Marathon Training Update: Gaining Speed

I’m final­ly get­ting there. I’m up to Week 13 of Hal Hig­don’s Inter­me­di­ate II pro­gram and things are going great. When I start­ed run­ning 18 weeks ago, I had no idea how to approach “race pace” runs. I was so out of shape that I could­n’t even imag­ine where I’d end up for the marathon. I dreamt of run­ning a Boston qual­i­fi­er in my first marathon, but that did­n’t seem very like­ly, even on a friend­ly Philadel­phi­an course.

Today I test­ed myself to find out what I might be able to accom­plish and I was pleas­ant­ly sur­prised. I ran 10 miles in 1:12 and change, which put me at a 7:12/mile pace, three sec­onds ahead of the 7:15 I’d have to main­tain to qual­i­fy for Boston. With a lit­tle more than a month to go before the Philadel­phia Marathon, I’d like to think that, bar­ring injury, I might even improve a bit on that pace.

I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself though. I’m run­ning my sec­ond 20 mile run tomor­row morn­ing from the usu­al start at 21st and Poplar out to For­bid­den Dri­ve and back. I’m going to see if I can get the Garmin Vir­tu­al Part­ner fig­ured out to help me main­tain an 8:15/mile pace tomor­row. I want to be very con­sis­tent and care­ful now that the mileage is reach­ing a peak to pro­tect myself from injury.

It’s a real treat to get out­doors and enjoy the fall weath­er along the Schuykill and Wis­sahick­on. It’s a lit­tle chilly when I leave the house, but feels com­fort­able by the time I get warmed up.

Fast for­ward 24 hours from the pre­vi­ous four para­graphs: I just got back from run­ning 20 miles in 2:41 and change, rough­ly 12 min­utes faster than my last 20 mile time. I tried hold­ing 8:15 miles, but found myself rip­ping off 7:45 and faster splits from the 14 mile point onward. I feel great. I hope I’m not peak­ing too soon, but I think if I keep chal­leng­ing myself over the next month, I’ll be in great shape for the marathon.

I feel like I have a Boston qual­i­fi­er in me if I run smart. Do you think I can do it? If any­one has qual­i­fied for the Boston Marathon and can share train­ing insights, espe­cial­ly with respect to the taper, let me know in the comments!

Marathon Training Update: 50 Mile Week Edition

Yep, you read that right. What­ev­er lin­ger­ing doubts I had about my abil­i­ty to do long mileage were put to rest this week. Not only did I run pain-free, I ran faster than I have in my train­ing thus far. That com­fort trans­lat­ed into a dream­like 20 mil­er yes­ter­day, which Rob and I fin­ished in two hours, fifty-three min­utes and change.

I’m real­ly hap­py to have the Garmin Fore­run­ner 405. Despite a weird bat­tery hic­cup yes­ter­day, it proved an invalu­able train­ing tool. We dis­cov­ered that we ran a bit beyond our rec­om­mend­ed mileage last week­end, thanks to my now com­plete­ly con­den­sa­tion-fried Nike Plus Sportband.

At this point in train­ing, it’s best to have an accu­rate mea­sure to avoid over­train­ing and risk­ing injury. My Garmin does just that, while pro­vid­ing great insight into the actu­al run itself. Neg­a­tive splits, FTW!

The mileage steps back this week, with a long run of 12 miles. The real ben­e­fit is that now I can con­cen­trate on speed and not so much on whether I’ll have enough gas in the tank for Sun­day’s long run. More­over, I’m sure next week will feel even eas­i­er now that long and short weeks alter­nate. I’m already eager to see how much our 20 mile time improves two weeks from now.


When my right ankle bal­looned three weeks ago, I thought my marathon train­ing was over. I knew that the doc­tors would rec­om­mend that I rest and take anti-inflam­ma­to­ries, which I did, but I nev­er expect­ed it to work to the degree it has. Some­times it’s great to be sur­prised, eh?

After run­ning the Philadel­phia Dis­tance Run pain-free, I was excit­ed to get into the Week 10 train­ing, which fea­tured a long run of 19 miles. It was a great week over­all, despite my ongo­ing frus­tra­tion with the Nike Plus Sport­band. We ran the last of our four mile week­day runs, two 9 mile runs and then 19 yesterday.

The weath­er was­n’t per­fect by any stretch of the imag­i­na­tion. My train­ing part­ner Rob called at 5:30 a.m. to say that we should prob­a­bly push our start time back from 6:15 to 7, just to see if the weath­er would clear up a lit­tle bit. For­tu­nate­ly for us it did and we were able to run in a light driz­zle to a fine mist along our stan­dard “long-run” route from Fair­mount all the way out to the red cov­ered bridge that spans the Wissahickon.

In the end we based our mileage on time rather than dis­tance. Why? Because the Nike Plus Sport­band is such an unre­li­able piece of equip­ment, a posi­tion I’ve held for a while. It’s been so frus­trat­ing to have to guessti­mate mileage that I decid­ed to buy the Garmin Fore­run­ner 405. When you’re run­ning any­thing over 10 miles, I think it’s best to have a pret­ty exact­ing piece of equip­ment. Based on what I’ve read and the peo­ple I’ve spo­ken to who’ve used it, I think this is the answer.

This week is a major step-up in train­ing. It’s a fifty mile week, with runs of five, 10, five, 10 and 20 miles. As much as dis­tance has been an issue with the Nike prod­uct, pace has been a night­mare, too. We’ll be able to train more effec­tive­ly with the Garmin than we have at any pri­or point in train­ing. Yes­ter­day we caught up with a guy on a 20 mile run and ran a 7 minute mile with him from mile­mark­er 15 to 16. It was so reas­sur­ing to know that we have that kind of ener­gy that far into a long run.

If you can’t tell, I’m start­ing to get real­ly excit­ed about the marathon. My weight has dropped into the low 180’s and I’m get­ting clos­er to my goal weight of 170 by race day. I’ve been doing weight train­ing before work three days a week to great effect. While I don’t think a Boston qual­i­fi­er is in my future, at least not for this marathon, I think I may be able to break the 3:30 bar­ri­er with a lit­tle bit of luck. I’ll keep you post­ed as always on my progress.


I ran the Philadel­phia Dis­tance Run yes­ter­day. I fin­ished in 1:44:38, neg­a­tive-split­ting from the 10K point for­ward. I fin­ished at a 7:59 mile pace! My Nike Plus Sport­band alleges that I still haven’t finished.

The Philadel­phia Dis­tance Run fell at the halfway point between the offi­cial start of my train­ing and the Philadel­phia Marathon. I feel like I’m mak­ing great progress and that the next two months will get me to my goal of break­ing four hours for the marathon.

I want to espe­cial­ly thank Mark Gat­ti for let­ting me run with him on Sun­day. He set a great pace and was a fun per­son to chat with through­out the race. He also has an amaz­ing kick for that final mile! You can check out his pro­file here in the Inquir­er.


I have two doc­tors appoint­ments tomor­row. I’m not hap­py about the two days of train­ing I’ve missed, but I’m hope­ful that the doc­tors will tell me how I can work around what­ev­er’s going on with my right ankle. The best case sce­nario is shin splints; worst case is a stress frac­ture like­ly aid­ed by a kick to the shin dur­ing a soc­cer game on the beach at Helen’s birth­day par­ty. Ouch. Developing…

I rode my bike to work yes­ter­day so I could leave it with the good peo­ple at Bicy­cle Ther­a­py. I don’t have a bike pump that works with my tires and they were get­ting dan­ger­ous­ly low. That’s not every­thing that needs work though. I’ve had it since April 28th and have rid­den who knows how many miles. I can’t wait to have it back now that the weath­er’s a bit cooler.

All in all, I’m pleased with the progress I’ve made since April. If I’m hob­bled by a stress frac­ture, all I can do is con­cen­trate on heal­ing and think about run­ning next year’s marathon instead.