Friday, January 20, 2012

The Gospel According to the Training Plan

Since returning home from the New York Marathon, which seems at once a distant memory and just days ago, our refrigerator has looked bare. Not the inside, but the door. To the discerning eye, you might disagree looking at the collage of cards, pictures, and magnets. But to the discerning runner, the void is immediate. It lacks the one thing that tells us what day it is, what week it is, what workout it is, what pace to run, and what distance to cover.

It is: the Training Plan.

It is the Gospel according to the Road. It is the moral compass deterring us from caloric right and wrong. It is the dictator ruling our life with an iron fist. It is the “other woman” (or man) calling us to trails in the pre-dawn hours, the darkness, the heat, the rain, the ice, no matter what the cost.

But within its neatly stacked rows and perfect boxes lies the secrets, lies the hope, lies the grit that will carry us to the start and – God willing – the finish line “for which we’ve striven these many months.”

In the beginning, the thought of running outside the confines of a plan seemed glorious. After 14-16 weeks of all that structure, wouldn’t it feel good to just go do whatever feels right? It was ok in the early going. I’d knock out a three miler, a five miler, the trail I’d wanted to do, double digits on the weekend to maintain a base. But soon after, I felt aimless.

Prior to the now infamous ankle sprain, I couldn’t wait to put a specific half marathon program together. It had been almost four years since a half was the goal race on my calendar. Once I took to the couch, I quickly put that plan out of my head knowing that the only thing worse than putting together a training plan you couldn’t use was deleting workouts on it that went to waste.

Instead, I put programs together for my friends, living vicariously through their workouts.

As the strength in my ankle returned, so too did the itch to fill that void on the fridge. Earlier this week, I dug out my list where I jot down workouts I might want to incorporate. I visited Greg McMillan, the Running Times, Flotrack, and spread all my notes out on the kitchen table along with my training log. My weeks started to come together, the boxes filling with notations and abbreviations that would cause the non-runner to consult the Rosetta Stone for translation.

The days of the week no longer have the same names taught to us in pre-school. You see, Tuesday is never Tuesday again. It’s “Speed Work.” And so is Thursday for that matter. Monday is “Easy,” Wednesday is “Recovery,” Friday is “Rest,” Saturday is “Long,” and Sunday is “Off.”

The posting of the Training Plan brings so much hope. Tabula rasa. There is purpose. No boxes checked. Only the promise of what could be.


  1. I'm running a half on the same weekend as the RnR DC Half. What's your plan look like?

    1. Cool! Have a look:

  2. As usual Brad, great post. I'm excited for you as you get back into training mode again. I agree, the aimlessness and the break is nice for awhile (especially if it falls around the holidays) but I do start to miss the structure and now that I'm back on the wagon and doing regularly scheduled workouts, it's motivation to fill in each day with workout feedback in Training Peaks and not skip a day or a workout.
    What's on your plate after the half marathon? Oh, what's that I hear - you want to do a triathlon? Why yes, yes, I think that would be an awesome summer activity! I could even help you put together a training plan for that :)

    1. Thanks, Caroline! I'm looking forward to ramping back up again as well. Did you hear something? I didn't hear anything :)


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