I posted recently about discovering Advanced Marathoning, by Pete Pfitzinger and Scott Douglas. Over the past week or so, I’ve been getting into the book, and am very impressed. So much so, in fact, that I’ve decided to follow one of its training schedules as preparation for the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in October.

For my first two marathons (1980 and 1981), I didn’t follow any training program at all. At the time, I knew very little about running, and nothing at all about marathoning. (To be fair, there wasn’t anywhere near the kind of information available that there is now, particularly for recreational runners.) I simply ran each day, and went all out for each of the marathons. As I said recently to a friend, I’m surprised I survived them. But survive I did, finishing in 4:24:48 in 1980 and about a minute slower in 1981.

For my next two marathons, which I ran in 2009 and 2010, I followed a more-or-less generic training plan presented by the Running Room, a Canadian running shoe store. In 2009, I trained with a Running Room clinic, and trained solo for the 2010 race. My results weren’t great, to say the least. In 2009, I DNF’ed; I went out ‘way too fast at the start and came to a horrible “crash and burn” at kilometer 35. In 2010, I finished with a pathetic 5:19 time, but upright, smiling, and feeling little pain.

Now, I’m older, wiser, and a much better runner. I’m in my fourth year of running barefoot, and I’m much more knowledgable about nutrition in general and race fueling in particular. I’ve got my head screwed on straight, I use the tools of positivist psychology to keep myself in the right head space, and I’m much fitter than I was in 1980. So I’ve decided on a goal time of 4:15 for Toronto.

That means it’s time to look beyond the old training program. For Toronto, I’ll use one of the training schedules in Advanced Marathoning. It’s different from my old program in a number of ways. For example, rather than being a generic “follow the principles of Lydiard and Galloway” model, it’s built around very specific training components, including lactate treshold, VO2 max, glycogen storage and fat utilization, and running economy. Also, while the pattern of its overall mesocycles (e.g., building an endurance base, improving lactate threshold, race preparation, and taper) is similar, its microcycles (shorter blocks of training, lasting anywhere from 8 to 10 days) vary more than the program I used before. As a result, my personal and work schedules are going to have to be quite flexible this summer and fall. Fortunately, that’s doable.

I’ll start the new training program on June 12. (My friend Daniel B., with whom I’ll run the Toronto Marathon – both of us barefoot – will, as it happens, follow the same training schedule.) I’ll write about how it’s all going in my Training For Toronto series. Stay tuned!


  1. Alan:

    I’m REALLY excited for you! It sounds like you’re in a great space with your training, running and nutrition, and to have a solid game plan will only make you better.

    I’m looking forward to the reports on your progress and ultimately your performance in the marathon.


    1. Many thanks, Todd! Among the essential components of a successful training program, I should have mentioned your friendship, which continues to support and inspire me.

      1. Ah, man…now you’re gonna make me cry! I often talk of you to people I know and it’s really hard to describe to them how great of friend you are but that I’ve never actually met you. Funny world we live in, eh?


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