Thursday, June 17, 2010


Today we continue the conversation about marathon training by focusing on intermediate training. You are most likely an intermediate marathon runner if you can identify with some of the following:

• You have run a couple marathons and are now anxious to get a Boston qualifying time in your next marathon.
• You have been to Boston before and loved the experience so much that you want to get back at it and run even better.
• You are ready or have just started to take your mileage up a bit more.
• You are ready to or have started integrating workouts into your weekly routine.
• You are ready or have begun to purchase some books and follow some online content specific to marathon training.
• You realize there is more to being a good marathoner than just running.
There are lots of great resources out there.

Greg McMillan is certainly an authoritative source and I could not agree more with his statement below:
“You’d think that with nearly 50 years of competitive marathoning behind us, marathon training would be cut and dried, but it’s not. We are all different, with different strengths and weaknesses. The best we can do is think about what works and does not work for us. We can experiment with new approaches when other approaches aren’t working. We can learn from expert coaches and successful athletes and modify their lessons to match our own abilities. With commitment and dedication (and more than a bit of luck), you’ll toe the line in your next marathon better prepared than ever.” - Greg McMillan, M.S., is an exercise physiologist, competitive runner and USA Track & Field certified coach.

Coach McMillan has a good read about a little different approach than a lot of us traditionally followed in high school and college that is worth reading at:

As stated above, there is no one way right way but if you are looking for some good structure and reasons why the structure is implemented, I highly recommend Advanced Marathoning 2nd Edition by Pete Pfitzinger and Scott Douglas. The book is an easy read and in addition to explaining training approaches and exerts from very accomplished marathoners, there are several training schedules in the book that you can easily adopt. What I like about the training schedules is you can fit them to your life/needs. For example, if you can commit 45-55 miles a week for a 12 week stretch, there is a schedule with what Pfitzinger and Douglas recommend each day. If you want to commit more mileage and time, there are schedules in there to support that sort of regimen as well.

Continuing on with further educating yourself as an intermediate runner, our own club member and local resident coaching expert, Mark Hadley has excellent content on his website and blog, Mark draws from the best practices of several world renowned coaches such as Pfitzinger, Peter Rea, and Jack Daniels (not the alcohol, more on Mark’s site about JD). Right here in Charlotte, we have some terrific folks with lots of marathon experience who regularly write blogs worth taking a peak at for ideas and thoughts. Bill Shires ( and Stephen Spada ( ) have both run great marathons into their 40s and are still at it doing very well.

As you move into the intermediate phase a couple of things to keep in mind:
1) Don’t over-do it! Training is an incremental process. You might not be able to do 70 miles now but if you spend 6 months to a year of 50-60 mile weeks, your body will get stronger and you will be able to handle more.

2) Long runs and at least 1 workout a week are baked into almost all the good training plans and are essential to success. Tempo runs are highly recommended.

3) Rest is ok! Seriously, your body needs to recover. This includes off days when you need it but probably most importantly, stretching and good sleep! Don’t go months on end training. Target a race, train towards it and then treat your body to some time off to recharge.

4) Cross training – you will see more of this in the advanced article but I do have some opinions that I will admit are evolving.
a. Nothing substitutes for running. If you have a choice, run. We are in a sport where if you want to get better at running the best activity is to run.
b. Cross training has a place for recovery days or as a supplemental or 2nd workout for the day but be careful! It should not be your primary workout or tire your body out to the point that it impacts your run.
c. When an injury prevents you from running or limits your running, based on what your doc say, have at it with cross training.
d. I used to run 5 days a week and cross train or take off on the other 2 days. I think that was fine to a point but as I reached the higher levels of intermediate training and migrated into advanced, I have scaled back cross training significantly.

5) Have fun!!! Just because you have more focus and structure in your running and established higher expectations for yourself does not mean the training should become a chore. Your passion for the sport should grow more as an intermediate as you should be getting more out of what you put in, you are discovering new ways to train, and meeting new folks on a similar path to share in your experiences.

Part 3 will discuss Advanced Marathoning.

-- Written by Aaron Linz
The author is the president of the Charlotte Running Club and was fortunate to run a 2:42.41 at the 2010 Boston Marathon for a finish of 269 out of 22645. Next up for Aaron is the Richmond marathon.

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