my great love and respect for Meb, because I keep thinking that the key to becoming a faster runner is to continue trying to run every run fast or faster. So, to me, dipping slower than a 10 minute mile has caused me greater psychological stress than running in the 9’s has caused me physical stress; or so I thought. But this past training cycle, accompanied by my crazy/busy work schedule cumulatively broke me down to a level of fatigue that I have never known before. (Think: irrational, teenage girl with mood swings and tears and “everybody just shut up and leave me alone!” kind of behavior.) In his book, Meb stresses the importance of running the “easy/recovery runs” TRUELY easy and breaks it down like this-(page 180): “You might have some pace per mile you think is too slow, no matter how tired you are. This approach can hold you back in two related ways. First, you might have chronic low-level fatigue because you never really give your body a chance to recover from your hard workouts. Second, when it comes time to run hard, you can’t run as fast as you would if you were truely recovered. As a result, you don’t get as much benefit as you should from your hard workouts and your fitness doesn’t improve as much.” Meb breaks this down, numerically, as well. On his elite level, where they are known to race the marathon distance in the 4:30’s per mile, he states that this equates to him running his easy/recovery runs at a 6:30/mile pace. WOW, right?! But he then breaks this down to someone who runs a 3:30 marathon, which equates to an 8:00/mi race pace. He states that they should average a 9:30/mi pace for their easy/revovery runs. So then, for me, looking to break 4:00 for the marathon (9:00/mi race pace), a 10:30/mi easy/recovery run pace is actually just right. I just have to silence my mind and allow my body to relax into this. (Meb’s book holds a wealth of information, personal knowledge, and great training tips, broken down from his elite level to the more human/”mortal” level and I do encourage anybody interested in bettering themselves in running/racing to purchase and read it.) So that is one major point of change in my training approach. I have, also, begun to train with one of our very own; “Shep”- a locally famous, runner/track coach. He has 47+years of running and coaching experience. His laid back demeanor and relaxed approach has helped to ease me into this slower pace on some of my assigned long runs.
He has, also, taken an interest in my harder workouts; especially the track workouts, where he has decades of experience and I, in all honesty, have none. He introduced me to the track last week and ran me through my first official ladder workout. Previously, having no one of experience, expertise, or current fitness level to perform these workouts with, I would simply break down the intervals in time/pace and distance, write it all out on a post-it note, tape it to my treadmill, and perform the work on my own. Actually going to the track was a whole new experience for me…and I LOVED IT! Shep and I had run a total of two easy miles from his house to the local high school track. He then put me through a series of dynamic stretches, warm up drills, and strides before performing the assigned speed intervals with me. He explained the markings on the track and timed our laps; reigning me in when I went too fast, prompting me to pick up the pace when I started to slow. Running on the track was like running on a soft but firm cushion of air. My legs felt amazing! We talked alot during the recovery portions and I learned so much. He cut me loose on the final portion of our last interval and told me not to go “all-out” because we still had the two mile cool down run ahead of us, but to go “moderately crazy” just to see what I could do. When I finished that final 400m he asked me what I thought I had done. The workout had called for us to run the 400m in 1:56 and, while I did pick it up in the end, I was still consciously holding back, so I answered “1:52”. I was surprised and pleased to see his stopwatch read “1:46”! I still had plenty “left in my tank”!
I have continued to follow this plan, running with Shep twice a week for two weeks now; long runs and speed/track workouts. The easy/recovery days are the ones that I have performed on my own. I have been struggling to keep the pace truely easy and proportionate to what the plan calls for (and what Meb suggests), but I am going to keep trying. I am, however, truely enjoying this “new” method of training. At this time, I am 3 weeks into the Break 4:00 Marathon plan and I have yet to have a breakdown. I feel fantastic. I have no fear or dread of any upcoming workout. I am not overly fatigued or unable to perform. I am looking forward to each new day and the workout that it holds before me. It is going to be interesting to see how this pans out and what it will equate to on raceday. The stress of a BQ attempt is currently off the table and the goal of a marathon pr, regardless of how small, is the only thing that truely matters to me right now. Little by little, a little becomes alot…& one day that will mean that I am ready. Until then, I am learning to trust the training and continue to take this journey one day at a time, one run at a time, and enjoy the experience that comes with continuing to pursue my dream.