Tag Archives: Marathon

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! His conversion to the lower-carb, paleo-style Primal approach to eating and lifestyle is in no small part a byproduct of his experience 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, and 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), what remains after filtering through it is a compelling and well-written approach to training as a Primal endurance athlete.

Sisson of course is hardly the only believer 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 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 he 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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Galloway Marathon Method: Who’s It Good For?

Marathon: You Can Do It!Every runner at some point has done the run-walk… you run for a bit, and then walk for a bit to recover before running again.

Jeff Galloway is the one running mind who builds an entire marathon training approach around it. It’s a little surprising that his main book on the subject, Marathon: You Can Do It!, isn’t more well known and recognizable.

Sure, there are a lot of people who don’t think run-walking a marathon is *really* running a marathon. That can be part of it.

But there’s also a huge part of the population who want to run a marathon, but simply won’t consider it because they can’t fathom running 26.2 miles. And if they knew an approach like Galloway’s existed, they absolutely would try knowing it’s possible.

As you’d expect, Galloway’s approach is mostly geared towards first time and novice marathon runners, though he vouches that even mid pack runners have shown substantial improvements in their times using his method. Galloway even indicates that experienced runners capable of sub-2:40 marathons have used the method and seen improved results.

Galloway is hardly the only one to vouch for walk breaks in races. Others like Hal Higdon vouch for experienced runners taking walk breaks: Higdon often cites Bill Rodgers in the 1970’s running a sub 2:20 marathon while slowing to a walk at aid stations for fluids, or to tie his shoe.

And sure: You’re never going to see Eliud Kipchoge or Shalane Flanagan take walk breaks in a World Marathon Major. But virtually none of us will approach running at their level. And many aspiring marathoners struggle with successfully racing the distance despite their best efforts using other training methods. For many, Galloway’s method might be worth a shot.

Of course, Galloway’s approach isn’t as simple as “run until you want/need to walk, then walk, then run when you’re ready again”. His run/walk method is much more measured and specific, and is based on your pace ability. The idea is to keep you fresh for as long as possible, so the final few miles isn’t a miserable PR-killing fight against the wall to finish.

So what is The Galloway Method?

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Run Better’s 42.2km Marathon Plan: Who’s It Good For?

RunBetterAlong with running the Vancouver Marathon, one of my favorite takeaways from my Vancouver trip this May was buying a copy of Canadian author Jean Francois Harvey’s book Run Better. Published in Canada and mostly unknown outside of the Maple North, the book focuses on helping runners improve their form and prevent or heal injuries with a ground-up approach to running mechanics.

I’m not going to review the book but will admit bias and say I love it, it’s simply and well written, and I recommend finding a copy if you struggle with your day to day running in any way.

Though it’s mostly a book of fundamentals, the book does have training schedules for races from the 5K to the Marathon. Each plan has two schedules arbitrary split between faster and slower times (with of course the faster plan asking for more speedwork, though the volume is mostly the same).

I want to go ahead and review the plan, if for no other reason than I am actually planning to follow it while training to run a marathon this fall.

The Plan:

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