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Feb 2, 2013

Marathons....weird science!

8 miles on the schedule today.  I ended up doing 10 with my running buddy out at Stony Creek Park.  It was a snowy, cold run.  I really don't mind running in the cold but I would prefer at least the high 20's.  It was a frigid 19 with a wind chill of 5.  That's cold no matter how much you run.  It took about 4 miles for my toes to warm up and then I was good after that.

As a side note, I'm SO happy to not be marathon training.  Today's run would have been 16 miles.  No thanks!


So Jim over at 50 after 40 did a great post about training plans and whether they benefit people looking to push themselves during training to achieve more.  Go read the post (HERE).  He thinks most plans are more for the "to finish" crowd and they are not enough for people that want to excel but I disagreed saying I think it really depends on the person individually.

Don't get me wrong if you are training based on the Novice I Hal Higdon plan, you are certainly not going to light any fires with marathon times on that plan and you must do more.  Of course, Higdon also has other plans for more experienced runners which incorporates things such as speed work and longer miles along with back-to-back runs.

I happen to agree that back-to-back runs are a critical component of running a faster marathon.  You must learn how to run on tired legs.  I guess why I disagreed with Jim was because it seems that I have bucked the odds, so to speak.  What I mean is, I tend to run slow during training and fast during races.  Of course, I don't run slow all the time and my mid week runs tend to be faster than my long runs.  I do tend to run a slow long run and this has still allowed me to run a fairly quick marathon time.  Here are some number to digest from my two marathons last season.  I included my average pace for my long run and the distance of that long run.

I found this quite interesting.  I'm not sure it really proves anything from my points though.  It does prove I run faster at a marathon than my pace in training but it should be that way.  I think that if you look at the Grand Rapids training, I ran it about a minute to a minute and half faster, PER MILE, than in my training runs.  Of course, if you look at Flying Pig, that number was much closer to my training runs but I will say that there were a couple things that made me slower in Flying Pig - heat and hills.  I was not prepared for the heat that day(got to 80 by the time I finished) and I did not train nearly enough on hills for this race.  Most of my training runs were flat with the exception of a few hill runs.  I would train completely different if I did Flying Pig again.

When it comes to Grand Rapids, I excelled!  I could not have asked for a better race.  I went into it thinking I could do a 3:30 or better marathon(which I didn't) and I kept that pace(7:50) for at least 18 miles.  The difference is that this was a much easier course(flat), it was great temps(40-50), and I was cocky!  Haha!  Yes, that plays a part in it as well -- how you go into the race mentally.  I also did a half marathon three weeks out that is an extremely hilly course and killed it coming off of a 10 mile run the day before.  I think that gave me a boost of confidence - maybe too much so since I still missed my goal but the result was excellent.

I guess the bottom line, as Jim said, in an e-mail to me is that this is the fun of the marathon.  There are so many factors and so much science in the marathon that it's not just physical but very mental and how you prepare(or don't prepare) for it.  Maybe all I need to do is get myself a bra for my head and starting thinking more and this will get me to a faster time.  Thanks Jim for making me think a little more.  Let me know when you're ready for the pre marathon bra ceremony.  Haha!  Can't hurt, right?
From Weird Science Movie  Click HERE to see the video
Have a great day and....Keep Running!!!!


  1. Most training plans I look at would injure me based on their quantity, but I do think having some faster, closer to marathon pace workouts is needed. I run less miles but closer to my goal marathon pace. Then again, I kind of suck and keep getting injured.

  2. Fascinating!! I wondered about back to back long runs and totally makes sense to learn to run on tired legs. I do worry about injury and over training... thought I think I need to incorporate more cross training to keep up the cardio but give my legs a break. Enjoy your blog!

  3. Great post Jeff - I think one of the thing that makes our sport so interesting is that there are so many different opinions on the best way to train. It seems like every couple of months I read something about a new coaching method. I think the main thing is that we're out there doing it and not sitting around being lazy. Great post - have a great week!

  4. Very interesting. Training that works amazing for one may be terrible for another. I hardly ever do my long runs even close to the pace I end up running the marathon in.

  5. Great post, Jeff. I think every person is different and different things work for everyone. I've done some of my better races on fewer miles, while some people excel at higher mileage. I think we all just have to find what works best for us.