Understanding The Marathon and How To Beat It!

Oh the Marathon! A distance that has broken many a men/women. 26.2 miles is such an intriguing distance. It’s a distance that can leave a runner completely smashed. You can train and train for it, be in the best shape of your life and yet, anything and everything can go wrong. One minute you feel like you are flying and literally within the next minute, you can feel like you have been hit by a Mack truck. It’s not just a race of toughness, strategy and proper training, it’s also one of science too. It’s the one distance (excluding ultras) that requires you to understand your body on a much more internal and physiological level. In no other race does pacing become so important. In a 5k, you can go out too fast and yet can hold on and survive to the finish, losing merely a few seconds. Go out fast in a marathon and burn through your energy stores too quickly and, it becomes a death march that no amount of mental toughness can overcome. The body just shuts down, no matter how tough you think you are.

So what is this mysterious race that now draws in 100s’ of thousands of people each year? Why is it becoming increasingly popular and how can you achieve your best marathon potential?

I will spare you all the facts and history of the marathon and cut more to the chase of how to prepare and train for one. However, if you are interested in such material, here is the link that goes into greater detail


For years, the marathon was thought of as a race that was determined just as much by chance, as much as by training. Nearly anyone racing a marathon, thought that “hitting the wall” was inevitable and that it was just a matter of who could push through it and persevere on to the finish.
Today however, coaches and runners are starting to realize that the marathon can be raced and, is being raced, in the same fashion as the shorter running distances. Why is this? It’s because runners are now starting to treat the marathon just as they would any other distance. In order to be best prepared for a certain pace, your body must become very comfortable with that pace.

For years, the LONG RUN was considered the absolute staple in preparing for a marathon. It wasn’t and still isn’t uncommon for a marathoner in training, to go out and run multiple 20-30 milers in preparation for their upcoming 26.2. The mindset is that in order to run the marathon distance, the runner must become very comfortable running “near”, “at” or “over” the marathon distance. That couldn’t be further from the truth though!

In order to cover the distance, the body is better prepared if, the body has put itself through similar distances of what it will be asked to do on race day, right? Well, not really!
Lets consider the numbers of the marathon and break it down by various skill levels of runners. The IDEAL cadence of a runner is said to be 180 steps per minute (90 per foot) and that majority of the elite runners of the world, fall into the 175-185 range.

So, lets say that we have 3 different runners of different marathon ability (based on finishing time) and that all of them have a running cadence of 180 foot strikes per minute. With those numbers, a 3 hour marathoner would take 32,400 steps per marathon, a 4 hour marathoner would take 43,200 steps per marathon, a 5 hour marathoner would take 54,000 steps per marathon.

Huge differences huh? So, lets break it down a bit further. Lets say that each runner averages 40 miles per week in training over the course of a 16 week marathon training cycle. Of those 3 runners, lets have a 10:00 per mile average pace for Runnner A, an average pace of 8:00 for Runner B and an average pace of 7:00 for Runner C. Doing the math, here is what we get.
Runner A = 72,000 steps per week (or 1,152,000 over 16 weeks)
Runner B = 57,600 steps per week (or 921,600)
Runner C = 50,400 steps per week (or 806,400)

The difference in steps between Runner A and Runner C being 347,600. That sure is a lot more pounding, torque and impact forces on the body, huh? That doesn’t even consider the differences in caloric expenditure for the energy required to lift the body off the ground that many times and propel it forward.

So how would a “slower” runner decrease the number of total steps and drop their overall race times? Get faster, duh!! Sounds simple enough, right? But how would this take place?
For simplistic purposes, lets not get into all the physiological changes and improvements that are made with certain types of training (Vo2max, aerobic threshold, anaerobic threshold, etc.) Lets solely discuss biomechanics!

Anyone who has ever ran much at all, knows that there is a “sweet spot” in regards to their perfect running gate and, it’s the spot where they are most efficient. It’s that spot where you are just “gliding”. Now, the problem with that is, though it may be the most biomechanically efficient spot, your under developed cardio, respiratory or musculoskeletal systems, will be the deciding factor as to how long you can maintain that level of effort and how long you can stay within that “sweet spot”.

So what does this have to do with the LONG RUN? Well, in regards to 99% of the traditional marathon training plans, it’s counterintuitive. If your goal is to run a 9 minute per mile pace for 26.2 miles, then what in the hell does a 20 miler at 10:30 pace do? One, it isn’t even covering the marathon distance (merely 76% of it) and TWO, it isn’t even close to the pace you are trying to sustain for a distance that is 24% longer. Why is all of this important?

Lets take a typical marathon plan where the runner does their long runs at 60-90 seconds per mile slower than their intended race pace. For every one hour of running, the differences between a 9:00 pace, 9:30 pace or a 10:30 pace, is (in caloric units) 744, 704 and 637. So, with the runner wanting to run a 4 hour marathon (approx 9:00 mile pace), that is a total difference of 428 calories between the 9:00-10:30 paces. What does that mean? Simply put, running those “LONG SLOW MILES”, does not teach the body to become efficient at all at race type pacing and in fact, a LSD run has a much different calorie burn ratio than that of a run that more closely mimics your race goal pace. Yes, you want to teach the body to burn fat more efficiently, which is what most people think they are doing with the LSD run. The problem with that is, most runners still eat before their long run and also take in calories during their long run, thus, never really teaching their body to make the transition of burning a higher ratio of fat to carbohydrate.

So should you totally eliminate the LONG RUN? Absolutely not! There are many a benefit to the long run, however, it’s the traditional method in which you would run the long run, that you should eliminate. An increased fitness level is more important and more of a deciding factor than is the higher volume or higher frequency of long runs. In a typical plan, the long runs are continually increased (usually on a weekly basis) before the body has adapted to them and before the body is capable of adequately handling them.
Let me explain in more detail of what I mean. Lets say you are training for your first marathon and are an intermediate runner (meaning you have ran many shorter distances but now want to tackle the marathon and run a faster time). For this example, you have a PR half marathon of 1:55 and would like to run a “sub 4:00 marathon”. How would you go about your LONG RUN scheduling and execution? Well, in traditional fashion, you would likely start out your first week of training at 10 or so miles and add 2 miles or so every week, until your reach your max of 20, 22, 24, etc. The problem with the typical style of increasing mileage is that, it doesn’t really allow enough time for the body to adapt in between the increase. You just go from 10 miles, to 12, to 14….for a marathoner who intends to run 10:00 pace for their long run, that is 20 minutes additional running tacked onto their weekly long run, with each uptick of 2 miles. To add insult to injury, the 10 miler on week one was likely much slower than goal race pace, yet the following week is 12 miles, then 14…before the body is really even callused or ready to handle the increase.

The more logical approach to this is, to let your body adapt to a stimulus, before adding another stimulus. The body, it doesn’t know anything about mileage. The body doesn’t know the difference between a mile, a yard, a kilometer, a foot, etc. What the body understands is frequency, duration and, intensity. It is similar to the “biological clock”. If not for an alarm, your body will wake up when it is ready to and when it feels that it has rested enough. Same goes with the running. The body needs to adapt to the 10 miler first, before jumping to 12, then to 14..etc, etc.

So what is the ideal time to allow for adaptation before introducing an increase? Though there are many studies that have been conducted, there is no exact amount of time, per se, however, it is said that 10-14 days is the average amount of time it takes for the body to absorb, adapt and respond to an introduced stimulus. With that said, lets take a 20 week marathon plan for example.
In a traditional plan, you might see the long run start at 10 miles in Week 1, building to 20 miles by week 12, then backing off for a week or two, before repeating the 18 and 20 mile runs again.

A more productive approach (in my experience, as well as all those I coach), a 20 week plan would look like this.
Week 1-3 (2 hours with % of MRP fluctuating)
Week 4 (1:45 hours at a slower steady pace..step back week)
Week 5-7 (2:15 hours with % of MRP fluctuating)
Week 8 (1:45 hours but a slower steady pace..step back week)
Week 9-11 (2:30 hours with % of MRP fluctuating)
Week 12 (1:45 hours but a slower steady pace..step back week)
Week 13-15 (2:45 hours with % of MRP fluctuating)
Week 16 (1:45 hours but a slower steady pace..step back week)
Week 17 (50% of goal race finishing time up to max of 2h and 30m, with 60% of duration ran at goal race pace)
Week 18 (A race up to 60% of marathon distance, ran at goal marathon pace or, a run of 70% of goal distance, with 50% at goal marathon pace.)
Week 19 (up to 55% of total distance, with 40% of total distance ran at goal marathon pace)
Week 20 (marathon race)

Using time vs. distance, this allows for all levels of runners to obtain the same quality of training, based on their own fitness levels. Lets take two different runners here, both the same age, relatively same weight and very similar resting and max heart rates. Now, the big difference is that Runner A is training for and capable of running a 3 hour marathon, whereas Runner B is training for and capable of a 5 hour marathon. Lets say that for their 20 mile Saturday long run, they both run at relatively the same percentages of VO2max, as well as roughly the same % of Max Heart Rate. Running at a LSD (Long Slow Distance) pace of roughly 1 minute per mile slower than their respective goal marathon pace, it takes Runner A 2 hours and 37 minutes to run 20 miles, while it takes Runner B, 4 hours and 10 minutes to run the same 20 miles. A difference of 1 hour and 33 minutes. So aside from the additional amount of time spent pounding the ground and taking thousands of more steps, Runner B also puts a greater strain on his cardio system and, will likely take greater time to recover from the 20 miles, therefore, never being as prepared as he should be for the following weeks workouts. Repeat this on a weekly basis and you can see why so many runners are beat up and are literally limping into the start of the race.

So if not the traditional long run approach, then what else?

First off, I am not here to say that long runs aren’t important because I do believe they are. But, I believe its the duration of the run that is most important, not the exact number of miles. In regards to miles, the only thing they improve, is possibly your psyche by reaffirming that you can in fact run a certain distance without dying (albeit slow!!)

In the past, it was thought that the traditional LSD was the best way to build those precious mitochondria (the power plant of the muscle) but, new research is showing that it’s the shorter, more intense workouts that build mitochondria at higher rates.

For any distance but, particularly the marathon, you should focus on 4 types of runs, based on where they fall into your training cycle and how they specifically relate to what it is you are trying to achieve. Each type of run works a different system and dials in on certain thresholds.

RECOVERY/REGENERATION – This type of running is meant solely to help speed up the recovery process from a previous days hard workout. This can also be light xtraining (aqua jogging or cycling being two of the better options). The intent with this type of workout is nothing more than getting the systems flowing and also to allow time for the blood pH levels to return to normal, before going out and hitting another hard workout. There should be no concern with mileage for this type of running. In terms of “what pace”, the pace is basically that of a true warmup/cooldown pace. About 60-70 percent of max heart rate.

Functional – This is the running that is down at “slower” than than your goal race pace and is around your aerobic threshold pace. This is that “sweet spot” pace that you can seemingly run forever without causing much stress to the body. In regards to “what pace”, this is that pace that is in the 50-70 seconds slower than 5k pace or the pace that corresponds to goal marathon pace to about 30 seconds per mile slower than goal marathon pace. Right around 80% or so of max heart rate.

Sub Pace – This running is the running you’ll do that works on extending your endurance relative to your specific race event. Since we are talking about the marathon here, the distances will obviously be shorter than race distance but, at substantially faster speeds, all the while falling back into marathon pace as a “recovery”. Any “speed work” or “tempo” work will fall into this category. For a marathoner, the paces most commonly associated with these workouts are 5k pace, 10k pace and if higher volume, more between the 10k-half marathon pace range. These paces will produce the highest percentages of max heart rate. Ranges of 85-100% here, depending on intensity, duration or combination of both.
Example workout;
5 minutes @ MRP + 10 seconds per mile
4 minutes @ half MRP
3 minutes @ 10k pace
1 minute @ 5k pace
10 minutes @ MRP

Entire set is continuous, with no breaks between any of the pace changes. Beginners would start with 1 set and build to 2, while advanced would start with 2 sets and build to 4.

Race Specific – This is the running that will be most closely related to your goal race pace. For marathoners, this pace will be in the range of 15 seconds +/- of your goal marathon pace. For instance, a 3:30 marathoner who is aiming to run 8:00 per mile pace, would be in the range of 7:45-8:15. This running is reserved mostly for long marathon tempo runs, a % of your long run (up to 75% of the long run) and also as a “recovery” pace in between your “sub pace”.

The importances of training at these various paces, are many. Regularly changing paces for different workouts, improves efficiency at your various race paces, improved biomechanics, Vo2, aerobic threshold, improved ability to process fat over glycogen and to teach the body to preserve glycogen for longer durations of training.

So, with all the above mentioned advice, the BIGGEST thing to take away from it all is, PATIENCE!! The marathon is a true patience race, both during the race itself and during the buildup in training. It may take 2, 6 or 15 marathons before you get it exactly right but, your chances of having the best possible marathon will be increased if you put yourself in the best possible situation to have a great marathon.

A good friend and training partner of mine, Kris Lawrence http://kris-lawrence.com/ has ran 9 marathons from 2009-2013. During that time, she has consistently PR’d. Over multiple courses, across various terrain of the country, she has not regressed once. WHY you ask? Knowing Kris well, my opinion is that 1.) She focuses on 1-2 marathons a year, building all of her preparatory training around those two races, using everything else as training. 2.) She takes a considerable amount of downtime to recover and regroup after each of those key races, then, builds back gradually, NOT where she left off at.

To tackle the marathon, you have to be dedicated and committed, not just to the running aspect of it but, to all other complimentary aspects as well. There is no doubt that the marathon is tough, especially when trying to race it. With that said, set yourself up for a great race by starting on the first day of your training program. Go into each workout with the mentality that you would the race. Make each workout count for its intended purpose and know that EACH workout should have a purpose and not just be another slog of miles to pad the log book.

To help make marathon training more enjoyable, join a group, recruit other fellow runner friends to join you on those tough runs. Work on your weaknesses and also channel your strengths.

Remember, “The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in battle”.

So, as we are finishing out this year, head into 2014 with the best plan to get you that new PR and your most enjoyable marathon yet. If you need a plan or would like to try something new, contact The Endurance Project @ dwenduranceproject@gmail.com


Tis the Season for Change!

So here you are, approaching the end of another year. Closing the door on one chapter of your life and, moving onto the next. As you reflect, 2013 may have been a pretty damn good year or, it may have just been another year, not that different from years past. Upon reflection, what do you plan to do in 2014, to make it an even better year, a better you?

As runners, we tend to get stuck in a rut, be it a good or bad one. We are creatures of habit and we prefer to stay that way because well, change can be scary. Change is something that offers no certainty and no proof of better days to come. We like to get caught up in our comfortable routine and it is there that we will stay for years to come, particularly when we have settled for what that routine offers.

For runners, this is all too common. We get caught up in our consistency of being consistent and the idea of change just might mess that up and, that scares the shit out of us! For years, you have run the same consistent times in your 5k, your 10k, marathon…..You have found a little hole that you are comfortable with and you have climbed in and built a home. Each week, each month, each year are nearly mirrored images of the ones previous. Sure, you change up a bit of the structure here and there but, in the grand scheme of things, it’s the same ole tempos, speed work, long runs, blah, blah, blah!!!

Nothing changes, nothing varies and you never improve. You keep telling yourself, the next race, “I am going to PR”…I am going to do better but, you never actually do. You spend weeks and months training for the next race, only to find that the next race was another let down. You had such high hopes and they just didn’t play out the way you wanted. So, what do you do? NOTHING!! You go right back into the same routine, going through the motions like a zombie…and so it goes, on and on and on!!!

So what are you to do?? Well, here are some ideas to get you out of that funk and get you moving in a positive direction.

1. Embrace a change – Instead of fearing a change in your routine, embrace it. Don’t be scared to find innovative ways to improve upon your current training. Doing so might just allow the little bit of tweaking you need to get over that hump and discover the best you that you can be.

2. Variety – take a look at your current training and see what is lacking. Find a way to mix it up. Instead of doing the same runs, week in and week out, substitute other means of training. This could be a change in the types of runs you do or, by throwing in some new cross training. Throw in some swimming, a weekly bike ride with some cyclist friends who are non-runners, etc., etc.

3. Become a part of something – Find a local running club, group, or gym and, join them. Finding like minded individuals can be a huge bonus. Having others around to push you, motivate you and break the monotony, may be just one little change that can make all the difference in the world.

4. Get outside your comfort zone – Sure, you have no problem getting out the door and running most days of the week, if not all 7 days of the week but, how often are you really pushing yourself? If you are only running for the sake of running, to log miles and give you a reason to eat that piece of cake, then don’t expect much improvement. Once you have maximized your current fitness, doing the same routine over and over only provides a maintenance effect and does not cause any need for adaptation. In order for the body to make continuos improvement, you must constantly apply small amounts of stress so that the body has a reason to adapt and come back stronger after having adapted to the stress. Doing so will require you to get outside your comfort zone. It’s going to mean that you will have to push yourself a bit but, if you consistently do so, you will continue to see small gains that will, in time, turn into BIG gains and big improvements.

5. Don’t fear regression – when starting a new training plan, realize that it will take several weeks to start seeing any meaningful results. During this time, you are likely to see a bit of regression as your body makes the necessary adaptations to the new changes. You may be a bit more fatigued than what you were use to, feel as if your running has gotten worse, etc. Think of it like detox. If you have basically been doing the exact same thing for the past X amount of years, then your body has gotten dependent on the routine and has grown callused. Once you cut off the callus, there is new skin beneath. The same goes with training. Once you have outline your new plan, give it 6-8 weeks minimum. Your new routine may have you waking up earlier to get in a run before work or, it might include “two a day” runs, maybe some new strength work, etc. Whatever the changes are that you have made, the body needs time to adjust and adapt to a new routine and new levels of stress.

6. Focus on your weaknesses – Maybe you have always been a horrible hill runner, a good marathoner with a less than impressive 5k time, maybe your diet is horrible or you stay up too late. Whatever your weakness, find ways to improve upon them. If hills are your nemesis, implement some hill training into your plan. Throw in some speed work to bring down that 5k time. If you stay up late and eat whatever you want, go to bed an hour earlier and clean up the diet. Little changes and improvement upon your weaknesses, can pay huge dividends in getting you to the next rung on the ladder.

7. Give back – As a human being and as a runner, it is your obligation to give back when you can. As a runner, this can mean many things. This could be volunteering for some races, pacing a friend, become a part of a youth running mentorship program, etc. You’ll be surprised just how much you can gain by giving back to the community that you are a part of. Getting involved will open up so many doors and opportunities.

8. HAVE FUN – this one, particularly for the “Average Joe” runner, is likely the most important. Everyday life stresses with family, work, bills, etc., are bad enough, why make something you love become another stress? Take your running serious but, don’t take it serious! Meaning, running should not become something that owns you. If you have to miss a run for some other obligation, then so be it!! After all, it’s just a run!! One run won’t make you and one run won’t break you! Once running becomes stressful, then it also becomes toxic. Stay focused but, ENJOY THE RIDE!!

So there you have it! A few tips that you can take with you into the upcoming year. Set goals, work hard, stay focused, have fun and, KICK ASS!!

Enjoy the rest of 2013, have some great holiday down time with family and friends and, we’ll see you out there on the roads and trails, come 2014! Happy Holidays and Happy Training!

Endurance Project Athlete of The Month (November)

As you all know, over the past several months, The Endurance Project has been choosing an athlete of the month. The chosen individual is one who has exemplified all the things that go into making a great athlete. These chosen individuals are being noticed and recognized for their hard work, commitment, improvement, motivation, adherence to the core values of the group and their unselfishness to the sport.

Typically, we only choose one athlete each month, however, this month we were a bit torn and decided that we would have two Athletes of The Month!

With that said, let me introduce to you, Michael Leech


Michael and I have been working together since around June 2011, prior to the Endurance Project being created, when it was still just a vision. Because Mike lives up on the Peninsula and we usually only get to see him on races, his improvements always seem so drastic, be it by lowering his time, or dropping weight and getting more fit.

As mentioned above, Mike started running again in 2011 and was “serious” but, was still getting back into it after 10+ years of layoff. Improvements came and then plateaued for several months. Mike was running, but without much purpose. In fact, it was Mike who became somewhat of an Endurance Project “test subject”.  I myself had been working on some theories and ideas I had for training and was putting them into practice on myself, however, I didn’t really have anyone else who were regularly running the workouts yet. Mike, being the analytical and science driven guy that he is, was onboard with and supported a good majority of my “unorthodoxed” methods.

During 2012, Mike continued to improve at a steady rate, dropping 2+ minutes off his 5k times, going from 1:40 down to 1:27 in the half marathon and also running his first marathon, finishing in a great debut time of 3:29.

With an excellent 2012 behind him and with a bit more hunger, Mike came out swinging for the fences in 2013. With several months of structured training under his belt and a cleaned up diet/lifestyle, Mike became easily the most improved athlete in the group. Granted, he was running well before but now, Mike was starting to put the pressure on many local runners who never considered him a threat before. Before, he was “decent” but now, he was starting to work his way up the ranks and was consistently starting to hang with and or beat some of the top local runners of the 757.

His big debut race of 2013 was the Shamrock marathon in March. With a PR of 3:29 coming in, Mike was aiming for a 3:05 or better, in hopes of securing a Boston Qualifier spot for 2014. Running a great first half, Mike had some stomach issues over the second half, costing him some valuable time. But, rather than give in, Mike got tough and pushed through, finishing in 3:04:54 and getting that BQ spot.

After Shamrock, Mike started focusing more on “speed” and shorter distances over the summer, so that he’d have the power and strength going into the fall marathon season. During this time, Mike lowered his PR’s in the 5k, 8k and 10k, setting himself up nicely for a great fall half marathon and marathon season.

Fast forward to the months of October/November and  you will see that THIS is why Mike was chosen as an athlete of the month. Mike had chosen the Marine Corp Marathon as his “A” race of the year. Being a former Marine, this was a very important race for him for many reasons and he was aiming for a sub 3 hour marathon.

As anyone who knows that marathon, they know that it is the most unforgiving race, one that will have you feeling awesome one minute and then feeling like death the very next minute. From the gun, Mike just couldn’t really find his rythm and on a hilly and tough course, had to settle for a 3:02. Granted, this was a new PR of over 2 minutes for Mike but, it was off of his goal and he was not satisfied. Though he made no excuses, Mike had been taking on a full plate of work, school, home renovations, being a father, having a pregnant wife, etc. I told him that his marathon was not indicative of his current fitness and that he was ready to go faster and could still use some of his peaking, if done right.

So, with a two week reverse taper coming off the marathon, Mike jumps in a local half marathon to “see how he felt”. Mike promised me that if he didn’t feel right, he’d back off and just make it a casual run. Well, apparently he felt good and even managed the WIN!! Finishing in 1:22 and lowering his previous half PR by another 2 minutes. But, was he finished yet?? Of course not!! LOL

By way of getting a free race entry into the Richmond marathon, Mike says “I want redemption”. We talked about the rigors of running another marathon, just 3 weeks removed from his previous marathon. Again, Mike said that he would not “push it” at any point in the race and would just run based on what his body gave him for the day. Well, running relaxed and nearly identical splits, Mike got his sub first sub 3 hour marathon, finishing in 2:58 and dropping 4 minutes off his previous PR.

So, over the course of a month, Mike runs two marathons and a half, PRing them both and in the process, becoming part of the sub 3 hour marathon club. But, of course he isn’t quite finished yet for the year. To round out his breakout year of 2013, Mike will be running the Seashore 50k at First Landing State Park, before finally taking off a bit of down time over the holidays and then gearing back up for the 2014 seasons.

Aside from being an accomplished runner, Mike is also a great father, husband (soon to be welcoming a new member to the Leech clan) and friend. Being the unselfish runner that he is, Mike is often seen at local races, pacing youth runners and or other runners who are hoping for a PR. The past 18 months or so, it has been a pleasure to work with Mike and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for this guy 🙂

Our co-athlete of the month is, Laura Burkett, who has been putting up some impressive training and racing these past couple months. Laura started working with the Endurance Project in May 2013. Laura is one of our “out of town” athletes, who does not live in the 757. Though Laura is a former ODU student, who frequently comes down and races many of the J&A races, she actually lives up in Fredricksburg, VA.

When Laura joined the Endurance Project, she was your typical runner. She had done lots of half marathon and below distances, had done her first marathon earlier in the year but, was starting to grow stale and not seeing much in the way of further improvement. She was running a good amount of mileage throughout the week but, none of it was with much purpose.

Immediately, I cut back her mileage by prescribing nothing but “time based runs”…Never giving her an exact mileage and never actually increasing the mileage on any particular run. At first, it was hard for her to wrap her head around time vs. mileage but after several weeks and unbeknownst to her, she was adding more mileage, without purposely doing so. Over the course of 12 weeks and without increasing the amount of weekly time spent running, Laura increased her total weekly mileage by 16 miles per week, without intentionally increasing the mileage. Meaning, she got faster as she progressed and by default, increased mileage when her body was ready to do so.

Luara’s first big race to see how her summer of training had been paying off, was the Crawling Crab half marathon. Going into the race, she had a previous best time of 1:45 for the half marathon. At Crawling Crab, on a day of unexpected heat and humidity, Laura kept it together and finished with a time of 1:41:05 (a PR of over 4 minutes). On a day that most runners wilted in the conditions, Laura ran strong and was among just a few runners who managed to PR that day.

Based on that performance, we knew that she was now ready to go after her “long shot” goal of getting a Boston Qualifying time at her “A” race, the Richmond Marathon, later the next month. In my mind, there was no doubt that she had the fitness to get that BQ but, it was a matter of convincing her own mind that she could do it.

3 weeks out from the marathon, I had one more planned long run for her. Because she had been getting nervous about not running any of the traditional length long runs that most training plans call for, particularly  the magical 20 miler, I wanted to create something that would prove to her that her fitness was there and the workout was designed in a way to keep her mind from thinking about the overall pace. The workout was broken up into intervals and she was given instruction to stop at either the 2 hour and 45 minute mark or 20 miles, whichever came first.

On the morning of that particular run, she was supposed to eat and fuel as she would on race day. This was the last gauging and simulation run. Well, needless to say, it worked. She got to 20 miles right at 2 hours and 40 minutes, with an average pace that worked out to be nearly just slightly faster than her goal marathon pace of 8:10 per mile.

Race morning at the Richmond marathon, it was chilly and raining. In the hotel lobby, Laura was a bit nervous and still seemed a bit unsure about the pace she needed to run. My advice to her was, treat it like any other long run. Go out with the 3:35 pace group and stay there until mile 18. If you still feel good at mile 18, pick it up and pad the clock a bit.

Laura executed the plan perfectly, running a negative split marathon and finishing in 3:33:32, good enough for a 22 minute PR (her previous was 3:55) and a Boston Qualifying time!!


Aside from being a very disciplined and talented runner, Laura is also going to nursing school and pursuing her other passion beyond running. Keep an eye out for Laura as she continues to achieve and improve upon her goals, running and otherwise. Next weekend, Laura will be capping off her 2013 year of racing with the Surf n Santa ten miler in Virginia Beach.

So there you have it, two awesome athletes, sharing November’s athlete of the month. What hard working athlete will receive the award for December?