Experienced marathon runners, help

First of all, this is a long one so I thank you in advance for taking time to read my pathetic plead for help...
I was just hoping someone could read between the lines and pick up the key points that I'm unable to see and point me to the right direction.

I have totally lost my judgement and ability to decide what I should do....I'm unable to decide what kind of marathon training plan would suit me the best because my running has been so inconsistent and crammed in between my two jobs I've started to almost hate it... Also I've become slower and slower (I run slower than I did when I first started) so I've probably been trying to do more than I'm capable of.

Anyway, history and more:
- Running 5.5 years
- Completed 4 marathons (05/2009, 09/2010 & 2x 04/2011)
- Marathon PB 4:43. Worst 5:12
- Weekly mileage since January 2012: 25 - 45 per week.
- Trained for Barcelona in March but had to skip due to illness.
- Longest runs in April 2x13 miles. Struggled. (Probably could have walked faster....)
- Recent race: Hilly HM in Feb, finish time 2:09

What do I want? Well first thing is to run faster. I want to be able to run sub 4:30 in Helsinki 18th of August. I also have signed up for Loch Ness marathon 30th Sept which I will go for enjoyment only.
Second is to have a plan that is structured and do-able even if I have a busy life style.

All intermediate training plans I've looked at that look do-able contain no speed training, which I would think in my case would be the key. I could make my own.... but I'm totally crap at sticking to it unless I have it structured in black on white. I haven't got enough experience to make my own speed training sessions anyway, I'm not motivated to do it and I don't trust myself that I will keep up to it if it's "my own plan".

All advanced plans go over 5-6 days a week which to me is impossible to fit in.
Its all too familiar to me to take on a plan that I'm not able to stick to, having to skip runs, get annoyed with myself and then lose my focus and interest, change the plan half way... once... twice... fall back to the inconsistency.

FIRST 3 days a week plan seems OK and I've used that once before for my first marathon, but I fear its not enough. I suppose I could throw in an easy 5 miler here and there... but because its 18 week plan (and from Monday 30th I have 16 weeks left) and I've had a bit of a lay off due to loss of interest and physical exhaustion, I find that the LSR mileage increases too quick for me.

I'm running Leeds HM in two weeks. I'll be able to do the distance although I might suffer a little.

I have entered to couple of races during the summer, 2x10k and 1x 10 miler.

I have two jobs so I struggle to fit in any more runs than 4 days a week.
I would like to add some cross training too because I've found in the past it's helped me a lot. But that would most definitely mean, no more than 4 days of running.

I sometimes wonder if it's my life that is difficult, or is it my attitude. image



  • Do you work on Saturday and/or Sunday? If not I could suggest a plan that has most of your miles done over the weekend and a couple of maintenance runs during the week.
  • I work Saturday mornings. I suppose I could do that yes. That would mean I'd have to neglect all house work and relationship stuff but I'm not expecting to do this without paying a price image
  • I would have thought having to neglect the housework was a positive not a negative.

    When work has been really busy I have had quite reasonable success from doing a long run on Saturday another long run on Sunday and then just one or two shorter runs during the week. 

    Obviously that is always going to be a compromise though. 

    Hopefully you will get some better advice in a minute!

  • Hi Elli

    I am not experienced, or at all expert but hope this is of some help. I think a lot of what you wrote has similarities to stuff I have gone through.

    I did a marathon in Jan 2009 in 5:10 ish. It was absolutely diabolical for many reasons. At the time I was paying an online coach who was really good, but the whole coaching thing just wasn't 'me'. I had a 4/5 day a week schedule, a new job and I just couldn't fit it all in and hated the (to me) complex plans that had me fretting about what exactly I was meant to be doing at each session. I felt dreadful for missing so many runs, got very despondent, had horrendous conditions on the day of the marathon and came down with full blown flu two days after the marathon. I gave up the coaching, ran for a while, still found it hard, got slower and slower and slower and slower but after a while of running (months) just for fun I got back into things.

    I tried again in Oct 2010 (Loch Ness) with a loose plan that was 4 days a week. I still found it hard to fit it in (I started having to travel with my job which I found (still do!) really hard in terms of training). Again I missed loads of sessions, felt despondent about that etc. BUT I had a fun race that I really enjoyed, I got round safely and very comfortably and crossed the finish line just wanting to do it all again. I think my time was something like 4:40.

    So my PB and PW were kind of similar to yours and similar experience with not being able to stick to schedules etc.

    I signed up for Loch Ness again in 2011 and trained with a friend. We were realistic at the outset and had a 3 day a week schedule, based very much round Shades' plan. Whilst only 3 days a week (with no cross-training), which I know a lot of people scoff at, it was a long plan starting in the spring and we factored in repeat weeks to allow for any problems. The main thing was I really could commit to 3 days a week and I missed only a few runs (and never missed a key session such as long run) so the consistency was there. There were no really complex sessions - it was plain and simple just get out there and get some miles in. It had a fair few 18/20 mile runs so I really had confidence that I was prepared. It was just what I needed. I would have been happy just to beat my previous time, and deep down I wanted to get under 4:30 which I didn't dare admit to anyone in advance. I got round in 4:13:03 with no problem whatsoever.

    So I think my point would be that getting a realistic plan is vital - to me the key thing is consistency and if you can't be consistent at 4 days a week then that's real life. You suggest being able to do a bit more than 3 days - why not have a 3 day plan that you will absolutely stick to, and know that it is sufficient to get you round (how many people have successfully used Shades' plan, which is proof it can work?) and add in your cross-training etc round that as extras. I can't even remember if Shades' plan has extra cross-training (or maybe optional extra runs - hmmmm, my memory is really bad!). But I think that would depend on how realistically you are saying that you can do the 4 days. I strongly feel that 3 days that you WILL stick to is better than 4 days that you largely won't.

    I also found that I didn't need to worry too much about speed work - the improvements I got from being consistent meant I got faster (quite simply whilst my basic running speed did not improve too much, my endurance with the miles was better so I could maintain that pace over the whole marathon).

    Final thought, why not drop Helsinki and concentrate on Loch Ness as your target, giving you the extra time?
  • Oh and for my last marathon I just accepted that the house was a tip and that's just how it was. It still got to me a bit, but I accepted that it just was not practical to do it all. I also took a couple of Mondays off work in 'monster month' which just helped with the whole tiredness thing. That may not be practical for you, but worth a thought.

    Edit to say - the days I took off were booked as annual leave, I didn't phone in sick!!!! Just in case I gave an awful impression!

  • WOW that's a lot of time off from Marathon in relatively short period of time!!
    Thanks for the advise and I think you are absolutely right. Maybe a 3 day plan is the way forward.

    I wouldn't want to drop Helsinki though. Having dropped out so many races at the end of last year and Barcelona last month, I would feel like there's no purpose for my running. I'm running Helsinki because it's my home country, I'm off there to have a mental break from my hectic life and I have a lovely recovery week planned at my sister's equine farm. Helsinki is a flat course (I think??) so potential for PB.
    It's the one I've chosen to do my best at.
    I've picked Loch Ness earlier in the year because I wanted to do one scenic marathon as well, but I'm really not bothered about my time for that one. I will have 6 weeks in between so I think I'll be OK. Having run two marathons in a week last year I know I can do them both.

    Just to add, I've developed an interest to off road running as well (not sure if it helps with the speed issue...) and I did a trail running camp in Peak District over the Easter. I loved every minute of it and I do find running on roads rather boring nowadays.

    I've been running without a watch for a long time now just because I couldn't bear the disappointment of another slow run if I had my watch on.
    I used to run with HRM but that meant I had to have my watch on me.

    So I thought I'd better do something about this and I've bought a GPS watch that will show my pace. It should get delivered next week. If I wear it for my speed sessions it might help. It's been hard to do any speed training when I've no idea what pace I'm going. I think I only have one pace: SLOW.

    Sometimes when I try doing sprints or hills my legs just don't move any quicker. I've been trying to pay special attention to my form, cadence, working out the easiest way to run, lightest way to run, quickest or the most effortless.. Moving my legs quicker, taking shorter or longer strides, moving my arms more or less... Nothing seems to work.
    I'm hoping that my new GPS gadget will help me!

  • RicFRicF ✭✭✭
    Is this a time management issue or a no time to train issue? Apart from that, we have only so much energy.
  • It's probably both!

    I've been running to work, in a rush, panicking if I get enough time to shower and get ready... or back from work, to my other job, panicking rushing if I get enough time to shower and get ready...

    And because I've been slower and slower and slower... my planned 8 mile routes turn into 4 and 5 miles.... so running in a rush certainly isnt a motivator.
  • Sorry that you're finding it so hard at the moment, hope it will improve, I'm sure it will.

    The first thing that struck me is that you should try to find a plan that fits with your (limited) time as that way I think that it would be more balanced and also take a bit of pressure off you if you're down to do one type of run but can't because home / work / personal life gets in the way.

    I was going to suggest that you look at Shades plans and thread, as mentioned by Princess Leah as that might suit you.

    It's difficult to assess what's not going right, but it could be that you're overthinking it all, possibly trying too hard.

    I do HR training, which does allow for speed / tempo sessions, but focusses more at running at lower HR, hence lower pace.  It suits me and I do better than when I'm following a pace-based plan, but that might also be an age thing!  A lot of people think that it's about wasted mileage, but it might be worth having a look to see if it's something that you could follow now, to keep training going for the maras you've mentioned, but because it's such a different approach from the one you've been following, might be enough to "break the cycle".

  • Ok so what's this shades plan? How do I get hold of it?
  • Shades Marathon Training

    I think that it's based on doing 3 runs a week, with possibly a fourth if you have the time, so it may suit your commitments.

    I'm following a HH plan at the moment as I'll have the time for all the runs it requires.  Next autumn, however, I think that I may have less time to run, in which case, I think that it would be helpful for me to join the thread.

    Hope it's useful.

  • RicFRicF ✭✭✭
    The obvious thing to say is that you haven't really got time to train for marathons and to some extent half marathons. Normal race distance = about 3 x average daily mileage.
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