I need your help!

I have mentioned this here and there on the blog, but I haven’t made an “official” announcement yet. I am going to do that now. This November I will be running my first full marathon, the Thunder Road Marathon in Charlotte, NC.

I signed up way back in February during early bird registration. Not ten minutes after clicking “register” my happy little Type A brain got down to making a training plan. I wrote my own plan using guidance from Hal Higdon, Team in Training, and mirroring it after what has worked for me for half marathons (running Tues-Thurs with a long run on Saturdays). It’s 19 weeks long, and it resides in an Excel spreadsheet with the Charlotte Thunder Road logo on it. Type A to the max. But now I’m conflicted and this is where I need you.

I was all set with my training plan, which was going to start on July 13. But now I have come across a “Foolproof Marathon Training Plan” written by Amby Burfoot in the July issue of Runner’s World (page 54 if you have a copy of the issue). Note: If you don’t have a copy, go pick one up. The special Boston issue has amazing stories of survival and is very moving.

So now I have two training plans that both look pretty good. One is written by me, and I have never run a marathon, and the other by Amby Burfoot, a former Boston Marathon champion (among other things). I know the style of my training plan has worked for me in the past: 4 days of running with a rest day on either side of my long run. But I am intrigued by the RW training plan. It has you running 4 days a week for the first and last four weeks of the training plan, but the middle 12 weeks have you running 5 days a week, with runs on either side of the long run.

Often I hear that if something works for you, then you should stick with it… you know, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. But what if something else works better? As in “if it ain’t broke, break it and make it better”. I wish I could put both plans on here as pictures, but I don’t think they’d be clear enough to read, so I will compare and contrast.

Similarities: Both are relatively the same length (RW is 20 weeks, mine is 19 weeks); Both gradually build up to a 20 mile long run and have cut back weeks; Both have the same mileage planned for the final week leading up to race day;

Differences: My plan sticks with running 4 days per week for the whole plan, RW plan uses 5 during the middle 12 weeks; My plan has a peak weekly mileage of 40 miles, RW plan has peak of 44 (which you do twice); My plan has me doing one 20 mile run three weeks from race day, RW plan has two 20 mile runs, three weeks out and five weeks out from race day; My plan has Fridays and Sundays as rest days, RW plan has Tuesdays and Thursdays as rest days throughout the plan.

So they’re pretty much the same length and the biggest difference is that the RW plan would have me doing two 20 mile long runs. I know it’s not necessary to do two of them, but could it be detrimental? Both plans have a gradual increase in weekly mileage that I think I am ready to handle. I have been running four (or sometimes more) days a week for the past 2 years or so, with an average weekly mileage of 20 miles. When I train for a half I usually peak at 28-30 miles.

I like how the RW plan has you doing shorter runs on the day before and the day after your long run. That will help me adjust to running on tired legs and teach my body to not only rely on glycogen stores. But at the same time, I’m hesitant to leave my “tried and true” structure for training.

**Edited to add: My main goals for my first full are to make it to the start line healthy and finish the race. I do not have a specific time goal. Amy’s comment made me realize I should have included what my goals for this race are.

Which training plan would you go with if you were in my (running) shoes?

Did anyone go see the Spirit of the Marathon II last night?? How was it!?

12 Comments

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  1. I am staying away from all reviews of Spirit of the Marathon II until I can see it!
    I would say go with what you know works for you IF your main goal is to finish. If you want to finish with a specific (and fast!) goal, go with Amby’s plan. When I trained for my first, I had no idea what I was doing and no ide how fast I was going. I just wanted to make sure I could run for 3 and a half (+) hours before the race. Given that you have a lot of training behind you, you know what works for you so maybe a plan based on what others say but you know will work for you will be best πŸ™‚ Let us know what you decide!

    1. Unless they do an encore showing in the theater (like they did with the first one) I won’t see it until it comes out on DVD.

      Thank you for your input! I will be sure to let y’all know which one I end up going with.

  2. I ran my first full using Hal Higdon’s training plans. I adjusted a few things here and there but stuck to it pretty well. I think it depends on your goals. My only goal was to finish and it helped me do just that.

    1. My main goal is to finish, since it’s my first. But I also want to make it to the start line healthy so that I can run the race. πŸ™‚

  3. I think you are wise to look at a plan and make it work for you! Plus, there is no law that says once you start following a certain plan you have to follow it to a t the whole way…especially since your idea and the RW plan are so similar. I got that RW today too! EXCITING about the marathon!! Good luck w/ your training!

    1. Good point! If I start using the RW plan and decide it’s not for me, it won’t be a big deal to switch to my “tried and true” (as far as the structure goes) plan. Especially since the build up of long runs are very similar, and those are the most important runs.

      Enjoy reading the RW July issue. It’s a good one!

  4. I’m excited to read through your plan (thanks, btw!!!)…
    My friend loves Hal H.
    RW got me through my first marathon.
    The Hansons think that you need to learn to run on fatigued legs to learn to push through the last however many miles of the marathon that are difficult for you.
    πŸ™ Sorry I’m not helping!!! πŸ™‚

    1. I’d love some feedback on it, if you have any input!

      I haven’t actually seen the Hansons plan or read their marathon book but from what I’ve heard on the internet about it, it looks like it’s not for a first time marathoner. If you are going for a certain goal time for your second marathon Hansons may be the way to go! I know Logan (Mountains and Miles) used that plan before she switched to the half for Rock N Roll. She may be able to give you her opinion of it.

  5. I’d say that the fifth day of running is up to you – if you’ve been doing 4 days of running/week, going to five should be fine, if you want to. But if you’d rather cross train, strength train, or even take a rest day – I think that would be fine too. OR…you could do FOUR runs some weeks, and FIVE runs other weeks! πŸ˜‰ I do like the idea of sometimes doing a short run on the day after a long run, to help flush your legs and remind you what it feels like to run when your legs are tired.

    I would actually suggest scheduling in two 20 milers. I suggest this mostly for psychological reasons – it’s always possible that your first 20 milers turns into a bad run: It could be hot, you could have fueling issues, it might not be your day, etc, etc, etc. Having a second shot at the 20 doubles your probability of having at least one good 20 during your training cycle. Psychologically, I think this is important. Plus, if something happens one week (unexpected travel, illness, a tweaky leg, etc.), you can always cut one out, knowing there’s another on your schedule. Anyway, just my 2 cents!

    But either way – there’s no right or wrong – just keep track of what you did, and what worked, so you can tweak, adjust, and use it again in the future, if you want!

    1. Thank you for your guidance! I’m also hoping to include at least one day of cross training in addition to my running days.

      Your reasoning behind having the two 20 milers really clears things up for me! All I could think of was that I’d be beating myself up twice. I didn’t even consider how having everything hinging on that one really long long run could stress me out/screw up my training/etc.

  6. Congrats!!! I wrote a long reply to this post at the beach using my iPhone, but quickly discovered that I can’t comment on Blogger blogs from my phone. Anyway, at this point my opinion is obsolete since you’ve already come up with your hybrid plan… which is along the lines of my comment. Can’t wait to see how training goes for you. Let’s try to meet for a training run on the Huckleberry Trail when I’m down your way this fall!

    1. Aw I’m sorry Blogger doesn’t want to talk to your iPhone. I was going to go with WordPress when I initially started my blog, but I couldn’t figure that website out. Blogger was so much more user friendly for me.

      YES! Let’s run together on the Huckleberry this fall! I think I run a little slower than your usual long run pace, so as long as you don’t mind me slowing you down a bit πŸ™‚

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