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June 29, 2010 / elodie kaye

I Guess I’m Running a Marathon?

I finally settled on Pfitzinger and bought the online version of “Advanced Marathoning”.  I’m not advanced, but I chose it because the basic approach is similar to what my coaches have put together for me in the past.  It has lots of long runs, 800m – 1600m intervals for speedwork, and it starts with a base of 35 miles building to only 50 miles for about 3 weeks.  It’s an increase of less than 50%, which hopefully will leave more in the tank for those intervals.

To understand how I chose my plan, you need to know a few things about me as a runner.

1. I’m slow.  But resilient!  I don’t get injured from running long distances up to 22 miles, and I can take 55 miles per week for a few weeks.  Not happily, but I can do it.

2. I’m not that slow.  I love tempo runs.  Going 2 – 5 miles at 10K to half-marathon pace tastes like dessert to me.  The first couple might be rough, but I adapt to these workouts the fastest.

3. I have the leg speed of a caterpillar.  I don’t get much faster running only tempo and long runs.  I do improve a little and those workouts set in motion biochemical changes that improve my capacity to go faster, but I have no natural leg speed or running economy.

4. I’m mentally sound when I race.  I make mistakes but I don’t fall apart, and I can frequently race at, or sometimes a little faster than the paces I’ve trained for.

Actually, it would be best if you forgot those things about me, and instead came up with at least two strengths and one weakness for yourself as a runner.  Knowing yourself keeps you grounded when you read about the latest greatest workout, that will make you run like an Olympic hero.

Usually, the runs you like the most point to a strength.  The workouts you struggle to finish or dread the day before are probably hampered by a weakness.  New workouts are always uncomfortable at first, so take 4 –  6 weeks to decide whether you love it or hate it.  Workouts you master quickly, say in just 2 or 3 weeks, also indicate a strength.  When evaluating your affinities, keep in mind that intervals are not created equal.  Short intervals of 400m or less test your leg speed.  Longer intervals of 1000m or more require running economy; as such they constitute a bridge between intervals and tempo work.  Hills demand leg strength on the climb, and reward leg speed on the other side.

It’s also a good time to think about whether your current level of fitness has room to develop your strengths further, or whether you want to focus on shoring up a weakness.  Though most runners would probably improve by working through any reputable training plan, some may be harder to execute than others because of an emphasis which targets your weakness.  There’s nothing wrong with that approach, but being aware of it helps you handle the discomfort.



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  1. Keith Peters / Jun 30 2010 11:52 am

    Congrats on the marathon decision!

    I’ll have to check out Pfitzinger. That’s a new one. Been thinking about my own strengths. I do like speedwork, especially intervals. I love seeing how hard I can push myself, knowing that the end is in sight. I like long runs, but for races, the 5K really calls to me.

    • elodiekaye / Jun 30 2010 12:33 pm

      I’m feeling tentative about it, if you hadn’t guessed. 🙂 I’m jumping the gun by about 6 mos., but a spring marathon brings its own set of logistical complications, so there it is.

      I’m not sure whether you’ll find Pfitzinger and Douglas helpful for short races. Their last book about general racing is a little old, and not available in kindle edition. You can read and learn quite a lot about Pfitzinger’s approach at runningtimes, though. He has a regular column there.

  2. Sara Grace / Jul 1 2010 6:39 am

    2 strengths and 1 weakness….

    The weakness is easy: Too often I don’t prepare myself physically for the runs that I plan. I go too bed too late, I drink too much, I don’t put fuel in the tank.

    The strengths…
    I think my posture/strike is such that running 5-6 miles a day is pretty comfortable for my body. I don’t get injured and I can wear really light shoes.

    Sometimes – not all the time, unfortunately – I get intense about racing myself. I’ve been off that track lately, with a lot of other things going on in life, but I’ll get back there. Maybe today – I’m leaving now for a run that should be a good one. I slept well and ate a good dinner last night.

    Thanks for this Elodie! I’m so excited for your marathon program. You broke through the blahs with a vengeance – that’s why I love you!

    • elodiekaye / Jul 1 2010 3:41 pm

      Intensity is good! It’s all right that you don’t feel it all the time, otherwise it would run you into the ground. Your weakness is easily fixed, too. It’s not like you’d need genetic engineering or anything, so that puts you in pretty good shape!


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