Going from 3:21->3:15

As most runners do, I like to go back and take note of things that worked during the previous training cycle as well as highlight some things I plan to improve upon or change. For this post, I am focusing on things I changed which seemed to work – and which ultimately helped me run my strongest and most-consistent marathon to date.

(Note: Even though my PR went from 3:21 to 3:15, the PR was from a few years of training so some of these changes were over a period of time.)

  • Garmin-free as much as possible. This may not work for a lot of runners – but for me, it worked wonders. My problem has always been that I push TOO HARD when I should be taking it easy. Almost every single easy or recovery run this cycle were done sans GPS (unless I was on treadmill). This allowed me to honor the true purpose of “easy” days. Easy-paced days should be just that – easy. Pace is secondary to effort. And so in order to focus on effort and not get distracted by pace, I left the watch at home and either ran routes where I was familiar wih mileage or ran for a set amount of time and ballparked the distance. These runs quickly changed from my least favorite runs of the week to my favorite. It was a time for me to zone out, enjoy the sunrises and let my body actively recover from the stress days.photo 2 (9)
  • Slowing down the long run. I look back at previous training cycles and can’t help but raise my eyebrows at my long runs. Similar to going garmin-free, I believe I was pushing too hard on a weekly basis and exhausting myself too often. This cycle, I focused on going easier on long runs and saving the faster paces for those long runs that required it (long run tempos). Winter running made this much easier – I kept my garmin under my jacket and would only feel the vibration of the miles – but I ran in blissful ignorance regarding the pace. Most runs were between 7:50-8:10 – which was well within the range my coach had given me (and almost all were progression runs).
  • More strength and core work. I touched on this a few times this training cycle. One of my goals for 2015 was to do more strength work and I think I have succeeded so far. Most weeks I got in 2x 30-35 min strength workouts and 2-3x 20+ min core workouts. Some weeks maybe a bit more, other weeks a bit less. And I whole-heartedly believe that they paid off heavily last Monday. strength2
  • Long Runs outside. Again, I covered this at the start of the year. My 2nd goal was to run outside as much as possible regardless of weather. I race on the roads, so I wanted to train on the roads. With the exception of one long run (plan called for a long tempo – it was 10 degrees out and I wanted to focus on hitting specific paces), every single long run was outside.long run
  • Incline on treadmill – 1%. My husband did a lot of traveling this cycle and so a good amount of my running was on the treadmill. I talked about increasing the incline from .5% to 1% in this post – and I really believe this helped – if for nothing else, than because it more accurately gave me and my coach an idea of my fitness. And for easy/recovery runs, I played around with incline – from 1%-3.5% – simulating rolling hills as often as I could.
  • Less=more (esp during taper and race week). I think in previous training cycles, I felt SO tied to a training plan that I missed cues my body were giving me. I HAD to run those 5 miles. Or hit the higher end if my coach gave me a range. I couldn’t take a day off. I haven’t talked much about the weeks leading up to the race, but I ended up taking a few extra days off, especially during the last 10 days of taper. Some days I physically was not feeling it, other days, I was mentally not up to it. Missing a few miles during race week will not affect race performance (especially when you are still moving around throughout the day). In my opinion, it’s far better to be rested than pushing yourself just to run those extra few miles.


    Lots of this

  • Increase meat/eggs, decrease processed foods. I talked about some of the changes we made with our diets here. My husband and I made a conscious effort to minimize the amount of processed food we consume as a household and instead eat more fresh veggies, fruit and meat (mostly beef and chicken). While basic, dinners most nights were bbq or baked chicken, sweet potatoes and a salad packed with veggies.
  • Mental Training. I think you’ve me babble on enough about this already. But something clicked during Boston when things started to get tough. The negative thoughts didn’t affect my running. I acknowledged the doubts in my mind and the pain in my body and then moved on.
  • Coaching. One of the best decisions I made last year was working with Coach Hadley. I began following his plan after the NJ Marathon last spring. I have three new PRs under him (mile, 5k, marathon) and believe in my heart that I would have set PRs in 10k and/or half marathon if I had raced them this spring as well. Coach Hadley’s race strategy for Boston got me this PR. After working together for 6-8 months, he understood my racing and pacing strengths and weaknesses and tailored a plan for ME (he gave me a pretty wide range of paces from start to finish – much wider than he normally gives).
  • Smarter Pacing for Races: I had about 2:45 (first half 1:36:33, second half 1:38:42) positive split for Boston – and considering the hills and wind, I could not have hoped for a more consistent race. Regardless of what shape you are in, if you don’t have a smart pacing strategy, especially for Boston, you are setting yourself up for failure. I went out slower than I have in any of my recent marathons and was able to maintain that pace through the finish.

Have you made any changes in training that helped you run a PR?

Hope you had a great weekend – Happy May!!


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    8 thoughts on “Going from 3:21->3:15

    1. I also love working with a coach and it has helped me SO much. I’m not one to obsessively check my Garmin so I’m ok with wearing it but I could def take it easier on some of my runs too. I usually think “more, harder, faster” and there’s days that should just be very easy. I’ll be tweaking my training for NYC (adding another strength day too!) and hope to reach my ultimate goal.
      Allie recently posted..The Rundown – Recovery Week!My Profile

    2. I carried your “You can give up or give more” with me the whole way yesterday. Thank you for your encouragement and faith in me!!!

    3. Awesome awesome awesome!!!!! I have been really working at taking easy days easy too. I also try to do as many runs as humanly possible outside. Another thing that I think has helped me is doing my speed work on the roads instead of the track…I race mostly longer and on the road, so might as well train on the road too. For shorter repeats (400 and sometimes 800) I go to the track though. So far I have gone from 3:51 to 3:19. I am really looking to push this next training cycle with a 3:15 goal!!! I am excited! I am a tad jealous….I would LOVE to have coach Hadley!!!! I have gone back and forth about going for it too
      Jen@milesandblessings recently posted..Adding races to trainingMy Profile

    4. Great, useful post! I’m with you about the strength training part – I promised to myself that I would take this aspect more seriously this time around and followed my routine 2x week for three months straight. Not only this helped me become a stronger runner, but it especially worked great when it came to injury prevention. I was able to train harder than ever without any injury scare. I followed almost the same “Garmin rule” you followed – I’d still wear my Garmin during my easy runs to keep track of mileage, but I would hide it in order not to worry about the pace. great job in Boston – can’t wait to see what’s next for you!

    5. For me the biggest 3 things that I’m doing differently:

      1) Strength training. Usually 1-2x a week. It has helped so much. It is helping my body stay injury free and making me faster. Looking forward to smashing my 10K PB this weekend

      2) Not slacking during the winter – I really struggled for the past couple of winters with running. I am basically a single parent from January-May because of my husbands robotics schedule which makes running really hard. I can’t push Max in the chariot in the winter, so I had to either run at lunch or on the treadmill. I didn’t run a huge amount compared to marathon training, but every week I ran at least 3x. It has made all the difference.

      3) 10% rule – trying to not go over a certain amount of mileage per week. I’m gradually increasing/building a base for half/marathon training in the summer
      Rebecca@RunningFoodBaby recently posted..Training Report 04/27-15 – 05/03/15My Profile

    6. Oh my god Michele, I felt like I was reading my own post. I literally would agree with 95% of this!!! Those are the changes I made to my segment and look what happened. I think we are the evidence that garmin free, and especially not LOOKING at your garmin make such a big difference, and slowing down the long run, you are talking to me! Wow this is crazy!!!! Hopefully others can take this in too :)
      Tina Muir recently posted..Are You on the Verge of Overtraining?My Profile