Coach’s Blog #2

Coach’s Blog #2 – April 14th, 2014


Basic Marathon Training Philosophy and Plan Overview:

This week I’d like to expand on the basic training philosophy and explain the four phases and objectives of each phase in the training plan.

The training plans follow the philosophy endorsed by RRCA, with the basic principles of Overload/Recovery, and Specificity. So what does this mean?

If you look at any of the three plans, they are structured into a series of short weekly runs, Rest or cross-training days and the Long Run. With each successive run you will Overload or stress your leg muscles and your breathing & energy systems and then RECOVER either by running a very easy short run or by Resting from running. As the long run distance builds you will progressively Overload your body and then recover. Notice also that the weekly runs slowly build in distance over time, providing a further stress to your body.

By taking time to recover after each stress, your body will slowly adapt to these stresses. It is during the recovery days that you actually grow stronger. Your body adapts to the stress of running and you will become more efficient at running. I will go into greater detail on this in my next update.

I cannot stress more how critically important the recovery time is. Running too often, too many miles and too fast especially during the first 10–13 weeks during the Base Building Phase, will wear you out and it will significantly increase your risk of a running injury.

Fridays are proposed Rest Days to recover from the stresses of the weekly runs and to prepare your body for the really Hard workout – the “Long Run” on Saturday. (if you prefer to do the Long Run on Sunday, then shift the training plan and have Saturday and Monday as rest days).


 The term Specificity training can be explained using the following examples:

• the best way to train your body to be capable of cycling 100+ miles is to practice cycling, a lot. Long periods of time on the bike, trains your body to be able to sit and ride for a very long time.

• to train your body to be capable and comfortable with running 26.2 miles you need to practice running. Consider that most runners will need to be on their feet for between 3.5 to 5+ hours to finish the marathon.


This is not to say cross-training, core exercise work, stretching and even speed work are not important, they can provide some benefit, however, the key to Specificity training to complete a Marathon is the Long Run and running lots of training miles. I will touch on cross-training days and possible activities in a future Blog.

The Long Run distance increases by ~10 % each week and the mid-week miles build slowly over time. Periodically as the weeks go by, there is an additional Recovery referred to as the Long Run “Cut Back” week; the long Run distance is decreased significantly. This is done to help your body recover and further adapt to the steady increase in stress level over the weeks.

To review, the objective of the “Base Building Phase” (first 13 weeks in our plan) is to slowly develop your endurance level and to improve your running economy.

All runs, no matter which plan you are following, should be done at an easy or conversational pace.

For experienced marathoners following the Intermediate plan, after 10 weeks of Base Building, Tempo Runs can be introduced into the Tuesday Run (or Wednesday) to start training your body to increase speed for a specific portion of the run. I will go into this in greater detail in a future blog.


The second phase of the training program (weeks 14 to 19) is the Sharpening Phase where you will continue to adapt your body for even longer endurance runs. In this phase the three training plan diverge considerably with respect to three aspects: total weekly miles, mid-week run distances and Tempo or Hill work outs.


 For the novice runner (first time marathoner) the focus is totally on easy runs to continue to build the Long Run distance and overall total weekly miles. Tempo and Hill work are not recommended for the novice marathoner to minimize the risk of an injury. Your bodies will be taxed to adapt to the Long Run alone, there is no need to further stress your body. The primary training goal is to get you to the start line prepared and capable of completing the marathon happy without regard to a specific finishing time.


For experienced marathoners following the beginner and intermediate plans Tempo or Speed work during the Sharpening phase can help with leg turnover and improve your speed. Theses workouts are key to help increase your overall comfort level at maintaining a specific marathon goal pace for the entire 26.2 miles.

Hill work also improves strength and running economy. The TEMPO, Speed, or Hill workouts are best designed on a personal level with your coach.

We can work together to modify these workouts to meet your capabilities and race goals.


I point out these workouts are considered Hard and put significant stress on your leg muscles and breathing. Therefore, it is recommended that these are done on a Tuesday or Wednesday so that you have had time to recover from the previous long run and to recover before the next Long Run on Saturday.  I will provide examples of these types of workouts much later in the training schedule.


The Taper Phase occurs two weeks out from the marathon race date. The Long Run and total weekly miles are decreased significantly by 35-40% each week. The objective of the Taper is to allow your body to fully recover from the stresses from the long weeks of training, to re-energize and then peak for the marathon day – which is just another Long Run that you have practiced over an over.


The Recovery Phase involves the 2 weeks after the marathon. The objective of this period is to relax, embellish in your accomplishment and allow your body to mend. It is recommended to limit long runs to <6 miles for several weeks as your body fully recovers.


Next week, I will go into greater detail on the Base Build Phase and the science behind the overload/recovery principle.

Please send me an email or comment below if you have any specific questions or if you need some guidance around what training you should consider doing now ahead of the program start date on May 12th.

Happy Running ….


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