Tag Archives: Marathon

Discussing the 1-1-2 Marathon Training Template and Who It’s Good For

Many marathon coaches and writers have similar, converging ideas. It’s impossible for every training plan to be unique, and it’s not that anyone’s necessarily stealing from anyone else. With so many minds, coaches, runners… many are eventually going to find similar approaches and follow very similar schedules.

I just ran into one such case, where Hal Higdon recently created a new marathon training schedule (Marathon 3), and its three day weekly structure is very similar to the FIRST Marathon training approach.

Another example is that, even though fundamentally they employ different approaches, IronFit and Hal Higdon in their marathon plans each gravitate to what I call a 3 and 2 schedule, where the week starts with three consecutive workouts, and after a day off the week concludes with back to back workouts ending with the long run, followed by a day off.

Those are examples of plans I’ve covered. However, many many other plans I have read and analyzed but not discussed here follow a four day a week approach I will call a 1-1-2 template. In large part, I haven’t discussed them because each of them follow the template in very similar fashion.

The 1-1-2 Template:

Whether it begins Monday, or Tuesday (with Monday off), the first workout of the week is a shorter/medium distance run, or a speed interval workout (400 meter repeats, 800m repeats, or similar).

After the following day is taken off, the 2nd workout on Wednesday/Thursday is a medium distance run, often a tempo or marathon pace run.

After that workout’s following day is taken off, a Friday/Saturday easy run of short/medium distance is followed the day after by the long run. Some may do the whole long run easy, some may insert a marathon pace segment in the run or at the end of the run. But that ends the week’s training.

Tom Holland, Dr. Jim, Jeff Gaudette’s Runners Connect, are some quick examples of writers/coaches who follow this basic template. They can vary in what strength training or cross training they ask you to do between workouts, as well as exactly what kind of workouts you do on the running days.

As a quick hit to the Who’s It Good For concept, and recognizing these plans are different between one another, I still think some general groups may or may not want to consider a plan with this structure:

Who Does This Not Work For?

Run streakers. Obviously you would not be running every day in these plans, and typically these plans ask for so much volume or intensity in the midweek workouts that running short/easy on the rest days is counterproductive. You may as well pick a plan not following this template.

High volume runners. The reasonable ceiling for weekly mileage on plans like these is about 50 miles per week, and that’s presuming you log double digit mileage on the weekday workouts as well as consistently get near that 20 mile mark on the long run.

You could double workout on the training days, but the main workouts are typically somewhat tough, and that could inhibit recovery.

Like the run streakers, you probably want a plan with more frequent, consecutive midweek runs.

Runners who don’t like speed or tempo work. On all these plans I’ve always seen some volume of at least marathon-pace work or tempo running, if not full speed interval workouts. If you’d rather not do any speedwork, Hal Higdon’s Intermediate plans are typically devoid of any speed or tempo running outside of marathon pace runs. If you just want to run easy, you probably need more frequent run workouts than 4 days a week anyway.

Who Does This Work For?

Runners who need breaks. There is a built in day off after three of the four key workouts. If you’ve burned out or worn down from plans with back to back to back runs, a plan like this could help you immensely, possibly more than FIRST or Higdon’s Marathon 3 (since they tend to ask for a lot of extra cross training outside of the workouts).

Runners who have other interests outside of training. The extra days off also give you more space for the rest of your life than most plans do. Some people need the days off to recover between workouts more than others, and plans like this are more accommodating than the other plans I’ve discussed before, while still providing suffient training volume and intensity to get you ready for the marathon.

Runners who struggle with tempo work. The thing with tempo workouts in this format compared to other day-off-rich training plans is that the day off before AND after the midweek speed/tempo sessions better allows you to load up for and recover from these workouts. Some people have a real hard time with executing tempo workouts, and much of that is having to do a workout the day before and/or after, leaving little time for recovery.

This schedule typically assures you have rest time before and after the tempo workouts, maximizing your energy on the workout itself and facilitating your recovery afterward before you tackle the back to back workouts to end the week.

The large number of 1-1-2 plans would be a redundant exercise to cover. But hopefully the above can help you determine if these styles of plans are worth pursuing, or if you’re better off moving along whenever you see them.

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Hal Higdon’s Marathon 3 training plan: Who’s It Good For?

You’ll notice I’ve never written a What’s It Good For feature on the somewhat famous Hal Higdon marathon training plans.

Part of that is they’re by and large recognized as a reliable starter-plan for runners unfamiliar with serious training for a race, or just seeking a straight-forward training plan. It’s often one of the first plans most aspiring runners find and turn to when they want to train for a race. It’s a more old school, traditional approach to run training, fairly straight forward and reliable.

So the audience for these plans is pretty clear. Why write a whole What’s It Good For piece on Higdon’s plans when many reading have already (most likely) gone to and possibly followed his plans before reading? There’s little confusion about whether or not these plans work for someone, and someone reading is typically looking for a different approach.

Now, that said, I’ve come back to Higdon’s work time and again. His writing helped me get back into running years ago and helped me build my ability to run for distance. In fact, for all the What’s It Good Fors I’ve written, if someone on the street asked me for advice on running regularly or doing races for the first time, I’d most likely send them to Hal’s website as a starting point. His basic advice and plans consistently work.

So while figuring out my intended training for the 2022 Vancouver Marathon, I also looked up Hal’s old marathon plans. Incidentally, I wanted more intel on how he’d schedule strength training (because obviously I want to continue strength training through Van training), and his incumbent marathon plans didn’t specifically discuss strength training.

I ran a search to see if I could find reference thereto on his website, and it led me to a plan of his I hadn’t found before: Marathon 3. This is a newer hybrid plan for recreational “gap” runners: Not quite a traditional intermediate marathoner, not really a novice.

The Marathon 3 program fits conveniently between Novice 2 and Intermediate 1, but its main feature (and appeal) is that it offers only three days of running and an extra dose of cross training for those of us who need a bit more rest between our running workouts.

Hal Higdon.

That said, I think more advanced runners may find value in the plan as well, especially if they’ve been burned out or injured on higher volume plans.

Marathon 3 (which I’ll also call M-3) looks decidedly different in schedule-pattern from Higdon’s other plans, which traditionally follow a 3 and 2 weekly cycle: Three early week workouts, rest, then a two workout block of a moderate effort run followed immediately by the long run and a rest/cross day. This one has no scheduled back to back runs.

So you know what? I think Higdon’s Marathon 3 is not only different enough from his other training plans to warrant a write-up, but the fact that it was a bit out of digital sight and I had to find it by accident tells me it’s worth linking and showing to readers.

Plus, you’ll get some insight into my thoughts on Higdon’s principles, and when/how they work well.

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Vancouver Strikes Back, 2022.

Run Van made the decision to open up 2022 Vancouver Marathon registration, offered me an early invite, and it did not take me much thought or deliberation to jump back in. I will be running the Vancouver Marathon on May 1, 2022.

I had actually in fact deferred my airfare and hotel, from my planned October Vancouver trip that couldn’t happen, to late April and early May as if I was already going to the marathon. So this isn’t exactly a sudden change of heart of any sort. This was penciled in, and now I’m tracing it over in pen. Plus, now I don’t have to find money to book the travel, because it’s already booked!

I do have plans to run other events and will still do those. I had plans to train for other stuff in 2022 and will still train for those.

If the Failed Indy Experiment of 2021 showed me anything it’s how I can cross train in lieu of running out a full schedule of marathon training. I gradually build a long run to the needed distance, work on tempo and speed training once a week or so, run when it’s most useful, but otherwise cross train for the bulk of my base aerobic work. Why take a pounding on treadmills or pavement when I can get the job done on an elliptical or spin bike?

The other training (and yes, at some point I’ll go into what all this is) can sit in for any speedwork I’d have otherwise done in dedicated marathon training, when applicable. Since some of it isn’t running, it can at times provide a break from run training.

I’m not terribly worried about injuries. At this point, I think I can trace this summer’s problems back to using the treadmill, and I’ll just stop using it for extended running from here on out. If I restrict my use to under 30 minutes and carefully manage pace, and if I don’t use it too often, it works when it works.

As I did before, I will “trickle in” training starting this month with built in rest days, slowly ramping up to a marathon training schedule that should be in swing by the start of next year. Let’s see how this goes.

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Am I Still A Marathoner?

Since withdrawing from Indy I have to consider the reality that I have not run a marathon in about 2.5 years, and that my most recent effort to prepare for one has (for whatever reasons incidental or as a direct result) failed.

I can’t help but ask, when it comes to the marathon, do I even still know what I’m talking about? Have I ever?

I try to be circumspect, to realize that Corona had a substantial role in the time away (there were no marathons for about a year, and many of the ones happening since have been limited), and that this recent effort was not only an unduly difficult task in the Vegas heat, but also one I mitigated and eventually ended out of a persistent abundance of caution. Every time I ran into pain problems beyond mere soreness, it was not that I couldn’t run. I just decided it was best not to.

However, people come to this site in part for advice on preparing for races like the marathon. What does it say when I myself have not and, for whatever reasons appear that I cannot?

Even if I retain confidence in myself, context aside, I have to be realistic about how all this looks. I know for sure my principles are by and large sound. I know I can train for and run marathons to a higher ability. I know this even though I went to train this summer and it all fell flat after never really getting going.

All that said, and I’ve alluded to this in past posts, I’m not sure if and when I’ll run the next marathon. I cannot imagine I won’t ever run one again. As I’ve also mentioned, there’s at least three I want to run once (or once more) before all is said and done.

I also understand the amount of work it takes to train for one, and how any other training ambitions or goals have to take a back seat when you do. It’s very hard to compromise marathon training to allow for other things, and still be at all ready to run one. If anything would keep me away, it’s knowing what I’d need to do to be ready for one, and not being sure if I’m willing to go that deep.

I’ve thought about generally training to run long, for example maintaining year-round the fitness to run 16 miles and also race a 10K or so as desired. And then if I do decide to run a marathon, I’m not terribly far off from being ready for it. That going forward is probably better for me than planning to run a marathon and then having to build up to it over months, as people tend to do.

I’ll admit I have penciled in Vancouver for May 2022. But that said, I mentioned I have other sports and races I want to work on, and will mainly focus on those for now. If they don’t pan out, then great I can pivot and focus on Vancouver. If they do, I can make a judgment call from there. I may be able to do both, even if I’m focusing on other sports, if at least generally conditioned to run long. Or I could just say forget it for now, to one or the other.

I don’t think any of the prior writing I’ve done on marathons is wrong. Those training methods aren’t wrong or bad or not effective. I also retain full faith I can train effectively for marathons. I just want to do some other stuff for a while, and it’ll for now take a back seat.

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Time To Taper: When It’s Too Late To Train For Your Marathon.

A good portion of you are running one of the many major marathons taking place over this next couple months: Berlin is this weekend, London next weekend, Chicago and Boston the week after that, and NYC on November 7.

As people do for these races, many of you are probably in an overthinking sense of semi-panic about getting trained and ready for these races. I’ve seen multiple accounts of people now injured ahead of these races, so I know the following advice is relevant.

Most of you are now about 2-3 weeks out from your race. This is now the time you should be tapering, not training hard or long.

Don’t forget: Your body can only gain fitness adaptions from any individual workout after about 8-14 days. Anything you do within 8-10 days of the marathon will not manifest in any training benefits until after your marathon. Any hard workouts within 8-10 days won’t do anything other than tire you out and possibly get you injured.

Many argue for tapering within 3 weeks of a marathon, but I’m with Jonathan Savage on the ideal taper being 2 weeks, with a gradually reduced volume of running at mostly your goal marathon-pace, e.g. instead of a workout of track repeats you’re generally better off doing a few miles at marathon pace and calling it a day. So anyone 3 weeks out at least has through this weekend to train long or hard before they need to wind it down.

At the same time, a lot of injuries happen within the month before a race because runners, generally knowing this truth, do the equivalent of cramming for a final exam, trying to jam in as much training as possible feeling they didn’t do enough the previous couple months. They overtrain within the last 4-6 weeks ahead of their taper, and then get hurt.

It’s a risk I clearly recognize with my own training for Indy in November, and one I have to balance against restoring training volume and best getting ready for that race. Granted, like NYC runners, my race is farther down the road, and I should be reaching peak volume anyway with my taper ideally happening in late October.

But those of you running Boston, London, and Chicago should be in your taper phase, and at this point any hard workouts are unlikely to significantly benefit you. The time to get the work done has passed. You’re either going to be ready or you’re not, no hard training you do from now to then will do much of anything at all to change that, and any long runs or hard work you do in the interim is more likely to burn you out, injure you, or otherwise leave you at less than your best condition for the race.

Side note: In fact, the only real benefit or purpose of any long run the week before a marathon is to tap into your glycogen stores so that any subsequent carb loading will best re-load them before the race. The goal isn’t to get in a hard workout to get you ready. Most would almost be better off cross training this workout for 2-3 hours than running at all.

So unless you want to join those people who now have a sudden injury to their calf, knee, hip, ankle, etc. with 2-3 weeks until their goal race… recognize that you won’t benefit from hard/long marathon training within about 2 weeks before your race, and start wrapping things up now. You had 2-5 months to get ready, and at this point you can’t undo the past.

Any hard work from 2 weeks out until race day is much more likely to get you injured than it is to get you ready for your marathon.

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Why It’s A Good Idea For Ian Butler To Get Up At 4am To Marathon Train Instead of Running After Work

The Let’s Run Message Board is not a particularly healthy place for content, I’ll admit. But I’m on there last night reading, and someone started a thread about elite marathoner Ian Butler, who has a full time job as a school teacher but can run a 2:09 marathon, is training for the upcoming Chicago Marathon, and posted video of himself getting up at 4am to train in the dark.

Someone responded that they found little sense in Butler waking up so early to train when he could just train after work in the evening instead.

“I will never understand why some runners insist on running before the crack of dawn instead of in the afternoon or evening. School probably gets out around 3. There is plenty of time to do the workout later. It’s not Florida or Arizona so it won’t be that hot. Is getting to bed at 7 and waking up at 4 really a better option?”

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Checking In 8/29/2021 from Flagstaff

One more post from Flagstaff before I once again head back to the Vegas oven.

I’d like to say I had a relaxing afternoon after yesterday’s lengthy forest run, but in reality I went on a fruitless drive in some unusually heavy Flagstaff traffic for lunch, then went to their Planet Fitness for the first time to do some strength training and a bit of spin bike (which both felt good), then rested just a bit before taking a long walk Downtown to eat at a pizza place and then walk some of it off with the sunset before heading back and turning in early.

Garmin informs me that yesterday was my first 30,000+ step day since getting my first Garmin two years ago. It’s a testament to how much less active I’ve been since leaving Chicago, as I had plenty of 30,000 step days with my Fitbit in Chicago.

I also quickly dropped 2 pounds this weekend, in large part due to the Saturday workout(s) but I also didn’t eat particularly much yesterday for the volume of what I did. I felt fine and aside from a breakfast burrito and that pizza I didn’t feel like eating, so I didn’t. I’ve drank a lot of water in the interim.

While I’m wary of DOMS kicking in Monday, I don’t feel too bad this morning except for the typical soreness in my hamstring that’s been hanging around for several days. I still woke up far too early this morning, as I’ve done several times this week, and likely due to hunger after last night’s dinner digested and absorbed too quickly. But if it’s any consolation, this may prepare me for waking up early next weekend two hours ahead in Central Daylight Time for the half marathon.

I’m planning not to run at all today and tomorrow, and don’t plan to train too hard either of these days. Today in particular I obviously have some driving to do so I won’t be walking much at all. I may head to the gym today once I’m back in town for a bit of elliptical work. I might strength train again if I’m up to it.

Tomorrow was always intended as a full day off from training. If Tuesday’s got to be another shutdown day, that’s fine. Saturday was meant to be the final stop for training until the half next weekend. Now it’s about healing up and loading up for that event. Any training from now to then is about staying sharp, generating hormone production, and keeping fat oxidation consistently activated.

Flagstaff as a weekend long training stop works well for me for training sessions in the 90 minute to 2 hour range. The surrounding trails, paths, and roadways appear to best accommodate 6-12 mile workouts. I can see why the elites go out of town for their long(er) workouts, though I’m not ready to go out to rural roads for 20 milers, nor is this area the best place for my longest workouts. The roads and trails can give you enough real estate for medium/long runs, and the outskirts are just a bit too rocky and mountainous unless the extra challenge of the terrain is needed for some sort of secondary development. In my case this time it ended up being helpful since I was not in a position to go much farther than I ended up running.

Though it’s a tougher place for lodging, Big Bear Lake works much better for my longer workouts. The 11 miler I last ran there fit real well in its hilly lakeside neighborhoods, and there was still a lot of other useful real estate I could have ran through if the run were longer. I can easily fit a 16 miler through Boulder Bay and the heart of Big Bear before I even venture into the Moonridge area, and if I did it could easily give me 20 miles if I wanted. It’s also a shorter trip and easier to get to, even if lodging’s a problem and I have to stay in nearby Barstow.

Until it cools off in Vegas, these situations will be my best options for long runs on this training cycle. I have suitable routes in Vegas but until mornings get back to 70 degrees and below that’s not going to work for now. Either way, any additional training on the roads in Vegas and beyond will have to wait until after Labor Day weekend, and depending on how the half goes I may need to take more time after that before I’m recovered and ready to stretch out further.

Back home, injury problems aside, the heat aside, my biggest hurdle to running in Vegas has been two things:

One: Both my injury issues in the last couple years have one correlative factor: I was running on the treadmill with some frequency. Even though this last issue emerged while outdoors, I had recently done my longest treadmill run to date the weekend before. I’m starting to think that I need to minimize or avoid treadmill workouts.

I have used it in the past without issues, but I had used it for shorter durations, in cycles here and there rather than throughout training, and for specific non-long-run reasons, like ingraining longer race tempo. I can consider this whole hamstring saga a lesson (re)learned, and stop using the treadmill.

My growth on the elliptical has shown me that I can get quality medium/long easy aerobic sessions through that without having to run, and that I should save outdoor running for quick recovery sessions, focused tempo/speedwork sessions, and of course long runs. Basically, if I operated on a modified FIRST sort of plan, doing all other aerobic training on the elliptical between quality and long run sessions, that would suit me best at this point.

As for my work break runs, provided they run and feel like quick-burst recovery sessions, they’re fine. Lately, they have been more of a challenge, and I’m better off walking when they feel like that. Instead of doing them compulsively, I’ve been doing more instances of one break run in the morning, maybe an afternoon run or a lunch break session if I’m feeling good, but otherwise just walking on breaks instead. The circulation flows, the calories get burned, and I don’t overstress myself.

In fact, because my stress and heart rate variability has stayed low when I walk in the mornings instead of run, when I eat light or not at all in the morning… perhaps I should just walk off all these work breaks for now, at least until it finally cools down for autumn/fall. I’m getting home with my body battery long since completely tapped everyday, and perhaps that’s a factor in my issues lately. Now that I’m using the elliptical effectively, mileage is no longer as big a deal as it was beforehand. I’m not one to label running as junk mileage, but if the work break runs are not serving me the way they need to, then they’re junk mileage and I need to walk instead.

Two: Aside from the Vegas heat, smoke from California wildfires combined with typical smog has made the Vegas air quality very bad. I should not be running in that for more than a few minutes, and it’s deterred me from any forays back into morning running (the heat is still too high to even consider post-work runs). Maybe given my hamstring issues that’s been a blessing in disguise, but the bad air has stuck around a while and could be some time before the air’s consistently suitable for any outdoor running.

Flagstaff and Big Bear have been nice, among other reasons, in that the air quality’s been much better overall (I’ve consistently dodged their wildfire smoke issues; Big Bear in particular had downwind fire smoke this weekend). Yes, the air’s thinner in high altitude, but for the most part that hasn’t been a problem for me (do I have handed down Denisovan genes? I don’t know, but altitude mostly hasn’t been a problem for me on runs unless I’m climbing a steep grade). It’s allowed me to run without the air quality problems in Vegas.

I’m no fool and realize this is going to remain a problem in future years. I should be able to do some long training in Vegas in the final few weeks before Indy, but going forward training for summer marathons in Vegas will remain a potentially unworkable problem.

That said, I have plans for 2022 that may render that moot. I don’t plan to leave Vegas, but I have other training goals and I may not run a marathon in 2022. The current Coronavirus situation certainly will continue making that hard in at least early 2022, but it won’t matter either way. I’ll have more on this as I finish up with Indy, recover, and move ahead from there.

In any case, I have errands to run and a lot of driving to do, so that’s enough for now. More on all of this to come.

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