Wis­dom of the Masses

With many dif­fer­ent marathon train­ing plans to choose from, Graydon Snider looks for com­mon wis­dom across them all

Canadian Running - - DEPARTMENTS -

To run a marathon, whether go­ing for a per­sonal best or sim­ply look­ing to cross the fin­ish line, you’re go­ing to need a plan. Some­times it feels like there are too many plans for run­ners, so it’s dif­fi­cult to choose which one is right for you. One way is to look for com­mon­al­i­ties found across a num­ber of plans. With that idea in mind, I won­dered what would hap­pen if I com­bined sev­eral marathon train­ing plans (in­clud­ing pop­u­lar plans from Jack Daniels, John Stan­ton and so on), into one meta ver­sion to see if any use­ful in­sights emerge. In to­tal, I as­sem­bled 12 plans from nine books. A few rules guided me through this process: • Work back­wards from the marathon date to com­bine plans of dif­fer­ent lengths (Week 1 equals seven or fewer days be­fore race day). • Av­er­age the frac­tions of each plan’s peak weekly mileage (be­cause these vary widely). • Av­er­age the ab­so­lute long-run mileage (be­cause it re­mains sim­i­lar across plans).

I also added er­ror bars, rep­re­sented by dot­ted ver­ti­cal lines, for a sense of the vari­a­tion be­tween plans and a run­ning frac­tion of plans counted by train­ing week (short an­swer: most are eleven to six­teen weeks long). For to­tal mileage, we see a series of grad­ual up­ward steps lead­ing to race day. Early-phase train­ing is about 60 per cent of your even­tual peak, build­ing in a series of steps with peaks over 90 per cent of max­i­mum three to seven weeks out, then ta­per­ing down to 50 per cent a week be­fore race day. The shape seems sim­ple at first (a rise, then fall), but the de­tails week to week show hints of more com­plex­ity.

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