Marathon Training

How Elite Marathoner Lindsay Flanagan Is Training Now

Flanagan, a 2:28-marathoner, details a week of workouts during her pandemic-era base training.

Editor’s Note: Flanagan placed seventh overall, third American in a PR of 2:28:08 at the 2019 Chicago Marathon, and finished 12th in the 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in 2:32:05.

With all of the recent race cancellations and postponements, I’ve found myself, like so many other athletes around the world, without any big events on the calendar. For the first time since my high school running days, I’m not quite sure when or where my next race will be.

Despite not having any concrete, future racing plans, I’ve still been trying to stick with a familiar training routine. Having a routine has given me a refreshing sense of ‘normalcy’ during this incredibly unusual and uncertain time and has helped me feel less anxious about the future. I have been building base fitness for the past month by running 80–90 miles per week, about 80% of my normal volume, and by incorporating, hill, fartlek, and shorter tempo sessions. Here’s what my training looked like from April 20 to 26, 2020:

Monday, April 20

AM: Recovery Run + Strides — 9 miles

Boulder has been put on shelter in place orders until May 8, which means I have been trying to run close to home. Luckily, I live close to a pretty extensive trail network so there are still some great options. I ran to the South Boulder Trail today for a 60 minute recovery run, followed by 8×100 meter strides on the road. After a long run on Sunday, I always take Monday pretty easy, which, today, meant running about 7:40 pace.

PM: 35 minute Elliptigo Ride

I typically run twice a day while in heavy training, but, lately, have been swapping easy double runs with Elliptigo rides. Boulder was hit with about 18 inches of snow last week, so I jumped at the chance to ride in perfect weather-60 degrees and sun!

Daily Total: 9 miles + Elliptigo Cross Training

Lindsay Flanagan training on Elliptigo
photo: courtesy Lindsay Flanagan

Tuesday April 21

AM: Broken Tempo Workout — 12 miles

3 warm up, 15 minute/10 minute/5 minute tempo segments, 2 mile cool down

I always enjoy running on the road for my workouts, so I went to a 10k road loop I enjoy, one that also happens to be pretty free from other runners/cyclists for my workout. After an easy 3 mile warm up jog, I changed into the ASICS Metaracer for my session of 15 minute, 10 minute, 5 minute tempo segments with 3 minutes easy recovery after each. I kept the 15 minute and 10 minute segments around 5:40/mile [slightly faster than marathon pace] and the 5 minute around 5:30 pace. The workout portion totaled around 6 miles total.

One of the positives of not having any races right around the corner is that I don’t feel I have to rush back into fitness. Instead of comparing my fitness now to what it was back in January when I ran my ½ marathon PR [1:09:37 in Houston], I’ve been running by feel and have been looking at the bigger picture. I know the fitness will return once my mileage picks back up and workouts get more intense.

PM: Easy Double — 4 miles

I’ve never considered myself a trail runner, (and still don’t!) but I’ve been using this time to run places I typically wouldn’t during a normal training block-for me, that has been single track trails. I went to one of my new favorites for an easy 4-mile double, around 7:30 pace.

Daily Total: 16 miles

Wednesday April 22

AM: Easy Run, 11 miles

I ran back to the South Boulder Trail today for an easy 11 mile run. We have officially entered the ‘it’s very windy everyday season’ in Boulder, but it was still a sunny, great day to run. I don’t look at my watch on easy runs and just run by feel;  today’s average was around 7:10 pace. I spent the rest of the day writing training plans for my RunDoyen athletes, all of whom have been incredibly positive despite having their spring marathons postponed.

PM: Strength Work

When I found out all of the gyms would be closing a few weeks back, I ordered a few standard strength training items off Amazon. I’ve still been getting in some pretty good strength work using bands, a stability ball, and light weights. My close friend Rosie over at LEOMO Performance Center has been amazing and is still sending me different routines I can do at home.

Daily Total: 11 miles + Strength work

Lindsay Flanagan training
photo: courtesy Lindsay Flanagan

Thursday, April 23

AM: Easy Run + Strides — 7.5 miles

Another easy run plus strides! I’m definitely guilty of rushing through strides when in heavy training, as I’m tired and just want to be done. But, I’ve been using this time to actually prioritize them and work on my form/turnover. After today’s 50-minute easy run—around 7:30 pace—I ended with 6 x 100 meter strides on the road. Strides always help put some pep back into my legs and I ended feeling better than when I started.

PM: Easy Run — 4.5 miles

I typically do my second run around 5 or 5:30 p.m., but I went out a little earlier today for my easy double—around 7:20 pace—because of a Zoom happy hour with friends. I’m a pretty social person, so social distancing has been tough, but I’ve been using this time to reconnect with friends and family through video chats. Even in quarantine, you have to keep it fun!

Daily Total: 12 miles

Friday, April 24

AM: Fartlek Session — 3-mile warm up, 6 mile Fartlek, 3 mile cool down

I went back to the same road loop as Tuesday for my fartlek session. After an easy 3 mile warm up jog, I changed into my ASICS TartherEdge flats for the workout:

• 6 x 30 seconds at 5k effort with 1 minute easy after each,

• 3 miles controlled/steady,

• 6 x 30 seconds at 5k effort with 1 minute easy.

I always enjoy fartlek sessions, especially during the off season when the main goal is to run by feel. I kept both sets of 30 seconds around 4:55–5 pace [~3,000m pace] and the 3 miles around 5:55 pace [slightly slower than marathon pace]; the workout portion was about 6 miles.

I finished off the morning with an at home strength session that included hamstring curls on a stability ball, lateral lunges with a band, core work, and step ups.

PM: 35 minute Elliptigo Ride

I planned on getting out the door around 5 for my cross training session on the Elliptigo, but it ended up being a little later because, well, Ozark. It felt good to get my legs moving after my morning session and I rode around a nearby neighborhood loop.

Daily Total: 12 miles + Elliptigo Cross Training + Strength

Saturday, April 25

AM: Easy run — 10.5 miles

Saturday is typically another easy, recovery day before a longer run on Sunday. My sister decided to run a marathon today, so I jumped in and kept her company for a chunk of it. I ran an easy 10.5 miles around 7:35 pace before hopping in the car to cheer her on at the finish line. Even with all of the race cancellations, so many runners are still putting in incredibly inspiring, solo efforts and it was fun to watch her finish her first 26.2!

Lindsay Flanagan training on road
photo: courtesy Lindsay Flanagan

Sunday, Sunday April 26

AM: Long run — 16 miles

When I’m training more intensely, my coach Steve Magness typically has me alternate between long run ‘workouts’ and standard, get-in-the-miles type long runs. This past month, all of my long runs have been easy as I have just been building base fitness.

The trails tend to get pretty crowded in Boulder on the weekends, so I went to a 12k road loop I enjoy, that also has very few runners/cyclists on it, for an easy 16 mile run, around 6:45 pace [~marathon pace + 1 minute]. I spent the rest of the day relaxing and checking in with my athletes.

PM: Yoga

After a long run, it always feels good to do a short yoga session later in the day. I’ve found tons of great, free classes on YouTube! Today, I did a short, 30 minute flow class and it felt great to do some dynamic stretching.

Daily Total: 16 miles +yoga

Weekly Totals:

87 miles, 70 minutes of cross training, 2 strength sessions, 1 yoga session