SmartCoach Pacing



  • Hi Amby

    I was wondering if you had seen the new book by Matt Fitzgerald "Brain Training for Runners"?  He suggests using Proprioceptive Cues as you run to improve your stride.  Have you any experience of this idea or used it yourself? 

    One weakness in the book is that he does not give examples of people who have improved as a result of using his ideas.  So I was wondering if you know of anyone who has tried any of them, and can report on any improvements.

  • Responding to M from New Zealand...SC does all the things you're implying. I don't have the exact math in front of me, and it's ultimately not important. The mileage and paces increase on a consistent, graduated basis. This is the "collective wisdom" part of SC. SC also eases you back once a month to make sure you are recovering properly.

    No, I see no reason to go over 13 for your half-marathon. I know plenty of coaches who don't think you need to go longer than 8 or 10 if the half is your goal. Obviously you will need more if you are building up to a marathon.

    As your race distances get shorter, training pace becomes more important than distance.

    Good luck.

  • Pammie*Pammie* ✭✭✭

    Hello Amby

    Thanks you in advance for spending your time here this afternoon The only real question i have is because i'm concentrating really on 5km races (and maybe some shorter ones next year)

    I put in a 5km schedule over 16 weeks training moderately from my current base of 21-25 miles The schedule it through up has me doing 13 miles as a long run a week before my key race is there any logic in that. Doing a run that long. Don't get me wrong i have no qualms about long runs just wondered if there was some training reason behind that


  • Responding to Dundee Runner...yes, I have Matt's new book, and I have talked to him about it. I'm very enthusiastic about many things, except for the title. I think it's a great overall running and training book that perhaps puts too much emphasis on the whole Brain thing. Is the mental side of training important? Of course! Do we know very much about applying it? No (in my opinion).

    That said, I thought the chapter on form and proprioceptive drills was original and very thought provoking. I will probably try some of these myself. Matt can't prove they will work; none of us can. But they make a lot of sense to me.

    I'm reading a lot lately about the importance of what I would call "hot feet." The faster you can get your feet off the ground, the faster and more economically you'll run. This almost surely involves "drills" rather than "workouts." Many of us don't like drills. At least I don't. But I'm going to try some of Matt's ideas, and some other "hot feet" drills I've seen.

  • thanks for that amby. my last half marathon i did in 2hrs. it was my first longer race, so i was a bit nervous about knowing what my body could endure. i have aimed for a 1hr 40mins target for paris, march time... i was hoping over 4 months i could achieve improvement to reach this goal? but speaking to an expert like yourself, i'd rather listen to what you have to say.

    do you still think this is as unrealistic target?

    thankyou kindly for your comments.
  • Hi Amby,

    Was wondering about the amount of speedwork smartcoach puts in.  A lot of other schedules have a reps session every week (have just finished using a runnersworld half marathon schedule which had a reps sesion every week).  Smartcoach dosen't tend to do this.  Do you think for longer distances (10 mile, half marathon) you need to do a reps session every week or is it better to do tempo runs some weeks and speed sessions every 2-3 weeks?

    Thanks for your help!

  • Responding to Pammie...Well, I agree with you. Are you sure you're using SC right? Something sounds wrong to me. Unfortunately, I can't double check SC and keep up with this Forum at the same time.

    But I would re check what you're putting into the SC front end. Have someone else look over your shoulder to be sure you're inputting what you want.

    Most people having trouble with SC are those who didn't fully understand the front-end process.

  • Pammie, drop me a line and I'll happy go through it with you.

    Daniel RW 

  • Thanks for your response Amby

     I have tried the hot feet idea during some of my runs, and it does seem to be making a bit of difference in my running.  

    Matt seems to recommend a 24 week programme as a build up to a marathon, whereas your schedules all seem to work around 16 weeks.  What do you think the optimum programme should be?  For longer races would a longer programme seem more appropriate? 

  • Responding to bluesocks...This is one of those areas where SC, being just a computer program, can't make individual adjustments. It's possible that you or someone else might respond well to more reps (I'm not quite sure what you mean by reps...interval sessions with lots of 400s and 800s). At some point, every runner has to figure out what kind of training he/she enjoys the most, and gets the most benefit from.

    In general, SC and I don't believe you need a lot of reps/intervals for the half-m and marathon unless you are an elite performers. Elite runners mostly have to figure out how to get faster. Non elites mostly have to figure out how to get more efficient, have more endurance, etc. 

  • Responding to Dundee about the length of programs...SC is 16 weeks because we had to pick some number, and that's the one we came up with. I actually like shorter programs better than longer programs. I think a lot of runners "go over the top" towards the end of their programs.

    To all SC users: I hope you realize that SC will give you programs of almost any length (less than 16 weeks) you want. I find this very handy.

    Dundee, longer is theoretical better of course. But  you have to be more careful. I say, if you're building up for more than 12 to 16 weeks, you better be VERY careful that you have periodized "rest" days and weeks in your program. 

  • Amby

    The number of times i can run each week is limited due to a number of factors but i also do a lot of cros training (swim & bike) is it OK to folow the marathon type program but drop one of the eay runs each week?

  • Pammie*Pammie* ✭✭✭

    Thanks Amby Did it again came up the same (have mailed Daniel)

  • Thanks for your responses Amby, and for spending the time answering questions

    Wishing you all the best

    Dundee Runner 

  • also

    do you think it is posible for 'bigger' athletes to do good times over longer distances?

  • Responding to Tanya and her realism question...Neither SC nor I can tell you what's realistic. You can only learn that from running longer and harder. Training more and better will certainly help you improve. But there are limits. Lots of people would like to be Paula Radcliffe, but last time I checked there's still only one Paula.

    That's why I say: Find your limits, sure. But more importantly find how to enjoy running to the max so you will stick with it for life.

  • Responding to Wild Will...sure, adjust SC or any other program to whatever suits you best. SC has options for people who can't run many days a week, but you can also change an easy run day to cross training if that works best for you. Here's a thought: The smartest SC user will be the one who takes the parts of SC he likes, and makes adjustments on the other parts. As long as you don't start overtraining.

    With regard to weight and marathoning, there's no doubt that it's an advantage to being smaller and lighter. Just look at the Kenyans and Ethiopians and Japanese. But Paula's not short, and some big, strong runners are very fast. Again, the only thing any of us can do is to be the best we can be, and make the sport work for us--keep us healthy and fit.

    That might bring a gold medal to some. But for most of us, it's about personal challenge, satisfaction, and good health. 

  • Cheers
  • thankyou for the advice Amby, and inspiration!

    Tanya x
  • Another question

     What are your thoughts on 'over distance' training runs for most race distance i build my long run to be 10-20% longer than that i am racing for ... what are you views on this?


  • A note on race day pace and Tanya's basic question...We've got a lot of people who have asked: SC gives me a pace for every run, why not for race day?

    So we took a crack at that. But haven't incorporated it into the "live" code yet. Why? Because SC gave people relatively modest improvements, certainly nothing like what Tanya was hoping for. And we're afraid that if we show people their modest improvements, they'll work backwards and pick a newer/faster SC program that will actually be detrimental to their training.

    Any coach can give you a program that will kill you. The tough thing is providing a program that you can achieve successfully, and that will also lead to consistent improvement. That's SmartCoach's goal. 

  • Responding to Wild Will on're not just wild, you're tough too. I actually think overdistance is often counter-productive. And believe me, I've done a lot of overdistance and learned the hard way.

    We distance runners are so damn tough and disciplined that of course we like to do more than we need to, ie, overdistance. It's admirable to be tough and disciplined. But overdistance is also a big stress; it can increase injury risk, and that's something SC would like to avoid.

    SmartCoach tries to find a moderate balance of distance, tempo, and speed. SC wants to be an efficient training program. It wants to help you improve with a minimum of miles and effort, not a maximum. It can do this because of the combination of "science" and "collective wisdom" that I keep referring to. Neither of those is a totally precise term. But they form the very basis of SmartCoach, and I think it's a good foundation. 

  • Hi Amby

     I am quite new to running and have been using the Smartcoach to train for a 10k in November. The only area where I am confused with is how do I work out, from the training times, a realistic race day pace as presumably my fitness will increase if I stick to the plan?  

  • cheers again
  • Responding to Dib... that's a great question, and you're right that SC doesn't provide the answer. So I'll take a whack at it.

    In your first races, you should simply aim to start at what feels like a comfortable pace. You'll probably go out too fast anyway, so the more you hold yourself back, the better. In the first mile, you need to keep saying, "Take it easy. Take it easy. Take it easy." After a mile or so, your body will tell you what to do. But don't force it. Stay as relaxed as possible. You should be running hard-but-controled. You shouldn't feel massively out of breath.

    The only way to learn racing is to race. And you'll learn quickly. Everyone does. The good news is, after a race or two, you'll be able to refine your SmartCoach training plans to get them exactly on target for your fitness. 

  • Hi Amby,

    Out of interest, I plugged in the data for marathon training on a 16 week plan. The result looked sensible, but there was no optional inclusion of half marathon races as part of the build-up. Last time i trained for a marathon, my schedule included 3 or 4 HMs (one of which I had to miss as i wasnt well) and I found them to be extremely effective. The schedule tended to say things like "15miles or HM race" which I found to be approximatley equal in terms of effort. For me, 16 weeks is a long time to go without any races which may help boost morale, or simply fulfill someone's club responsibilities. Any possibilty of a later version including this feature?


  • Hi I've just completed a SC 11 week training programme for a half marathon which i followed almost to the letter except i was much faster than expected on both tempo and speed interval runs.  Was i doing the programme correctly being 50 seconds per mile faster than recommended on tempo?  Then when it came to the race i knocked 8 minutes off my PB but came in 4 minutes slower than my target time on SC.  There seems to be a mismatch in the paces that you train at and then all of a sudden on race day you are expected to pick up the pace by up to and over a minute per mile for 13.1 miles on race day?  How do you explain this?
  • Hello Amby, I would like to start training for ultra distance races (30-50miles) in about 12-14 months time, any plans for increasing SC to these distances?

    Also, I like hills and race hilly races, but there are no dedicated hill-sessions. What kind of ratio would be ideal  for a moderate marathon schedule - every other speedwork for example (I'm in it for fun and not serious competetion)?

    many thanks, H. 

  • Thanks for that - I will give your advice a try!

     I have found that SC has introduced me to different types of training which has been very motivating and there has been definate improvement.

  • Responding to flyaway on races during training...I agree. Races can be very important. SC doesn't know when its users have an opportunity to find a good race, so it wasn't able to say something like "Run the Great North" or anything like that. Also, people will use it at all different seasons of the year.

    I agree also that the longer your buildup program, the more you will need a couple of races for motivation, checking up on progress, etc. A note on races: I believe the race should have a very specific purpose. Either use it as a sort of tempo run for a hard, steady effort. Or take a decent taper, and run a fast race.

    I don't like it when people run races that they haven't tapered for, and then get injured or discouraged by the results. I've done that too often myself. Treat races with respect.  

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