When training for a marathon, or any other type of race, the training plan you follow is a very personal subject. Some will swear by Hal Higdon’s training plans, others like Smart Coach from Runner’s World, while others don’t follow a training plan at all, and pretty much just wing it. I find myself somewhere in the middle, though I tend to lean more toward the non-planners.
For me, running is a joy. It’s my time to unwind and just be with me and my thoughts. I fear that taking on a more structured training plan would turn running into something more like a job, and zap much of the enjoyment out of it for me. I see lots of people on Twitter and dailymile writing things like “I have to run 16 miles today”, or “I have to run hill repeats today”. I don’t want to ever feel like I have to run anything. I want to go for a run because I want to, not because I feel like I have to, and feel upset or frustrated with myself if I don’t.
All that being said, I do recognize the value of a long run, especially when training for a marathon. So the one part of my training that does get at least some planning are my long runs. But other than that, I pretty much wing it. On any particular day that I go for a run, there is very little pre-planning that goes into it. If I feel like doing speed work, I do that. If I feel like doing hill repeats, I do that. If I feel like taking it easy and going slow, I do that. When I’m heading out the door, I have a general idea of the mileage I’m shooting for, and I pick a route that gets me close to that.
This isn’t to say that I don’t do any planning. One of the most important lessons I learned from my recent injury was to respect the 10% rule. So for this round of training, I created a spreadsheet where I fill in each week’s mileage, and then it automatically calculates +10% for me for the following week. From there I work backwards to get a basic plan for my runs for the week. I pretty much have all my long runs mapped out, so I can punch that number in for the week, and see how much remaining mileage I have to work with.
Perhaps, somewhere down the road, a day will come when I decide I’d like to do something crazy, like qualify for Boston. At that point, I’ll obviously have to take my training up a couple of notches. Until then, my non-plan suits me just fine.