Thoughts on: Chicago Marathon Training + Working with Run Coaches
Throughout my short running career I’ve been lucky to have been coached by some incredibly accomplished female runners. My first coach was a retired champion ultra marathoner and triathlete. I’ll never forget her biking alongside me at my first half marathon. More specifically I’ll never forget crossing the finish line and declaring to her, “next I will run a full marathon!”
To get ready for my first full marathon I transitioned to another incredible coach who frequently wins races. Watching her train and compete was very inspiring and her coaching philosophy fit me well. Under her guidance I PR’d at every single distance I raced and completed my first full marathon.
Earlier this summer I started working with a new coach who is an accomplished marathoner and triathlete. There was nothing I could throw at her that she didn’t have the answer to or the perfect story to share.
As a fairly new runner I’m always looking to learn about different running philosophies, and I was open to trying something completely new for Chicago.
Training for Chicago
I really cannot say that I loved my Chicago training plan, which was a modified version of Hanson’s. marathon method. That being said I think I would have PR’d by quite a bit in Chicago if I didn’t have to DNF which means the training plan itself was successful. I know I got faster following the plan and I hope to take those gains into the half marathons I run this fall and winter. That being said, just because a training plan is successful doesn’t mean you have to like it!
The main thing I didn’t love about my Chicago training plan were the back-to-back long runs. I understand the reasoning behind them but I much prefer one long run. Not only do I think long runs help me build mental confidence, I just plain like them. Many of you know I aspire to be an ultra marathoner one day and it’s not because I like suffering, it’s because the long run is my favorite.
Also, as a slower runner doing two medium-length long runs on back-to-back days meant I often didn’t do a whole lot with my weekend that didn’t involve: running, resting from running or strategically eating.
I know that training for a marathon requires commitment, but last year when I did one long run on Saturday and one short, recovery run on Sunday, I had the energy to spend time doing activities with Adam on Sundays. This year I spent almost all my time thinking about when I would get my first or second run in, what and when I needed to eat and if/when I could take a nap.
I don’t think this plan allowed me to have a good balance in my life or at least I didn’t manage it well. Maybe if I didn’t have a job and could do my back to back long runs during the week it would have been a different story :).
I’m not upset I followed this type of plan though. My goal was to try something new and that is exactly what I did. You can’t learn or grow from something if you never experience it. Now I know for future reference that a marathon training plan that incorporates back-to-back long runs isn’t for me. When I train for my first ultra marathon I will have to make some concessions.
(I know many runner’s love Hanson’s marathon method and the various offshoots of it. Jennifer at Running on Lentils PR’d her recent half marathon following Hanson’s and Margaret from Balancing Meanderings PR’d her recent marathon following Hanson’s too. They both have said they would use this same method for future races.)
Training for a Half Marathon PR
Now that Chicago 2015 is in the rear view mirror, it’s time for me to start thinking about my half marathon racing season. I mentioned in a post last week that I am not planning to work with a coach in my attempt to PR at the A1A Half in February. Instead I have purchased access to the Runner’s World SmartCoach program which generates a plan for you based on variables you enter such as: recent race time, goal race time and intensity at which you want to train.
I won’t start training for a couple more weeks. First I need to get clearance from my PT to start doing speed work again but ideally I will maintain a decent base leading up to training.
Last weekend I ran 6 miles, this weekend I hope to bring it up to 8 miles, the week after I plan to run 10 and on November 15th I will run the Michelob Ultra Fort Lauderdale Half Marathon for fun (fingers crossed). After that I will take a recovery week and then I hope to start training for my half marathon PR attempt in earnest using a plan from the SmartCoach program.
Why I’m Not Hiring a Coach
There are just a couple of reasons I’ve decided to not hire a coach for my half marathon PR attempt this season. I have nothing but
good amazing things to say about the coaches I’ve trained under. At this time I just feel like I know what I need to do to PR in the half marathon distance. Unlike the marathon which is still a relatively new distance to me, I have completed five half marathons and have run 13+ miles many, many times in training. I feel like the time I’ve spent learning from my coach’s has paid off and now I am ready to go off on my own.
Also, having a coach is not cheap. The coach’s I have worked with charge about $100 per month for their services, which I think is money well spent. Not only do they offer custom training plans based on the type of runner you are, they modify those plans on the fly, are always available to answer questions and share all kinds of educational resources with you throughout training – from new stretches to try to nutritional guidance and race day strategy.
I plan to hire a coach again when I start training for Chicago 2016 next summer but for now I feel like I’ll be okay on my own.
I’m just your friendly neighborhood (below) average runner. Even though I think of running as something more than a hobby (because of the way it has impacted my life), I also realize that I am not going to win any races (or even age group awards) and shouldn’t take myself too seriously. I just want to keep improving every year, learn more about running and have fun along the way!
Do you like writing your own training plans or do you work with a coach?
Have you used the Runner’s World SmartCoach program in the past? If so I’d love to hear about it!