Training schedule of an elite runner
Periodically, athletes that I coach will ask me about my training schedule while I was competing at a high level. While I certainly wasn’t an Olympic caliber runner, I did have some impressive training partners and workouts, so I thought it would be nice to share some sample training blocks.
When I was younger, I used to pour over the training logs of other runners when I could find them. Even if their training didn’t apply to me, it was amazing to see some of the hard work other athletes were putting in. That’s why I decided to share this two week block of marathon training from the Fall of 2007.
Some caveats before I begin: (1) This is a two week block of a 16 week training cycle leading into the 2007 Twin Cities Marathon. Looking at training is great, but you have to keep in mind this is all part of a larger plan and it took me years to build to this type of volume; (2) This is an unedited scan of my paper log, so bear with any grammatical mistakes and personal references. That’s it, enjoy and let me know what you think!
Two Week Elite Training Sample
AM: 12 mile run (1:18:25)
Actually didn’t feel too bad today considering the trip and the tough weekend. Couldn’t sleep at all last night so hopefully can nap today to make up for it.
PM: 6 mile run (41:00)
Felt pretty good again, perhaps I am over the hump.
AM: 3 w/u, 25 x 400 w/35sec rest and 400 rest after each set of 5, 4c/d
(70,69,70,70,69) (69,70,69,69,70) (69,68,68,68,68) (68,68,68,67,68) (67,68,67,68,66)
Total = 15 miles – Track
Wanted to run 70-66′s and was a little slow for the most part but I didn’t feel too bad overall. I think I would just lose focus on some of them. I think I was looking too far ahead in the workout instead of focusing on each interval individually. Live in the moment and don’t be scared to hurt are some things I needed to learn from this workout. Overall pleased with the run. Hard to get on the track alone and get this done.
PM: 5 mile run (33:48)
Shitty ass day. 800 dollar toilet malfunction left me in the office all day and pretty stressed. Ran the loop in one of the fastest times ever, hmm.
AM: 17 mile run (1:48:10)
Good medium long run today. Met the group about 40mins in and ran the Stoney trails at a decent pace, not fast but not slow. Overall felt pretty decent minus getting a little thirsty about 1:30 in. Might be another stressful day but I think things are getting better.
PM: 5 mile run (33:27)
Blazed this run again even after 17 this morning, I am not really sure what is going on but I am not going to complain. I think I remember this happening before and eventually I will be shuffling runs out again but I will enjoy while it last.
AM: 14 mile run (1:35:00)
Was a little more tired for this one than I have been the last few days. It figures it would catch up to me just before a really big workout. Took it easier in the back of the group today and finished up with Moulton discussing old pc/brown stomping grounds. Nervous for a really tough workout tomorrow.
PM: 5 mile run (34:20)
Tried to keep this run a little slower but was still a tad faster than the norm. Was thinking of going 6 but want to make sure I am hitting workouts and not running my legs off on the easy days.
AM: 9 mile run (1:00:00), 9 mile tempo (5:18, 5:09, 5:12, 5:11, 5:10, 5:13, 5:10, 5:12, 5:11), 2 c/d
Total = 20 miles – Simulator course
Overall the workout was a success but it wasn’t anything spectacular. The other guys had a 9 mile tempo getting faster every three miles but I got out the first three at marathon pace and just stayed there. I was hoping to really crank it down to 5min pace the last three miles but it wasn’t there. Obviously the 9 miles beforehand put a little crap in the legs for marathon simulation. Running MP didn’t feel comfortable but it wasn’t hard either, I guess similar to the middle stages of a marathon. Really need to work on drinking.
AM: 12 mile run (1:24:00)
Ran pretty easy the first 40mins or so and then met Brian Sell and ran a little harder for about 3 miles and then took it easy all the way back home. Legs were pretty tired by the end, not all together unexpected.
PM: 6 mile run (39:00)
I am pretty sure I was still napping for the first 10mins of this run. Ran the ol’ Hebrew loop in honor of Jacob. Didn’t feel too bad, the weather was nice.
AM: 24 mile run (2:15:30)
Run went decent today. Ran 7 miles out to the Cider Mill to meet the guys at the group run. Was feeling a little tired and sluggish on the way out. Ran the 11 mile loop at around 6 min pace or just under at parts feeling so-so with the legs getting tired at points. Took the trail home for 6 miles and actually didn’t feel as bad as I thought I would. Passed some OU runners and they put in a big effort to stay with me so it gave me company. The last 10 mins or so wasn’t great. No food or gels and only a bit of water for the run, good on the depletion aspect and I don’t think I will have a problem with it during the marathon. Freezing cold ice bath after!
Week in Review: 141 miles (12 runs = 114 singles)
A pretty solid week of training and for the first time in a long time I actually feel fit, at least for a marathon. Both workouts went very smoothly and the longer long run was a nice mental boost. This week will be another tough week and a lot of mental back and forth with “am I in shape” “what can I run” and “am I doing too much”. Need to work on some of the little things in the next month; drinking on the run and getting back in the gym a little bit more.
AM: 13 mile run (1:30:30)
Only wanted to do 12 but ran with Kyle and Linden to watch the guys do 5 x 2 mile and ended up a little long. Took it very easy so didn’t feel all too bad but I can tell the legs were tired from yesterday.
PM: 6 mile run (39:30)
Easy run through the trails and legs were tired but I took it very easy. Work the last few weeks has been much better and I have been able to control my schedule a little easier. Crushed a 2 hour nap and really needed it.
AM: 3 w/u, 3x2x3x2, 2.5c/d (5:01, 4:59, 4:58) [1 mile jog] (4:56, 4:57) [1/2 mile jog] (5:03, 5:05, 5:00) [1 mile jog] (4:57, 4:59)
Total = 18 miles – Boat Launch
The wind was ferocious today and it made the first 1.5 of the 3 mile segments a chore. Was very happy with the first 2 intervals. Felt solid and minus the wind hit the splits pretty easily. Wanted to be in the 4:55 range for the 2 mile segments because it was the easier part of the course and when I needed to pick it up my legs responded which was a nice change. The second go around got much harder as the legs went into tired mode. Aerobically I never felt bad but I was fighting the wind and my legs for the first part of the three mile segment. The last two miles actually felt ok. Taking fluids went pretty well today. The first bottle was a disaster and I got more on me and my face then I did in my mouth. However, did much better on the second and third bottles and doing it at 5min pace should make 5:10 pace a lot easier in the race.
PM: 5 mile run (34:35)
Ran from lifetime and was moving pretty sluggish. Very tired all day today, took a nap but still sleepy. Did some pool/hot tubing to try and get the legs back a little bit.
AM: 16 mile run (1:46:36)
Not a very pleasant run this morning. Overall was pretty tired from the last few hard days but to top it off I rolled my ankle in Dino about 35 mins into the run. Tried to be cautious of limping and although the pain wasn’t too bad it definitely wasn’t pleasant. Overall a feeling of tiredness and tightness.
PM: 5 mile run (34:40)
Ankle was really killing me the first 10mins and just concentrated on not limping. Loosened up ok and legs actually felt decent for the latter half of the run. Got a massage after
AM: 14 mile run (1:34:00)
Overall pretty slow and sluggish run. I think I was a little glycogen depleted because I just felt hungry the whole time. Legs, especially upper quads were pretty tired the last 30mins or so.
PM: 6 mile run (40:00)
Felt pretty sluggish and legs pretty tired. Big workout tomorrow and legs very tired.
AM 3w/u, 15 mile tempo [1:18:31] (5:13, 5:10, 5:12, 5:10, 5:10, 5:13, 5:13, 5:13, 5:14, 5:14, 5:13, 5:23, 5:09, 5:23, 5:16) 3 c/d – Avg 5:14 pace
Total = 21 miles – Boat Launch
Overall I would give this workout a C+ maybe a B- if I accounted for grade inflation. I wanted to hit marathon pace which was between 5:10 and 5:12. The first 8 miles was really able to do that pretty easily although my legs were really heavy from the gun. In some ways I don’t mind that because I hope that won’t be an issue come race day once I am rested. In addition, this workout (to my understanding) simulates the latter stages of the race and if I can feel this good during 11-26 I would be very happy. However, I was a little disappointed with the two 5:23′s as it showed a real lack of focus, something that really plagued me in Chicago. Did a very good job of coming back on mile 13 after hitting a slow one. Fluid intake went fairly well today although some “do-gooder” thought throwing out my bottle I had left on the bridge was their fine duty for the day…thanks jerk. Feel pretty beat up and tired now and need to make sure I recover from this one.
AM: 14 mile run (1:31:00)
Didn’t feel quite as bad as I thought I would after yesterday. It was nice to have the day off and just relax and get recovered. he pace fluctuated but overall it was pretty easy and I had off and on spots of feeling good and bad.
PM: 6 mile run (40:30)
Didn’t feel all that great but the weather was very nice
AM: 14 mile run (1:34:00)
Felt pretty crappy today. The legs just felt tight and lethargic and my hips and sciatic were giving me a little trouble. Ran with Linden very easy and watched the guys do some of the 8xk workout. I think I am still feeling Friday’s workout.
PM: 6 mile run (42:00)
Legs were pretty tired again, a common theme the last few days. I hope the faster less volume workout tomorrow gives them a little jump start.
Week in Review: 143 miles [13 runs = 109 singles]
Another pretty solid week, one of my highest total mileage weeks ever. The mileage is starting to take it’s toll on the legs but with three weeks to go it is time to start feeling a little better hopefully. Still feel pretty fit although the marathon always presents a huge mystery to how you will feel after half way. Did a better job with the fluids but need to work on the gym.
My thoughts 4.5 Years Later
I think we can all learn valuable lessons from this sample two week block.
Good days and bad days
First, it’s clear that not every workout goes great – some days you’re on top of the world and other runs it sounds like I barely finished. High training volumes will have that effect. The important part is that you don’t get too high with the high or low with the lows. Having one or two bad days is a small blip on the radar when you compare it to a 2 or even 4-6 week training block.
Take lessons from every workout
Second, you can always extract important lessons from any workout – good or bad. Don’t get frustrated with the bad days and think your training is in the toilet. Analyze why you might have had a bad workout, look for specific areas for improvement, and implement them on your next run. Each lesson you learn in training is an opportunity to execute better on race day.
If you like this type of post, let me know in the comments section and I will definitely include more of them in the future.