Tag Archives: Marathon

The 80/20 Running marathon plan: What’s It Good For?

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Matt Fitzgerald’s 80/20 Running (2014)

Matt Fitzgerald’s written a lot of books, and a lot of them are good books. He’s one of this generation’s great minds when it comes to endurance training.

He is also one of the champions of 80/20 Endurance Training, the approach found by Dr. Stephen Seiler to be the most efficient mix of easy and hard training. In a nutshell, 80% of your training is done at easy intensity and 20% is done at harder intensity.

Fitzgerald’s aptly titled 2014 book 80/20 Running is an extended research guide on how he and everyone determined that 80/20 training was the optimal blend of easy and tough workouts.

And as you’d expect, the book includes a set of training plans broken out by difficulty for every major racing distance, from the 5K and 10K, to the Half Marathon and the full Marathon. I want take a look at the Marathon training plans.

As usual, I’m not writing this as a review of the book… though I will freely admit that I love the book and, however dated it might be, I highly recommend you read it if you’re a serious distance runner. Triathletes will get just as much from his more recent 80/20 Triathlon, which adapts the principles to training for the three-discipline endurance sport.

And I will offer this important caveat: Fitzgerald makes it clear that he believes you should take the listed workouts in his book combined with 80/20 principles and create your own training plans based on your needs. So to review this training plan is fundamentally undercut by the fact that they are merely written as templates or samples, something to follow if you just for some reason cannot or won’t make a training plan of your own.

However, given the plans do mirror many of Fitzgerald’s general principles regarding scheduling workout and training progression, I’ll go ahead and review the marathon training plan anyway.

Do note that the training plan, not to my knowledge available in the public domain, would either way require that you have the book 80/20 Running. The workouts are listed only by title, and the finer points are outlined elsewhere in the book. So, you need the book to follow the plan.

The Nuts and Bolts:

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Adjusting the Hanson Marathon Method for tune-up races

sunset men sunrise jogging

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Like many coaches, I don’t think it’s a good idea to fundamentally alter training plans.

By this I mean:

  • Substantially extending or reducing the length of assigned training runs, especially the long run
  • Adding or subtracting multiple speed or tempo workouts to the schedule
  • Changing the order of assigned workouts and rest days
  • Adding races to a defined schedule, beyond any provided in the schedule… unless the plan specifically allows for adding tune-up races.

The Hanson Marathon Method is a plan that specifically asks you not to run any races during training. The schedule is fairly demanding and the Hansons’ writing on the plan specifically discourages any racing while training through one of their plans.

It’s one thing to realize before starting a training plan that you want to race during the training schedule. You can decide to pivot and follow a different plan that’s more permissive towards tune-up races.

But what if you dive into the Hanson plan and discover a few weeks in that you really want to run a race during training? Obviously it’s rarely ever a good idea to ditch a training plan for another in mid-stream. However, the Hanson plan basically forbids tune up races.

Presuming you really want to run another race during training and you don’t just want to jog it out… or the distance is shorter/longer than the planned long run for that week, and you want to remain committed to the Hanson plan, is there anything you can do to adjust the plan and stay on track?

Yes, there is. Here is what you need to do:

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Are you sure you want to run a marathon? Let’s talk about the Beginner and the Marathon.

female and male runners on a marathon

Photo by RUN 4 FFWPU on Pexels.com

A lot of new and novice runners get hooked with the desire to run a marathon. While admirable, a marathon is not a 5K, 10K or half marathon, and unlike those races this is probably biting off a lot more than one really wants to chew.

As an experienced runner, I didn’t dare attempt a marathon until I had been running seriously for a few years, and had already completed many races ranging in distance from the 5K to the Half Marathon.

For me, the marathon was far and away a much bigger physical challenge than even the half marathon. This is no surprise to most experienced runners, and even knowing that going in… the shock to my system was substantial and new.

To detail why the marathon is so much harder, let me go into some of the basic science behind how the body generates energy for running, how it impacts marathon training, and why it may present a beginner too steep a challenge training for a marathon:

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Primal Endurance: An approach to making low carb endurance running work

Image result for primal blueprintBack in 2011, famous Primal Blueprint guru Mark Sisson wrote a post about how he’d train for a marathon. Mark’s no novice when it comes to distance running: He is in fact a former marathoner! Mark’s conversion to his lower-carb, paleo-style “Primal” approach to eating and lifestyle is in no small part a byproduct of his experience and life lessons from training to race the longest run.

Sisson of course generally discourages any sort of endurance training, prefering a more biologically natural sprint-and-saunter approach to outdoor activity akin to our prehistorical ancestors. Like many paleo-minded humans he’s more into occasional high intensity low duration activity surrounded by lots of regular but very low intensity activity.

This level of activity is of course a better fit for a lower carb Primal style diet, as endurance training traditionally requires a very high carb intake… intake that Sisson’s experience and research taught him can be damaging to your long term health.

However, a lack of carbohydrates can compromise the quality of your endurance workouts, let alone your race performances, since your body typically utilizes glycogen for extended endurance activity.

Sisson historically has preferred to avoid endurance training entirely and focus instead on what he’s found to be a more long-term sustainable lifestyle. His 2011 piece was more of a hypothetical, ‘If I had to train as a Primal disciple to run a marathon this is how I would approach it.’ Sisson’s piece definitely hinted that he had far more intel behind it, and that there was probably a book in him on the subject.

Image result for primal enduranceWell, eventually he did write that book. Primal Endurance by he and Brad Kearns spelled out the ideal combination of the Primal diet and lifestyle with the ideal training approach to maximize your performance in a marathon without the usage of carbohydrates and their glycogen.

I’ve given the book a gradual read over time. While a lot of it reads like sales-letter filler for the Primal Blueprint (which seems superfluous since you probably aren’t reading the book unless you already own, have read and believe in the Primal Blueprint), the deeper material is a compelling and well-written approach to training as a Primal endurance athlete.

Sisson and Kearns of course are hardly the only believers that endurance athletes can succeed with a lower-carb approach. Many ultra-runners have sworn by training low-carb to train their bodies to maximize fat usage in their excessively long races. Other non-ultra runners have sworn by training low-carb as well (I even know a few!).

I’ve long since argued (as many do) that accepting this lifestyle and swearing off most carbohydrates does to some degree limit your capability as a distance runner. In principle, I still find that to be true.

But there’s no denying that long term the traditional endurance diet and lifestyle does take a toll on your hormones and to an accordant degree your health. I recall half marathon champ Ryan Hall being forced to retire in his early 30’s due to wanting to start a family and his training lifestyle compromising his body’s ability to do so. Sure enough, once Hall stopped running, his health rebounded.

I do think there’s a middle ground, mostly that you train in cycles and that you take breaks from training and the diet it demands. However, Sisson and Kearns argue that their recommended lifestyle can be practiced year round, in and out of training, without damaging your race performance.

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Budd Coates “Running On Air” Marathon Training Plan: Who’s It Good For?

RunningOnAirWhile traveling last month I found a book by Budd Coates called Running On Air. The book details a new approach to rhythmic breathing during runs, the idea being that you learn the breathing technique in basic workouts, then train for races using it.

Again, I don’t do book reviews. But if you find yourself breathing hard on runs or otherwise struggling with your stamina, then this book is absolutely worth a look. It’s a somewhat easy read, easy to follow, and even if you don’t ultimately follow Coates’ approach to the letter your improved attention to your breathing patterns will in some way help your running. Consistent breathing helps your oxygen delivery, which allows you to run faster at easier intensities. Plus the book indicates that some natural breathing patterns can cause imbalances that lead to pain and injury; an improved breathing rhythm can help eliminate those imbalances.

However, that’s not why I’m writing this. The book of course has subsequent training plans from the 5K to the Marathon. And breathing principles aside, the book’s Marathon plan has some unique wrinkles that might make it worth a look.

The Budd Coates “Running On Air” Marathon Plan:

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4 Months To a 4 Hour Marathon: Who’s It Good For?

Image result for 4 months to a 4 hour marathonDave Kuehls, an editor for Runners World, once trained Oprah Winfrey to run her first marathon. The famous talk show host ran her first marathon in 4.5 hours, incredible given Oprah not only wasn’t any sort of athlete, but had famously been overweight and actually undertook the pursuit of running a marathon in part to help her drop a few pounds.

Despite this, Kuehls’ subsequent 1998 book, 4 Months to a 4 Hour Marathon, didn’t pick up any major attention when released or in the 20 years it’s been out.

I had never heard of the book or (despite his having been a Runners World editor) seen any of Kuehls’ philosophies on running… until randomly stumbling upon his book at a Barnes and Noble in Michigan while on a work trip.

I took a peek at what first appeared a cheap gimmicky attempt at a running book. I turned out pleasantly surprised at Kuehls’ simple, sound apporach to marathon training. So, I’d like to go over it.

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Want to do the Hanson Marathon Method Without Speedwork?

I’ve had some people inquire lately for info on trying to run the Hansons Marathon Method without speed or tempo work (which I’ll refer to hereafter as just speedwork).

First of all, the Hansons did write a plan into the 2nd edition of their book which they called Just Finish. It’s a beginner’s version of their plan, without speedwork.

However, there’s a substantial issue with that plan: It’s clearly just a lightweight version of the other plans. There doesn’t appear to be any real adjustment for the loss of speedwork. The total volume of the plan is far too short on mileage volume to adequately prepare a runner for the marathon. The average mileage is about 30-40 miles, which wouldn’t be so bad except there’s no speedwork to make up for that shortfall.

The less speedwork you do in a training plan, the more important regular and long aerobic runs, plus a large training volume, becomes. The effectiveness of the medium aerobic Hanson weekday runs and 16 mile max long run is logistically contingent on you completing a speedwork session and extended tempo run during the week.

Still, people like the scheduling, run frequency, and the spread of the Hanson plan, though understandably prefer to avoid the lengthy, demanding speedwork and pace sessions.


Is there a way to follow some variation of the plan without speedwork, in more robust fashion than following the lightweight Just Finish plan, without totally undermining the plan?

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