By the Book, Club, or, Coach?
If you've followed my short history in this crazy sport of marathon racing, you'd know that I've "tinkered" a bit with different running plans, coaches, and run clubs. I ran my first marathon without running with literally anyone. I read a book. A very good book. Hal Higdon's, "Marathon, The Ultimate Training Guide." I read his book and followed his beginning marathon plan. I apparently skipped over the part that suggested running with others. I broke four hours in my first marathon merely reading a book and running solo over the entire training period.
I recommend the book, but I don't recommend running alone. One is the loneliest number.
For my third Boston Marathon that's two months away, I decided I needed more personal coaching. Out of nine marathons, I am proud of most of them, but only satisfied with a few of them. Too many times, I bonked. "Color me" naive or "color me" stupid...I'm still in search for a "bonkless" marathon.
In my last Boston Marathon, I knew I had nothing in my tank in the first couple miles. Not good. My career involves heavy travel that throws many a curve at me in my training schedule. That means smelly running gear stowed in my bag each week (with even smellier clothes coming home.) It also means some flexibility is required in the training schedule and plan.
After I graduated from self-training, I discovered the local running club. I have made and met some of my best running friends through this group. I have recommended many a new runner to the group. This is another option I'd highly recommend for the beginner or runner who knows what their plan is and wants to run with similarly minded people. This option takes much of the planning out of training as a plan is normally provided, and each weekend long run is mapped out with water every couple of miles. Depending on the group's size, it's tough to understand each individual runner's history and tweak to their needs. This is perhaps a drawback to the "one size fits all" plan.
I have supplemented my training in the past with a personal coach using local run legend Maureen Roben. I would meet her group once a week normally for "speed work." I'm convinced this help me notch my first BQ at the California International Marathon (CIM) in Sacramento. This also gave me the first glimpse into working with an acclaimed marathon runner who could also tune into my run history and goals.
All of this lead to me "shopping" for a new running coach to train for Boston. Within the Denver area (not far from Boulder,) there's a plethora of options. Translation? #confusion. There are some incredibly talented and qualified options. I finally decided to team with Boulder Center for Sports Medicine and Benita Willis. I've been with the group less than a month, but it's met many of my criteria;
Qualifications: Benita ran the London Olympics (not the London Marathon) and has a 2:22 marathon time to her credit. She won the world cross country in 2004. Benita and her partner coached this year's Colorado Runner Magazine's male and female runners of the year.
Personalized Plan: BCSM uses Training Peaks to plot each week's plan. Before even starting my plan, I sat down for an hour and a half and shared my history, goals, and challenges. Benita tracks my daily runs and adjusts accordingly. You could say, she's in tune with me after a short time.
Approach: One of the things I talked to Benita about was how I feel I've been tired by the time I hit the start line. Normally by the halfway point of some of my previous plans, I would have run a couple of 20 milers. I would also take a rest day each week. I haven't run 20 yet, but the philosophy of the plan is to build strength and "peak" on raceday. There is a strength plan in addition to my running schedule which is something new, or at least with a planned strength plan. It's not for the timid either as witnessed by last week's three nine mile runs--three days in a row. That would be a first for me. There are typically two tougher workouts each week with an emphasis on building speed (and strength.) The other miles in a given week I'm running MUCH slower than I'm accustomed to...as in sometimes she wants me running 9:15 or slower. While I haven't got to the long runs yet at the halfway point of my training plan, my weekly mileage has built up to 50 miles.
Results: Too early to tell. Raceday results will be the ultimate litmus test, but I have "bought into" the plan. Last Saturday was speed/strength work vs. my traditional long run Saturday. Two mile warm-up, followed by progressive intervals of three, two, and one miles. My splits were 7:10, 7:02, and 6:36 (last mile.) Coach was pleased and so was I. I am officially the "slowest" member of this group, but feel I can only improve by running with faster, more experienced runners along with a world class coach.
I've talked about a number of options including the current (personal coach) approach I'm using. Self-train, book training plan, and run club. What has worked for you and what are you using for your current marathon training plan?