Coach Jeff

Written by Coach Jeff


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

Mon: 9/03/07
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.

Tue: 9/4/07
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.

Wed: 9/5/07
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.

Thur: 9/6/07
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.

Fri: 9/7/07
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.

Sat: 9/8/07
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.

Sun: 9/9/07
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.

Mon: 9/10/07
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.


Tue: 9/11/07
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.

Wed: 9/12/07
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

Thur: 9/13/07

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.

Fri: 9/14/07
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.

Sat: 9/15/07
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

Sun: 9/16/07
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.

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30 Responses on “Training schedule of an elite runner

  1. Holy crap! What was your rest schedule? My brother runs a 2:45 marathon, and he trains 10 days on, 1 day rest. When I was training for my (3:59!) marathon I ran 4 days a week, averaging about 45 miles, and I felt CONSTANTLY tired. That’s amazing.

    What are “singles”?

  2. Well, this was a specific marathon cycle, so I wasn’t really resting too much – building the accumulated fatigue. I never took off days during training (not that I think you shouldn’t, just hard to do when you’re running 140 mpw).

    Singles are the way I measured how many miles I ran in the mornings, without the second double run. I used it as another metric to analyze the total volume of work.

    The thing is, training is all relative – it took me a long time to build to that type of volume. 140mpw definitely had me tired (and scarfing calories like a bodybuilder).

  3. Thanks for posting, interesting and insightful. Hard to imagine adapting to that volume, though I can appreciate the relativeness comment (especially, as I work back from injury). Liked your remark about feeling ‘fit’. For me, that is an elusive feeling but one I encounter just often enough to be the ultimate motivation.

  4. Crazy, just read your post…the whole time I was thinking how did you only run 2:22 until I read your last comment. Being around a 2:20-2:25 guy myself your workout would obliterate mine. I am impressed at how well you have handled the mileage and intensity together in succession. I can’t seem to handle the speed once I get my mileage to high but can hold 130 a week in singles if I don’t overdo the intensity…what are your thoughts on how the training block went? Would you do it differently now, I know you had some set back with the car accident but would you consider resting more or lowering mileage and/or intensity? I am actually getting ready to prepare for another marathon and love to hear feedback from other runners.

    • Hi Jake,

      Thanks for the comment and I am glad you enjoyed the article and look at training. I think the trick to being able to do that type of speed/intensity while running so many miles is that I was probably doing that for 3-5 years before this segment. I definitely did spurts in college and then was consistent for two years before this segment.

      Great question about what I would have done differently. From a macro level, I would have listened to my body more and run shorter on days I felt like crap. I was so obsessed with hitting the mileage numbers that I didn’t always make sure what I was doing was optimal. On a micro level, this segment I would have actually done a little more speed development work (like explosive hill sprints) and probably tried a few more long tempos without breaks.

      By the way, noticed your email/school and wondered if you knew of a very good runner from your school, Josh McDougal. I thought he was an asst coach there still. Anyway, he would be a very good person to look up if you can.

      Best of luck at your marathon!

  5. Hi there, I just ran the Boston Marathon this week. My previous best marathon was 2:55. 4 months prior to Boston I started a new marathon training program called the Hanson’s Marathon Method. I followed this program to a T, only missing a few days. While it wasn’t high mileage, it was higher intensity than I was used to. I really expected a bigger PR than I got, I ran a 2:51, was hoping for a 2:45. I felt great the whole race, never hit the wall, the only problem was that I started getting quad cramps at mile 21, Is there anything more I can do to not get these, I consumed gels, and plenty of fluids. The last 5 miles I had all the energy in the world, but the cramps held me back. Maybe it was the downhills that did it, maybe it was that my longest run was only 18 miles, Hanson’s only recommended 16 as the longest run. Your training program above is crazy, would love to be able to run those miles. Maybe some day. Thanks for any advise you can give me on the leg cramps.

    Codyt Tylock

  6. Hi Jeff,
    If you could give any advice on how to run Twin Cities, what would it be? I PR’d in Boston this year (2:54:24) and my training for Twin Cities has been going really well. I feel that I’m in 2:49 shape (I ran 1:19:23 half marathon on a hilly Madison course 3 weeks ago), but the reviews of Twin Cities has me getting worried.

    I always try to negative split my races, but looking at the elevation chart, I’m not sure about this one. I look forward to hearing your input.

  7. A very interesting, if frightening article. I did the 2013 Athens Marathon in 2:55. The course was very hilly, particularly between 10-20miles. I am doing London in Apr 2014 and training is well under way. Given that London is a flat course, if I am at roughly the same fitness level, what is a realistic target time? I expect sub 2:50 but am aiming for sub 2:45. Is the change in course elevation from hilly to flat enough to knock off significant time? I know you can’t answer a specific query accurately, but generally speaking, how much time do you think could be saved between a 900ft elevation rise and a pretty flat course if fitness levels are the same?

  8. Hi Jeff, I’m starting to second guess myself in terms of is the marathon really for me. I have a PB of 73.40 for half marathon. I was on course for a 2.37 marathon in Rotterdam this year but my knee packed in at mile 23.

    my longest run was 20miles and only managed 4 of them around 7.30min pace. should I put in a few 22 or 24 mile runs in my next marathon training plan or increase the pace, any advice would be helpful

  9. Hi jeff just want to let you know I did a personal PR in the comrades marathon the 1ste of june on halfway mark 45k 4h59 better than my previous 43k that was 5h31 but tobad I could not keep it up on the second half of the I did my second half in 6h33 finish my ultra of 90k in 11h33 what made me go slower was because of my right foot the champion chip on my started to hurt my foot after the 45k mark and had pain in my hips any help or advice how to train for an ultra like comrades because entries open in 2 months for next years comrades?

  10. Hi Jeff, I just was wandering if you could give me some advice on how I can improve my PB doing some changes in my training schedule that after have read this article makes me feel quite shy.
    I’m 26 and I started running in the 2011 my first marathon in 2h57′, then in the 2012 I went for a 2h54′ tho it doesn’t make much sense because I stupidly went clubbing the Friday night b4 the race and I was completely destroyed and in hangover on the race day, then last year I run 2 marathons in Prague and Helsinki within 3 months to each other where I run in 2h47′, then this year I have done in Hamburg a 2h39′ and now I’ve in schedule the Chicago marathon where I would love to go sub 2h36/35 n London in April next year where my dream would be run as close as I can to the 2h30′.
    At the moment I work as a bike messenger in London so I cycle all day for 9 hrs, then I run 4-5 times a week trying to do in the slot from mon-fri 3 runs of 7-8 miles each where according to my conditions I try to run always close to my limit, then during sat-sun I do a 16/17 miles on sat n a 11-12 miles on sun always trying to do a sort of progression. Now as u can see I do really few miles x week for a marathon training program but considering my busy job isn’t easy, wht would you advice to improve in the terms of training efficiency? Should I do some double session during my weekends? Do u reckon I should do some track? Or I should just quit my job and focus on running? Lol
    Any advice would be appreciated an by the way my immense compliments for how hard you must have been as athlete by reading your notes!

  11. Sir, I have been marathoning for about 4 years now. I’m right there between being an above average runner and being an elite Boston Marathon qualifier. I’m running 3:30s and getting frustrated because I know I can do better. I often ask myself what the difference between me and the Elite. It’s definitely the volume. I need your help. What do I got to do?

  12. How often do you have to get new shoes? Probably like every 2-3 weeks right considering you did 150 a week at a very fast pace.

  13. How much talent did it actually take you guys to become elite runners? I know it takes talent, but was wondering how good the average elite runner was when they were in like 8th grade before ever really training? Thx

  14. Another way to ask the talent question – do you know of any “average Joes” so to speak who started off as recreational runners, maybe in their mid-20s or 30s, and got really, really good at running?

    I feel pretty representative of the Average Joe Runner. I’m thirty this year and I’m going for my first shot at covering 26.2 miles this September. I’m 5’9″, 207lbs but people describe me as athletic looking. I’ve run several 5k’s and a few half marathons, even getting down to 185lbs for my 1:54 H/M PR and 23:45 in the 5k. There wasn’t much desire to run before I got out of college, so I’ve only been at it for about 5-6 years, but I’m still curious to know, if I follow up this 18 week/55 mile per week plan with the right strength training, and then do the 70 mile per week plan, and then the 85 mile per week plan, and so on, can I BQ in the next year or two? Can I run a 2:18 marathon? Are there ever any recreational runners who find something more than in them than the average middle-of-the-packer or are the fastest ones always college or post-college athletes?

  15. Hi coach Jeff, thanks for the post. I graduated from college few about 4 years ago and since then I have been running road races. I have done quite well as I recorded both my PR on the roads both in the 5k 10k and half marathon. I am looking forward to running my first marathon in Columbus Ohio this year and hope to run under 2:19. My mileage has been around 55 to 70 miles at most and I have been wondering how best I can get my mileage up in preparation for my first marathon. Your article has been very helpful. The only question I wanted to ask is how often you ran on the pavement/termac. My fear in getting an injury.

  16. Hi Jeff, i know this is an old article, but i only found it recently. Thanks for sharing – it was very helpful for me. I’m a sub elite runner, trying to get down to 75min for a half marathon. I was interested to know how you transition from this heavy mileage into a race? I’m all for training on heavy legs, but how/ how long did you taper for to make sure you got to a race fresh?

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