Figuring Out What Type of Training Works for Me

I’ve been thinking about Sunday’s race and how the heck I made significant improvements since the Fort Lauderdale half in November. After all that was just two months ago and my training in December and January wasn’t the strongest.

Photo of the 2015 Miami Marathon & Half
Photo of the 2015 Miami Marathon & Half (credit: Miami Marathon Facebook Page)

Here’s a summary of the running related stuff that’s gone down since November:

  • In December (and Jan) I missed a handful of runs due to holidays/moving/calf injury
  • I ran a 5K PR right before Christmas
  • I ran two 14-milers in December
  • My longest run during the training cycle was 15 miles the first week of the year
  • I took a week off in January for the calf thing
  • I ramped up my avg. weekly mileage from the 20s into the low to mid-30s

(Okay, so maybe my training wasn’t as bad as I was remembering it to be…)

Here’s what was new for me during this 13.1 training cycle:

  • Doing three long runs that were longer than the half marathon distance
  • Ramping up my weekly mileage into the 30s

I think the key element that helped me PR two half marathons in a row was just running more…. running more miles at an easy pace AND running more miles at a hard pace.

I trust my coach 100% but the analyst in me cannot help but want to look over every aspect of my training and “figure it out.” 

I likely haven’t been running long enough to really know what works for me; there are so many new things that I can try, but this is the theory I’m building up right now!

Finding the Right Weekly Mileage (for Me)

Trail near my mom's house.
Trail near my mom’s house.

Not everyone is cut out to run monster weekly mileage. My coach runs 50 to 70 miles per week (mpw) which is out of the realm of possibility for me. I don’t have the time, energy or need to do that. What I am learning is that I do have the time and energy to run mileage in the mid-30s pretty comfortably and when I do that my running improves.

During marathon training my weekly mileage was in the mid-30s and I improved my overall pace and ease with long distance running. I feel certain that’s how I knocked out a gigantic PR on Nov. 9th. Then, during this half marathon training cycle I stuck with weekly mileage in the mid-30s and PR’d again.

The best part about Sunday’s half marathon is that I never really hit the wall. The 13.1 miles felt like a solid distance, challenging but friendly. As Cheryl commented, that probably means I didn’t push as hard as I could have and I likely still have another PR in me. Hmmm… that’s a discussion for another day!

This week my mileage will be low as I recover from the race (18 miles in total), but I’ll probably start building my weekly mileage back up next week.  I’d like to get back into the low to mid-30 mpw range soon because, similar to the race over the weekend, that mileage feels challenging but friendly to me.

Days of the Week That I Run

A snap from part of my training log.
A snap from part of my training log.

I run 6 days per week which means at 30 mpw my weeknight runs are usually in the 4 to 6 mile range, including speedwork sessions. When my mileage is only in the mid-20 mpw range my weeknight runs are usually between 2 to 4 miles and speedwork is the same. That’s not bad, but those 2-milers feel a bit short.

I could just run fewer nights per week to make the mid-20 mpw range work better for me, but I enjoy running almost every single day. It’s my favorite way to transition from work life to home life and it gets me outdoors which I love. I don’t see myself cutting down on days anytime soon.

I really think ramping up my weekly mileage helped me during the last two months in preparation for the Miami Half. (It also helped that the weather was perfect on race day, I’m not discounting that at all.)

Of course, what works for me probably won’t work for you since we’re all different! I know plenty of amazing runners who do less mileage and run wayyyy faster than me (by “know” I mean I read their blogs, haha) and also those who run way more than me. I’m just trying to figure out what works for me and share a bit of it along the way.

Sooooo that was probably more info about my daily running than you wanted to see in one post, but I wanted to work through my thoughts on the topic so I know where to start when I begin training for my next goal half marathon! 🙂

Hope it wasn’t boring and maybe even helped you think deeper about your own training!

Do you have weekly or monthly mileage goals that you like to hit even when you’re not in a specific training cycle?

What’s the most you run during half or full marathon training?

31 comments

  1. Staci @ Hoosier Running Mom

    This post comes at a perfect time. I am questioning the mileage of my training plan. I just feel like I am not doing enough. I know I have 3 months until my race but I still feel like I could be doing more. Mileage is such a hard thing to nail down! I wish we all could just “know” what would work and not have to play the odds and try things out!!
    Staci @ Hoosier Running Mom recently posted…Running is a mental battle…at least for me!My Profile

    1. Kristina @ Blog About Running

      I hear ya on that one! It’s all trial and error. With three months still to go you have plenty of time to build up! You are going to be fine and do awesome!

  2. Megan @ Meg Go Run

    Yes, everyone is so different! That’s why I try not to compare myself to other runners. I mean your coach… the thought of running 50-70 mpw… I would be injured and out of commission by the time I was 40!

    I really started to see improvements in my running when I STOPPED over training. Less is more has been working for me for the past several years. However, for marathons- NEVER skipping the long run is important for me. But during the week, I cut out a lot of junk miles.

    I hope you are still riding high from your PR! And Cheryl is right, this is just your PR for now. You are going to continue to PR the crap out of your halves. 🙂
    Megan @ Meg Go Run recently posted…How to survive NOT running for 2 weeks.My Profile

    1. Kristina @ Blog About Running

      I AM still enjoying the PR feeling!! At the end of the race you could go to a results tent to get a print out of your official finishing time and I’ve hung that little slip of paper on the fridge next to Cecil’s painting! 🙂

  3. Lisa @ Running Out Of Wine

    I think you are definitely on to something and its so smart to look back on your training to see what worked! The most mileage I ran in a week was about 62 miles last January when I was training for the Raleigh marathon. That was probably higher than I need to go, and I find that I usually do well peaking around 50 miles per week. Maybe one day I’ll build up to higher mileage again but for now it doesn’t seem worth the risk of injury!
    Lisa @ Running Out Of Wine recently posted…Lessons From My Toughest Races + Class Pass in Baltimore!My Profile

    1. Kristina @ Blog About Running

      Dang, 62 miles! Thank goodness you run so fast otherwise that would take up so much time! I can’t even imagine logging that kind of mileage! Or 50 miles per week!

  4. Lizzy

    This is a topic that has been on my mind a lot lately as well. I’ve made big improvements in this training cycle and I’m trying to understand why. This might give away the punchline of an upcoming blog post, but I think it’s because I’ve taken the “workout” concept more seriously. This is the first training cycle where each run has a goal and a purpose that is distinct from other runs. Some are recovery, some are speedwork, some are for endurance, etc. It means there is a wide range in paces between my runs, like, nearly 3 min/mile difference between fast runs and recovery runs, but I think that is exactly what is helping. I certainly haven’t increased my mileage much.
    Lizzy recently posted…weekend rundown 2My Profile

    1. Kristina @ Blog About Running

      YES! I really noticed a difference once I started taking my easy runs super easy. I still wear a Garmin but I don’t look at it at all until the end of the run. Going just by feel has let me save all my energy for the workouts! I have about a 3 min difference now between my easy and hard runs… I think it used to only be about 1:30 difference!

  5. running schlub

    Agree 100% with this post. More long runs and more weekly miles will make us a much stronger runner. But we also need to find that sweet spot for weekly mileage or we will get injured. I know it’s crazy to think there is another PR waiting inside but embrace it, keep knocking out more and more goals you thought were impossible.
    running schlub recently posted…Post Race Recovery Day 1My Profile

    1. Kristina @ Blog About Running

      Yes! I know running 40 miles in one week at the height of marathon training was a bit much for me and I don’t think I’ll toe that line again until I get back to marathon training.

      There’s another PR waiting to come to the surface, but I think it’ll make it’s appearance next fall. I’m ready to run for fun this spring until marathon training starts in the summer!

  6. cheryl

    I agree with you! I don’t feel like I have found my sweet spot for mpw yet. I feel like my marathon training was a bit much, but I haven’t analyzed the weekly mileage! As crazy as it sounds I think there is a mental component to the mpw too–when I become overwhelmed mentally with my training, injury follows suit!
    cheryl recently posted…What a difference a day makes!My Profile

    1. Kristina @ Blog About Running

      I am so with you on the mental component. I know when my mileage creeped into the upper 30s and even the 40s during marathon training it was mentally and physically exhausting. I had been building from 20 mpw though. Maybe this year it’ll be a little easier on both fronts!

  7. Hanna

    In a way I am kinda the opposite of you – I think I could handle 50-70 miles per week, but I could not run 6 days a week. That is too much for me. Like you, I’ve been doing some assessing to figure out how the heck I ran a PR this weekend on such skimpy training, and I think part of the answer lies in all the additional rest I unintentionally got. It’s becoming obvious to me that I thrive on extra rest days. I always perform my best when I’m well-rested. If I ran 6 days a week, I think my times would suffer.

    For my first marathon, my mpw peaked at 42ish, for Grandma’s it’s going to peak at 52 but I’m hoping, if I’m feeling good enough, I can actually get it higher than that. I want to run more miles this time, I think it will really help my performance!
    Hanna recently posted…10 New Goals for 2015My Profile

    1. Kristina @ Blog About Running

      Yeah, I think that makes sense for you because you run so fast! It seems like you should definitely try higher mileage as long as you add in some good rest days and rest WEEKS! I love marathon training but those low mileage weeks always feel like a breath of fresh air!

  8. karen

    This is all I have been thinking about it since i got hurt. I believe the problem started close to my half marathon, I am not sure what mileage I can handle. I really never felt bad during any training, just the occasional issue that would clear up in a few days then return a few runs later…I am totally confused when I think about it. I know for me, I felt great at 20 miles a week, maybe that should be my goal and just let the races go when I heal up. Not sure.
    I am so glad you PR’d! You have worked really hard and it great to see results 🙂
    karen recently posted…Where Do I BeginMy Profile

    1. Kristina @ Blog About Running

      On 20mpw you definitely don’t have to let races go! You could continue to stay in half marathon, 10K and 5K shape at that mileage! 🙂

  9. Jess

    I actually really liked this overview! It’s an interesting glimpse at how you train at a higher level as opposed to the weekly recap method that some other bloggers (like myself) do.

    I’m so excited for you and your new half marathon PR! 😀 I do think that running longer-than-race-distance can help. I’ll be ekeing out a 13-miler a few weeks before my next half marathon, but I hope to run a 14 or 15-mile long run in advance of the next half marathon I run after that.
    Jess recently posted…Run the Bluegrass Training Week 7My Profile

    1. Kristina @ Blog About Running

      I really think it did help to get in a couple of longer runs. This was the first time I’ve done anything over 12 miles during half training. I was glad to do the higher mileage because it proved to myself that I COULD still do it and on race day 13.1 didn’t feel so bad!

  10. Kim

    I love that you are so analytical with your training.You are so right that different amounts of running (both mileage and days) works for all of us. I rarely run more than 3x a week but I tend to run longer when I do run – that works for me right now:)
    Kim recently posted…Binging on MoviesMy Profile

    1. Kristina @ Blog About Running

      I love how dedicated to cross training you are! You really have such a great mix of workouts each week. I want to do more of that after I reach some of my key running goals over the next year or two!

  11. Amy

    I think you’re smart! Analyzing your training is good. I am a firm believer of hard run days followed by easy run days followed by rest days. Repeated. And the mid-30s is my good spot for solid training, too. Upped to the mid-40s for marathon training, but that might not be for a while again 🙂
    Amy recently posted…Tales of a Broken TailMy Profile

    1. Kristina @ Blog About Running

      I’m a firm believer in that too! I usually only do one hard workout a week and then maybe one medium workout. I loooove those easy recovery runs!

      You will be starting a whole new type of ultramarthon soon!

  12. Courtney @ Running For Cupcakes

    My mileage is lower because I only run about 3 days a week. Unless I’m marathon training I only run about 20 miles a week if that. I have no need to run more than that at the moment! I also feel like I am STILL recovering from my marathon and I’m scared to run too much. My knees still feel funny and I would hate to get seriously injured again. I think everyone is different and what works for one person may not work for the next.
    Courtney @ Running For Cupcakes recently posted…The Culture of RunningMy Profile

    1. Kristina @ Blog About Running

      Oh man, such a bummer that your knee still feels funny! I think it makes sense to keep your mileage at whatever level you need it to be at. I really want to run an ultra at this exact time next year so building mileage even if I’m not specific training for anything in the immediate future is important to me. Otherwise I think I might take a couple months off as well before marathon training again!

  13. Ashley @ A Lady Goes West

    Hi Kristina! Wow, I’m impressed. I’m not a runner, so I am absolutely amazed by your training and your mileage. It seems like everyone would have to find the sweet spot for their own body and you’re on your way to figuring yours out. So keep up the great work! And yay for Florida! I was born and raised in Florida and now live in San Francisco. Those South Florida runs can be hot!
    Ashley @ A Lady Goes West recently posted…Les Mills BODYPUMP 92 class reviewMy Profile

    1. Kristina @ Blog About Running

      Hi Ashley! Thanks for dropping in today! 🙂 I am trying to figure it out! I’ve only been running for a couple of years so there is still plenty for me to learn, but I think I’m starting to get the basics!

      That’s so awesome that you live in San Fran now. I bet it’s so nice to have escaped the humidity!

  14. Jenn @ Running on Lentils

    I’ve been thinking of this too! I have read a lot of articles that say to get better & faster, you need to run more. I will be increasing my weekly mileage in my current training plan compared to what I’ve done before.
    Jenn @ Running on Lentils recently posted…First Thoughts on Hansons: Respect for Easy RunsMy Profile

    1. Kristina @ Blog About Running

      Yes, I’ve definitely read those articles as well and it seems to make sense to me. The more you run the more comfortable you can get with it … and can then begin building on your base. However, I know lots of people deal with injuries so that can be difficult. I feel lucky to be fairly injury free from the major stuff anyway…. and I suspect being a slower runner helps with that.

  15. Ali @ Hit the Ground Running

    Hm. I don’t think avoiding hitting the wall means you didn’t push hard enough. I think seasoned runners can avoid the wall, and DO avoid it, and that’s why they run such amazing times. I mean, if you had hit the wall at say, mile 9, who’s to say you could have recovered and killed the last 4 miles? A steady pace that avoids the wall and earns a PR seems like smarter racing strategy. So I’m not sure I agree with that…

    But running over the 13.1 distance, now THAT I believe helps. I broke my 5k PRs when I started running farther distances, so I think running above race distance really does help. Also, once you know the discomfort of a marathon and are willing to live with it, it’s easier to push a little harder for a half!

    I totally cannot do mileage in the 30s. You’re amazing. It seems I get injured when I go above 25!
    Ali @ Hit the Ground Running recently posted…A Family-Filled WeekendMy Profile

  16. LeAnne@thisismyfaster

    First — CONGRATS ON YOUR PR!!!!!!!!! I’m so happy for you! I know you really wanted this and worked hard for it.
    I agree that everyone has to do what’s right for them. I really wish I could run every day or at least 5-6 times per week but that puts me at risk for injury so I don’t dare attempt that again. My mileage hasn’t been that great. If I’ve run over 20 mpw (ever) it’s been a lot. I would like to stay below 30 mpw for right now and then not go past 35 mpw when I get into the higher mileage for the full marathon training. I want to try running longer than the half marathon distance though. I can see that being feasible for half marathon training…not sure if my body can handle that for full marathon training.
    It’s all about trying something and seeing how it works though. I love reading about your progress. We definitely need to run together sometime 🙂
    LeAnne@thisismyfaster recently posted…Redefining AMAZING: the #MiamiFamous Half Marathon race recapMy Profile

  17. Jennifer

    Nice post! I am looking fwd to building up my mileage again – eventually building up to 30mpw, when 5-6 mile runs are “short runs”
    Jennifer recently posted…Shamrock Half Training – 1/19-1/25 – Week 1My Profile

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