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Training

Improve My Training: Gearing Up for a Marathon After Injury

This 50-year old masters runner is ramping up for Boston with a gimpy hamstring. We evaluate her training log and provide three tips to help her get ready safely.

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We’re offering Active Pass and PodiumRunner 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: Megan Robinson

Age: 50

Goal: Run sub-3:28 at the 2021 Boston Marathon

Sample Two Week Training

Monday (4/5) 6 miles @ 8:49 + Upper Body Strength & Core
Tuesday (4/6) Moneghetti Fartlek: Warmup 20 minutes + 2 x 90 sec @ 7:30 w/ 90 sec jog + 4 x 60 sec @ 7:10 w/ 60-sec jog + 4 x 30-sec @ 6:55 w/ 30-sec jog + 4 x 15 sec @ 6:45 w/ 15-sec jog + cool down 20 minutes easy + Leg Strength
Wednesday (4/7) 5 miles @ 9:39
Thursday (4/8) REST
Friday (4/9) 5 miles @ 8:33 + Core
Saturday (4/10) 10 miles w/ 4 mile tempo (3 @ 8:30, 4 @ 7:35, 3 @ 8:20) + Leg Strength
Sunday (4/11) REST
Monday (4/12) 5 miles @ 9:00 + Upper Body Strength & Core
Tuesday (4/13) Warmup 1 mile + 2 x 2 miles @ 7:15 w/ ½ recovery + cool down 1 mile + Leg Strength
Wednesday (4/14) Yoga
Thursday (4/15) 5 miles @ 8:30 + Core
Friday (4/16) REST
Saturday (4/17) 10K Virtual Race in 44:44 (7:12 pace) w/ 1-mile warmup and cool down
Sunday (4/18) 3 miles @ 9:30

Megan is an experienced master’s runner with an impressive marathon of 3:24:11 ran in 2016. In  November 2020 she completed a 50 mile ultra and, unfortunately has been suffering from a bad case of hamstring tendinitis since the race, which has derailed her Boston Marathon buildup a bit. Since the 50 miler, she’s had to back off her normal dosage of speed and hill training, and been able to manage running only 25 to 35 miles a week — a far cry from her normal marathon training load of 50 to 59 miles a week. With roughly 23 weeks until Boston, Megan is trying regain some speed and build back up her mileage with hopes of a 3:28 or better at the race this fall. Let’s take a look at her training.

Training Evaluation

We asked Cory Smith to evaluate Megan’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 Megan is doing well.

Praise # 1 – Running Before Strength

Megan told us that she always does her strength training about 45 minutes after she runs, due to a busy schedule. After her run she’ll eat a recovery meal, wait about 45 minutes then start her strength training. It may seem counterintuitive, but she’s spot on for doing her leg strength work on the same day and following a hard run or speed session. While waiting at least 4 hours to do strength after a run is ideal, by stacking your hard run days and leg work the same day you’re keeping the days in between easy on the legs, allowing for more recovery between hard days. Remember – keep your hard days hard and your easy days easy. Mixing a hard leg day with and easy run day is not an easy day.

Praise #2 – Incorporating Recovery Days

Taking a rest day, or recovery day, can be difficult for a lot of runners. Megan does a great job of incorporating recovery days. This is especially important when coming back from an injury. Running causes damage to muscles, tendons and ligaments – most of which you recover from when you sleep that night and come back stronger. However, when you’re coming back from an injury there is a fine line between the damage that you can recover from overnight and come back stronger and damage the causes reinjury. Whether these were planned or taken as a result of listening to your body, adding in rest days is like a safe switch that gives the weakened injury spot extra time to heal.

Photo: Courtesy Megan Robinson

Three tips to improve Megan’s training:

Tip #1 – Back off the speed and build easy miles

Her current goal for the summer is continue to rehab the hamstring while building speed until she starts Boston training in June. I’m typically a huge fan of focusing on speed and 5k’s during the summer months ahead of a fall marathon. Short races and training are more tolerable in the heat and it’s a nice chance of pace from marathon training.

However, in Megan’s case I would take a different route. Believe it or not, with just 23 weeks until Boston, training has already begun. For early season marathon training, it’s best to focus on volume first then layer in speed. Ideally, you want to start your marathon specific cycle (typically 16 to 12 weeks out from your goal marathon) around your peak weekly mileage. Given her weekly mileage is so relatively low compared to her healthy volume of 50 and 59 miles a week, I’d drop the speed for now and focus on building those easy miles.

Tip #2 – Avoid Double Stress Days: Speed and Long

All of Megan’s longest runs are her hardest runs where she’s incorporated some speed work. This not only stresses her stamina due to the length, but also adds speed to the mix — something I call a double stress — that really tests her durability. I suggest Megan keep long and speed separate for now, especially since she’s recovering from an injury. I prefer to do one stress at a time during a build up after injury.

Tip #3 – Schedule a Rust-Buster

Racing hurts. There’s no escaping this fact. If you want to run your best race, you need to learn to keep pushing through the hurt. The best way to practice this is, you got it – race. This is why it’s suggested to do tune up races.

As of now, Megan only has a ½ marathon planned 3 weeks out from Boston which she’s planning on using as a marathon-paced workout. Great idea – I love it! However, it’s going to be almost a year that Megan hasn’t raced a hard ½ marathon or full marathon before Boston. I’d suggest Megan sign up for a half marathon about seven to eight weeks out from Boston. This will give Megan a chance to get some practice racing and pushing through the hurt.

Unfortunately, this falls in the dead heat of the summer — not the ideal time to race. But it’s less about the actual finishing time and more about getting comfortable with being uncomfortable in a race again. Just make sure you adjust your pace based on the heat. You can use this heat-adjustment calculator  to figure out how much to slow your pace for the temperature and humidity.

I wanted to thank Megan for submitting her training for PodiumRunner’s training evaluation. I wish her the best of luck breaking 3:28 at Boston this fall. 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.