Tag Archives: training plans

Practicing fueling during marathon training

A lot of people struggle with fueling during a marathon because they aren’t used to running with food or drink (beyond water or maybe Gatorade) in their stomach.

I have a fairly strong running stomach. I’ve even gone as far as to eat pizza before heading out on a speedwork workout, and done well (in no small part thanks to having a bunch of fat and carbohydrates at the ready thanks to the pizza). I obviously wouldn’t recommend going that far, but I have on many occasions eaten a full meal and then gone out on a run without trouble.


Yesterday I segmented 11 miles into three separate runs, as I ran to the Loyola women’s hoops game, then back towards home.

After the game, before my 2nd run to Montrose Beach, I stopped at Raising Canes and treated myself to a Box Combo with some lemonade, because why not.

But instead of waiting a bit for the meal to digest, I immediately crossed the street onto the LUC campus and took off for Lincoln Park.

I bring this up because, while I didn’t feel sick running with such a disgusting meal in my stomach… the inevitable gas you’d expect from your stomach led to a realization.


My hiccups from the Chicago Marathon? They were certainly a product of the volume of nutrition I had put down during the race. Because I had put it down faster than my stomach could digest it, most of it sat there and bubbled for several miles. My wind/stomach pipe assembly, battling between taking in air at a moderate running pace and holding stomach contents back from randomly upchucking during said run… finally began to give, and suddenly there are hiccups.

I didn’t have hiccups during yesterday’s running, since the pace was a lot easier. I also didn’t have hiccups during long Chicago Marathon training runs where I practiced taking in nutrition, because the pace of those runs were a lot easier.

It was only on race day, when the effort was more intense yet I took in a high volume of in-race nutrition, that hiccups reared their head.

Clearly, my key to avoiding race hiccups is to either practice taking in less of my desired nutrition (probably not the best idea for a marathon), or to practice taking in my desired nutrition on more intense tempo runs (to get my body trained to do so at that intensity over distance).


Most tend to either put no practice into in-race fueling during their training, or they fuel casually throughout too many runs, which may not fully prepare their body to handle a long distance endurance event.

Many, like I did, will make the mistake of practicing fueling on long runs, but only on those long runs. Therefore, you get used to doing so at an easy pace, but on race day you run faster than that, and your body’s not prepared to fuel on the run at that pace.

The marathon fuel training sweet spot:

After you have stretched out your tempo runs, or after you have added some marathon tempo to your long runs, practice fueling with your desired fuel every few miles on your marathon pace runs.

This gets the body used to handling fuel during a race effort. The run itself may not be a peak training effort, but it’s not necessarily the run itself you’re working on. You are working on handling fuel at a faster pace over a longer high-intensity effort.

Much like how training your running muscles and strength training other parts of your body often are best done with specific, separate focus… training your internal organs to handle fuel at a race effort is a skill and set of muscles that need to be gradually trained.

If your marathon fueling plan is more serious than ‘take some Gatorade or whatever the race makes available every few miles’, then it’s just as vital to train in taking that fuel in as it is to build up your specific running endurance or your speed.

Just maybe don’t practice with chicken fingers and lemonade from Raising Canes. Perhaps consume something healthier.

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12 things I want to do more in my next marathon training program

No intros. Let’s get to it.

1. More hill running. Brad Hudson swears by hill runs as an easy form of strength training, as well as a recovery aid after long runs. Jonathan Savage also swears by downhill running as a way to develop quad strength and endurance.

I want to try and do both during training… regular uphill running after long runs, and downhill runs as a harder workout early in the training cycle.

2. Sunday long runs instead of Saturday long runs. Previously I did my long run Saturday to give myself Sunday to recover before the workweek.

But this was during my previous career, which required a lot more walk commuting and where I used a standing desk. While that had many benefits, my new conventional sit-down career and its quicker, easier commute allows me much more physical downtime. Plus, I’ve improved my ability to get sleep after long runs, another factor in why I previously ran long on Saturday.

The hurdles to running Sunday have been eliminated, and since my next marathon will likely fall on a Sunday, it’s best to do the long runs on those days.

3. Greater emphasis on maintaining pace through consistent quick cadence. I’ve already been working on this as I’ve resumed running. But, in prioritizing volume during my last training cycle, I think I ran a low slower than I needed to.

This is hindsight being 20/20, but I realize I have better speed than my 11 minute mile long runs indicate. Plus, as I saw in tapering and the marathon, I have no trouble maintaining a faster cadence (and pace) on long runs.

I need to take a page from the Hanson Brothers and do all my distance running at as quick of a cadence as I can reaosnably maintain.

4. Mini-sharpening period for tune up races. My speedwork was either a bit scattered or a bit flat in how I applied it during the last cycle. I’m planning to stage it out a bit more this time around, not focusing hard on marathon level effort until the final few weeks.

As most recommend, I plan to focus more on maximizing speed during the early training stage, and this will allow me to focus better on tune-up races. If I train for specific endurance in the 3-4 weeks leading up to those races, to maximize performance in those races, it could have substantial long term benefits as I move on to more marathon endurance training post race.

5. Tune up races! I didn’t really do many tune-up races in my previous cycle, and to be honest I do miss shorter races. I almost decided to take a year off from marathons not because of how tough training is, but so I could do more shorter races instead.

I don’t think I’ll need to go that far, though. It’s entirely reasonable to do as many as 4-5 races during an 18 week training cycle, as tune-up races. And it’s reasonable to give them a serious effort, as doing so provides secondary training benefits.

6. More multi-pace workouts, especially during long runs. I’ve always mixed in fast-finish moderate runs, and dabbled with Daniels-style multi-pace long runs last year, during an extended test run of a marathon training cycle (I didn’t actually plan to run a marathon that fall, but did want to practice stretching out).

The latter are tough, and it may have been a little early in my development to do them. But now, having improved my ability to manage moderate pace in longer runs, I think it may benefit me to incorporate multi-pace long runs.

I don’t think I want to go full Daniels 2Q and devote two days a week to killer 12-16 mile runs with extended threshold and marathon pace segments right off the bat. I think to avoid burnout it’s best to do those closer to the race, around the peak cycle. I may not need to do a 20 miler next time around, but I can definitely benefit from a 16 miler where, say, 10+ of the miles are at marathon pace.

7. Varying the pace and intensity of regular distance runs. Over the last year I’ve done nearly all of my regular runs at around the same pace. That pace was somewhat faster during the Vancouver cycle than it was during the recent Chicago cycle. Lately as I’ve resumed running all of my runs have been substantially quicker than either.

But I think as I ramp up to training mileage it would be a good idea to take a standard hard/easy approach to those regular runs. Perhaps one day I can go moderate, and try to sustain an 8:30-9:15 pace… and the next I give myself total permission to take it easy and go as slow as I’d like. This can allow me to add maximum mileage while still giving myself permission to push myself some, while scaling back enough to allow those regular opportunities.

8. Run every single day, even if just a little bit. This worked very well for me during my last couple months of training. It happened basically by accident: I discovered I had run for over 10 straight days, and decided to try and keep the streak going because I still felt good despite no days off. I ran for 70 straight days right up to the Chicago Marathon, and felt great at the end.

My body seems to respond better to quick, easy runs as recovery instead of full rest. Many good runners run every day. I think it might work out (barring an actual injury) to just run 7 days a week, and when feeling particularly tired to just run a couple miles that day instead of outright resting.

9. Train to optimize high-moderate pace, for optimal aerobic support. Like many, I would previously opt to slow down my longer runs to preserve stamina. While this did allow me to run 20’s and other long runs, it didn’t help translate my speed to longer runs. My speed at shorter distances indicates I can run faster at longer distances.

Again, I want to take a page from the Hansons and seek to do my long runs at more of a moderate pace, rather than the easy pace most recommend. I’m obviously not going to race these long runs or do them at marathon pace just yet. But I want to go out at a solid cadence and try to hold that fast cadence for as long as reaosnably possible.

I’m no longer concerned about whether or not I can run long, since I clearly can. Now it’s about translating my speed to the longer distances by working on the specific endurance of running faster over longer distances.

10. Don’t emphasize marathon-pace until the final six weeks before the next marathon. While it’s important to do a bit of marathon pace training periodically throughout the training cycle, I also don’t want to peak too early. And it’s not as important to do marathon pace running until the final few weeks before the race.

As I did before Chicago, I will taper by heavily reducing my volume while doing virtually all of the my running during that time at marathon pace. It feels ingrained once you get to the start line, but if I were to do that for six weeks I would either begin to burn out or would lose my stamina from not being able to do longer runs.

Prior to the final few weeks, I’ll make sure not to do marathon pace for more than 25% of any speedwork in a week. A few miles once a week might be fine in the early going, but isn’t necessary.

11. Use accordant tune up races as goal pace benchmarks. Pace prediction calculators will use results from your other races as estimators of how you will do in other races, including the marathon.

If I have a goal pace in mind, a key will be to look at the equivalent pace in a tune up race, like a 5K or 10K, and see if I can run that pace. Or, if I don’t, to use the pace I run as a gauge of what I can do, and adjust my workout pacing going forward.

12. Peak early… with training volume. While I don’t want to peak early overall, I do have a lot of things I want to work on: Speed over longer runs, mixed workouts, other race distances.

It’s hard to work on all those things and increase your mileage during training. So, my plan is to focus during off-season and base training on building up higher mileage and to try and peak mileage before I get to foundational training.

By the 4th-6th week of training, I want to have experienced my max mileage, so that as I scale back training mileage I can easily slide into the other kinds of training and racing I want to do.


Thanks for humoring my lengthy list of personal training ideas.

More to come shortly on my upcoming personal marathon training goals.

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An 8-week McMillan-Style 8K training plan that will get you ready

The following is admittedly a variation of a plan Greg McMillan has recommended for 10K training. The plan below is a bit more specific about mileage and off-week workouts, but does allow flexibility.

  • This plan lasts a minimum of 8 weeks and presumes you already run at least 15 miles a week, at least 3-4 days a week, and at least two of your runs are 5 miles or more.
  • If not, spend 2-4 weeks running at least that much, at an easy pace, before beginning this plan. The less running you currently do, the longer this plan needs to be.
  • Don’t even begin the workouts below until you’ve been running 15+ miles 3+ days each week, without trouble, for at least a couple weeks. Week 1 of the below plan only begins the week after you’re able to do so.
  • Pick a goal 8K pace that is attainable, whether you’ve attained it before or it’s within 15-20 seconds per mile (9-12 seconds per kilometer) of a pace you’ve run at this distance or longer. Don’t pick a pace that you can’t hold for at least a couple miles uninterrupted.

Starting in week 1, do the below workout once during each designated week. Ideally, do the workout in the middle of the week, but you can pick any day of the week that works best for you:

Wk 1 – 5 x 1 mile (1600m), at goal pace.

Wk 2 – 5×400, comfortably hard pace, rest 2min between.

Wk 3 – 4 x 1.25 mile (2000m), at goal pace.

Wk 4 – 5×400, comfortably hard pace, rest 2min between.

Wk 5 – 3 x 1.67 mile (2700m), at goal pace.

Wk 6 – 5×400, comfortably hard pace, rest 2min between.

Wk 7 – 2 x 2.5 mile (4000m), at goal pace.

Wk 8 – No speed workout! All easy running.

If you can nail goal pace in the Week 7 workout, you absolutely will nail your goal time.


  • It’s okay for the mile+ interval distance to be a little long or a little short. If you can run them on a track, measuring is very easy (one reason I mention the metric distances!). Obviously, trying to do these intervals on a road or trail doesn’t make measuring the right distance easy. The goal is to sustain your pace for each one, so just pick a stretch of path that’s close to the needed distance.
  • If you find yourself falling more than 10 seconds per mile (6 seconds per kilometer) short of your goal pace during the workouts in weeks 1 and 3, you need to dial back your pace expectations.
  • Don’t do the 5×400 reps at max effort, but definitely give a stride-fast effort. Go fast enough that finishing is tough, but hold back enough that you could keep going another 400 meters after the finish if you had to. Let feel be your guide on these reps. And yes, 5×400 may not be a lot for many of you. This should be a quick and easy speed workout.
  • Aside from the key workouts, you want to do some easy running at least a couple other days per week, probably more like 3-5 other days per week. The fewer days you run, the longer those easy runs need to be. If nothing else, do an easy run 2 days before the speed workout and 2 days after the speed workout. Otherwise, do whatever easy running you want.
  • Don’t skip workouts unless you’re rather sick, or you’re injured. If you’re not going to do a workout, at least run a couple miles that day.

As always: Eat well, sleep well, every day during this training plan. You are the sum of your habits. Take care of yourself.

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