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Improve My Training: Add Doubles, Don’t Go As Long, Schedule a Break

This new masters runner is shooting for a sub-1:20 half this spring. We evaluate his training log and provide three tips for improvement.

We’re offering PodiumRunner and Active Pass members the chance for a personal coaching consultation. Submit two weeks of your training and answer a few questions about your running history and goals, and we’ll publish selected logs along with three suggestions from an expert coach for improving your training. To be eligible to submit your training, sign up for Active Pass or Podium Runner Pass. If you’re already a member and would like your training evaluated by an expert running coach you can submit your training here.

Runner Profile

Name: Chip Scarinzi

Age: 40

Goal: Sub-1:20 at Virtual Brooklyn Half on 5/23/2021

Sample Two Week Training

Monday (3/1) 14 miles @ 7:34 pace
Tuesday (3/2) 10 x 600m @ 1:56-2:03 w/ :90 jog recovery (12 miles total)
Wednesday (3/3) 13.1 miles @ 7:32
Thursday (3/4) 2 miles w/u, 8 miles @ 6:20 + 2 miles FF @ 5:58 + 2 miles c/d (14 miles total)
Friday (3/5) Cross Train (22.4 miles cycling w/ 1760 ft climbing)
Saturday (3/6) 18 miles w/ 13.1 @ marathon pace (6:34)
Sunday (3/7) 12 miles @ 7:24
Monday (3/8) 12.1 miles @ 7:41
Tuesday (3/9) 35-min steady state @ 6:34 + 3 x 1k @ 5:30 pace + 3 x 200 @ :34 (12.3 miles total)
Wednesday (3/10) 14 miles @ 7:39
Thursday (3/11) 10k @ 6:07 (12 miles total)
Friday (3/12) Cross Train (25 miles cycling w/ 1830 ft climbing)
Saturday (3/13) 12 miles @ 7:24
Sunday (3/14) 20 miles @ 7:19 w/ 4-mile fast finish @ 6:15 pace

Chip ran cross country and track in middle and high school before taking time off during his college days. He returned to running after college mostly focusing on 5ks and the occasional triathlon throughout his 20s and 30s. Shortly before turning 40 in July 2020, Chip signed up for his first marathon. To prepare for it, he increased his weekly mileage from 25 miles a week to a solid 65 to 75 miles a week. His training netted a marathon finishing time of 2:59:52.

Since then, Chip has fully embraced COVID-19 lockdown as an opportunity to buckle down and put in the miles. He has increased his weekly volume to 80+ miles a week, running six out of seven days. His next goal is to break 1:20 at the virtual Brooklyn Half Marathon, followed by a fall marathon to be determined.

Training Evaluation

We asked Cory Smith to evaluate Chip’s training. Smith is the founder of Run Your Personal Best, an online running coaching business that has helped hundreds of runners achieve personal bests in distances ranging from 800 meters to 100 miles. He holds a USA Track & Field Level 1 and 2 Endurance Certification and was the former Head Cross Country/Track Coach at Penn State Brandywine. Over his running career Cory has held three Maryland state records, was a two-time National Championship qualifier while at Villanova University, and holds personal bests of 4:03 in the mile and an 8:05 3k.

Let’s start off with two things Chip is doing well.

Praise # 1 – Nailing the Fundamentals

For the most part, Chip has nailed the fundamentals of proper training for the more advanced runner. His ratio of hard to easy running is in 80/20 balance and the spacing of one to two easier days between hard days seems to be good. His paces vary both on easy days and speed days, with the majority of speed sessions specific to the half marathon. I like that he has one day of cycling in the mix to give his legs a day away from the pounding of running. Besides a few suggestions below, Chip’s on the right track with his training.

Praise #2 – Proper Training Paces

My college coach, Marcus O’Sullivan, would always tell us “your races dictate your training paces, not the other way around.” All too often I see runners calculating their training paces based off their goal race times. I liken that to creating your financial budget based on how much money you want to make – it just doesn’t work. Chip’s paces all are in line with his current 5k PR of 17:23. While the definitions may vary, I suggest using a training zone calculator like mine, Greg McMillan or Jack Daniels VDOT.

Chip Scarinzi after running a 2:59:52 in my first marathon, a solo effort on 11/1/20 for the virtual NYC marathon.
Chip Scarinzi after running a 2:59:52 in my first marathon, a solo effort on 11/1/20 for the virtual NYC marathon. Photo: Courtesy Chip Scarinzi

Three tips to improve Chip’s training.

Tip #1 – Consider Doubles

Typically, once I have runners reach between 75 and 80 miles a week over seven days I like to start doing double runs once or twice a week. In Chip’s case, he’s running 80 to 85 miles a week over six days, versus seven. As Jeff Guadette points out, running doubles is advantageous because splitting runs can mean more efficient recovery. This “increases the frequency at which you speed blood, oxygen and nutrients to the muscles.” Furthermore, doubles “put your body in a glycogen-depleted state, which enhances training adaptations” – a welcoming effect for long-distance runners.

Of course, there’s a give and take to doing doubles. For starters, taking the time out of the day to run twice may not be an option. However, if Chip is able to run twice a day, I’d suggest running four to five miles in the morning before a late afternoon or evening speed or tempo session, or splitting an easy day into two runs where one is at least 60 minutes long.

Tip #2 – Shorten Long Runs

It’s good to see Chip doing 14+ mile long runs while training for a half marathon. I see too many runners stopping short or right at 13 miles when training for a half. The half is a strength event, so doing over-distance long runs is key to building the strength to finish strong. However, there is a point of diminishing returns for long runs and I think Chip is at that point – at least for half marathon training.

Chip’s schedule shows that he did and 18-miler and 20-miler at the end of his weeks, and, he told us he has been running 22-mile long runs. Really long runs stress the body and leave it depleted. I top my experienced half marathon runners at 18 miles, maybe an occasional 20-miler. An 18-mile long run provides an adequate amount of stress for half marathon training. Once you start going longer, the training effect starts to plateau and fatigue increases. By decreasing his long runs, Chip may find he has better quality weekday sessions.

Tip #3 – Take a Break Before Setting Up for Marathon Success

Chip’s expressed he really wants to nail his second marathon and based on the work he is doing now he’s primed to do so. Here’s what I suggest for the remainder of 2021:

Following the virtual half at the end of May, take one week completely off from running. Chip has been training hard since December, so a physical and mental break would do him some good – even if he doesn’t want it. All too often I see runners coming off a big race, raring to continue training for their next goal that is months out, only to lose steam right before the main event. In general, I aim to take a break every six months.

Following the break, I’d do a very short 5k racing cycle – two months max — to improve leg speed. Then, I think he should a late year marathon, such as CIM, given he’s running a summer half.

I want to thank Chip for submitting his training for PodiumRunner’s training evaluation. I wish him the best of luck breaking 1:20 in his half. If you’re an Active Pass or PodiumRunner Pass member and would like your training evaluated by expert running coach Cory Smith you can submit your training here.