Plan 3: Run Long and SlowMeghan Arbogast was already a successful marathoner 5 years ago, with a 2:58 to her credit. Only one problem: "I was overtraining and killing myself," she says.
No longer. Since 1998, Arbogast has been training slower and racing faster under a program designed by Warren Finke, a well-known coach in Portland, Oregon, near Arbogast's home. Finke believes marathoners should focus on consistent, easy-paced training runs that help them build endurance without getting hurt every couple of months. "A lot of runners train too hard, get injured, and never reach their potential," he notes.
The Finke program emphasizes "effort-based training," and he believes in keeping the effort modest (at 80 percent of the speed you could race the same distance) most of the time. "Most runners are probably training at about 90 percent of their race pace," says Finke. "Running 80 percent is pretty easy, but it helps keep you injury-free."
The program has certainly turned things around for Arbogast. Two years after beginning Finke's effort-based training, she improved her marathon personal record to 2:45. And last June, she won the Christchurch Marathon in New Zealand with another 2:45. "I think I can keep improving," says Arbogast. "The key is to stay healthy and keep gaining endurance."
What you should do: Do most of your runs at 80 percent of the speed you could race the same distance. So, if you can race 10 miles at 7:30 pace, you should do your 10-mile training runs at 9:23. To convert a race pace to an 80-percent training pace, multiply the race pace by 1.25; for more details, visit Finke's Web site: Team Oregon.
To find a wide range of your equivalent race times, go to RunnersWorld.com, and click on "Race Time Calculator" under the calculators section.
Plan 4: Make Every Workout CountWhen you've been running marathons for 25 years and have an advanced degree in exercise physiology, you should eventually learn a thing or two about training. Exercise physiologist Bill Pierce, chair of the Health and Exercise Science department at Furman University, thinks he has. At the very least, he's found a program that works wonders for him. Pierce, 53, still runs marathons in about 3:10, not much slower than when he first stepped to the starting line more than 2 decades ago.
His secret? The three-day training week. Pierce follows the usual advice to alternate hard days with easy days, but he takes it to the extreme. He runs only hard days 3 of them a week. On the other 4 days, he doesn't run at all, though he lifts weights several times a week, and also enjoys a fast game of tennis.
In stripping his training program to its essence, Pierce runs each of his three workouts at a specific target pace and distance. One is a long run, one is a tempo run, and one is a speed workout. "I run at a higher intensity than some others recommend, but I have found that this program has worked well for me for many years," says Pierce. "It reduces the risk of injuries, improves long-term adherence, and still lets me enjoy the gratification that comes with intense efforts."