Having reached the goal of qualifying for Boston at the Cleveland Marathon, the first step in moving forward is to set a new one. As a little background (and a lesson in the importance of looking forward), the last time I qualified for Boston in 2002, I treated qualifying as the ultimate goal, and clearly lost some intensity in my training afterwards. While I don’t remember the details on my training program, the result speaks for itself – a 3:56, the slowest marathon I’ve run by around 20 minutes. Therefore, it’s time to start treating qualification as a step on the path, not the end-all and be-all. After all, as the old journalistic adage goes, “yesterday’s news wraps today’s fish.”
To help erase memories of that performance, I’m going to set an aggressive goal– I want to break 3:00 at Boston. This means carving 9 minutes (nearly 21 seconds per mile) from my Cleveland time, on a far more challenging course. There really is no other logical goal; I like goals that are a bit of a stretch but achievable, and this fits that description perfectly (or, as Jaydub would call it, a B-HAG – Big Hairy Audacious Goal).
This is not to say that Boston will be the next marathon. For that, I’m going to return to my hometown of LA this fall. And by LA I mean, of course, Lower Akron, for the Akron Marathon on September 25, 2010. This is a relatively new race, having started in 2003, and is even smaller than Cleveland, with around 1400 finishers in 2009. I debated between this race and the Towpath Marathon; the latter sounds like a great, small event, but I really liked the hills on the back half of Akron as a better preparation for Boston. Plus, it will be nice to return home; in spite of Akron being just 45 minutes from where I live, I really don’t spend much time there anymore. While I’m not aiming to break 3:00 at Akron, I’d like to see progress towards that goal by setting a new PR, hopefully sub-3:05.
Reflecting back on Cleveland, the pace was generally steady through mile 23, at which point the legs started to give out. I don’t feel that it’s really additional miles that are needed but rather greater leg strength and overall speed to cut the ~15 seconds per mile needed in the middle portion of the race and hold up better at the finish. The last training schedule was based on Hal Higdon’s Advanced-I program; and here are the additions I think I need to make:
- Add an extra day per week – after an injury-free season, I feel that I am capable of adding a sixth day of running to the schedule with minimal risk.
- Add hill intervals – Paul Sherman has me convinced of the merits of hill training; he cut 19 minutes off his marathon time over a year to nearly hit 3:00 at Boston, largely (he swears) through the addition of intense hill-work.
- Strength training – I dabbled with this towards the end of my last training circuit, and it used to be a regular part of my routine; I think greater core strength will help me hold form better late in the race.
As I look to training plan ideas, it seems that Hal Higdon’s Advanced II Marathon Training Plan fits all these needs; the basic change from the Advanced I plan is that it splits the mid-week mid-length run into two shorter runs – one speedwork and one easy. Therefore, with some minor modifications to better suit my schedule and preferences, increasing the hill-work a little bit beyond what is called for (to make it a weekly routine), and substituting some mile intervals for 800’s (more on why I believe in this approach later), I’ve come up with the plan below.
The plan is a bit odd at the front end as the 18 week cycle starts just one week after Cleveland, thus there is a blend of Hal’s Advanced Marathon Recovery plan in those first four weeks. However, I’ve scaled this back based on the sage advice of Chaz Hinkle, and I agree that the speedwork Hal calls for (3 days / week???) is a bit much. Thus, I’ve cut that back to one early in the recovery (and just 400’s at that, for which I should really watch the pace), and added additional rest days.
Note that I continue to alternate hard and easy runs. Strength training will consist of one day per week at the gym and one day per week of core exercises (this is all I can really fit into the schedule). I’m thrilled that the plan does not allow for any cross-training. And I would like to up the last two 20 milers to a 2:35 and 2:45 timed run to get closer to full marathon length, more for a confidence boost than anything else. The target paces for each run have been set using the McMillan Running Calculator. I’ve also thrown in a few races as tests and incentives to build speeds, both are 10 milers at 4 and 13 weeks.
So with this post, I basically cover 5 of the seven elements of successful marathon training (besides the running that is), as I did review these goals and plans with my wife and have her support. This is an aggressive training plan, more so than any attempted in the past; I won’t hesitate to take an extra rest day here or there if needed, especially during the recovery sequence. Also, this plan may well get adjusted again after Akron; I’m pleased to have in essence a trial marathon to see the effects of the program before locking it in for Boston. I hope everyone has a productive and injury-free summer of training; feel free to share your own plans in the comments.
I am happy to report that I met my initial goal of coming in with a new PR under 3:05 at the Road Runner Akron Marathon, finishing third in my age group with a time of 3:03:26. While I had later stretched myself to go after a 3:00 goal late in my marathon training, the course and a poorly executed strategy prevented this. Nonetheless, I am happy with the progress towards the original 3:00 goal for Boston, and so that will stay in place heading into the winter training season.
If you like what you read here and would like to see what kind of a plan I can put together for you (including strength training, mobility work, and a race strategy), please check out my coaching packages. I’d be happy to address any questions you might have.