Thirteen weeks later, Beesley was running 30 minutes at a time, and by last fall he had completed his first half-marathon in 2:12. Pretty impressive. But Beesley didn't stop there. He kept running outdoors through the winter months, despite temperatures that dropped to -25°F, and last spring added speedwork to his routine. By May, he was running long runs of 2 hours, 40 minutes, and doing six 400-meter repeats in 1:45. In his near future: a first marathon.
A program can't get any simpler than Beesley's, or any more successful. "I've increased my endurance and my speed, and I've done both without any injuries," he says. "My family members describe me as a very patient man. Patience combined with persistence is a great combination for success in running."
What you should do: Whatever your present endurance conditioning, build it slow but steady. We like a program that adds 1 mile a week to your weekend long run, for example: 5 miles, 6 miles, 7 miles. Every 4th week, reduce mileage by skipping the long run. Rest and recover. The next week, start building again, 1 mile at a time: 8 miles, 9 miles, etc.
Plan 2: Run Yasso 800sWe learned about this amazingly useful workout in a casual conversation with Runner's World race and event promotions manager Bart Yasso, and first wrote about it nearly a decade ago. Since then, literally thousands of runners have told us at marathon expos or in e-mails that the program has worked for them. With the Yasso system, you run 800-meter repeats on a track in the same minutes/seconds as your hours/minutes goal time for a marathon. (So if you're looking to run 4:30, do your 800s in 4 minutes and 30 seconds.)
Runners are drawn to Yasso 800s by Bart's unforgettable name, the simplicity of the workout, and word-of-mouth success stories.
Doug Underwood is one of those Yasso fans. A runner for just 3 years, Underwood completed his first two marathons in 3:55 and 3:53, and then was bitten by what he calls the "Boston bug." He wanted to qualify for the Boston Marathon, and was willing to train harder to get there.
The core of his program: Yasso 800s. Since Underwood needed to run a 3:30 to reach Boston, he ran his Yasso 800s in 3:30, building up to 10 of them in a single workout, taking a 3:30 recovery jog between the fast 800s.
Underwood finished his goal race, the Baton Rouge Beach Marathon, in 3:30:54, good enough for a race entry to Boston. (Boston Marathon organizers offer runners a 59-second grace period beyond the strict qualifying standards.) "I credit the Yasso 800s with getting me there," says Underwood, who also made sure to log plenty of long runs. "They are tough workouts, but they do the job. If you can run 10 of them at your goal pace, you have a great chance of achieving your marathon goal time."
What you should do: Run Yasso 800s once a week. Start with just four or five of them at your appropriate pace, then add one a week until you.