Training for Toronto: The Program

The “days left” widget on my smartphone’s home page says there are 44 days left until the Toronto Marathon. I’ve got seven weeks left to go in my training program for the race. It’s getting down to serious fun time, folks. My weekly distances are high, I’m doing lots of speedwork, and I’ve begun to think constantly about avoiding injury and sickness. I’d almost forgotten about this side of marathoning. (No surprise, I guess, that I’m often reminded of Hunter S. Thompson’s classic phrase “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”)

In a lot of ways, my life is now centering around that training program. I’m always aware of what my runs are going to be for the coming week. I’ve made sure I’ve got an adequate supply of fueling supplements on hand. I’m careful to keep to my scheduled rest days. I’m often tired at the end of a day. And, though my feet are holding up well, these high weekly distances do occasionally take their toll on my soles.

But there’s a lot of good happening, too. For one thing, I can do the weekly distances. 88K a week barefoot is a lot, but it’s very definitely doable. My weight is down to 147 lbs. (66.7 kgs.), which is only a couple of pounds more than I weighed when I graduated from high school forty-six years ago. I’m lean, tanned, and I feel strong. Even better than that, I feel confident about being the runner I’ve become. Still very much a beginner, still always learning, but, in some deep sense, I feel I’ve reached a number of goals.

Ah, but there’s that training program! As I’ve noted in previous posts, I’m using a different program than the one I used for my last two marathons (in 2009 and 2010). In both of those those, I followed a rather general, cookie-cutter-approach plan outlined in John Stanton’s Running Room’s Book on Running.

Advanced Marathoning The program I’m following for Toronto is one of those in Advanced Marathoning, by Pete Pfitzinger and Scott Douglas.

This book, and the training programs in it, are aimed at runners who have completed their first few marathons and want to improve. Consequently, the bar is set a little higher from the get-go. The program I chose involves running up to 88K a week. There are more long runs in it than in my previous program, they start earlier in the schedule, and speed work is built into medium and long runs (rather than comprising speed sets and short warmups and cooldowns).

As I said, it’s doable. But at this point, with only 44 days to go before the marathon, the wear is beginning to show. A couple of days ago, I did an aerobic 18K. I was over tired at the start, therefore my form was rubbish, and – inevitably – something went amiss. I sustained a small puncture wound on the ball of my left foot, which has, in turn, meant no running for two days. Not really a big deal. But it made me grumpy – with hindsight, I think I should have recognized the tiredness and bailed on the run – and it’s put a bit of dent in my confidence that I can keep to the training schedule and remain injury free.

Not to worry. I plan to be back on the road tomorrow. Slowly, gently, and ever so carefully, but on the road.

That’s training for you. Some bumps, some adventures, some wrinkles. But successes too, and lots of good growth. And that’s what the program is for. It’ll get you over the bumps and through the adventures, so you reach your goals.

44 days. It seems like a long stretch, but it also seems terrifyingly close.

Next (and last) in this series will be “Training for Toronto: Psychology.” You may also want to read previous posts in this series: Foundations and Fueling.



  1. Hi Alan
    You sound like you are ready, mean and lean. My furhest barefoot is about 5.75 miles at the moment and I aspire to run a marathon in a couple of years. It is good to hear an honet, warts n’ all story so far. I have just pointed people towards your post by listing it as one of my favourite of the week at
    I look forward to hearing how you are getting on.

    1. Thank you very much for that, Chris. I had a look at your “pick of the posts,” and was impressed with its breadth of coverage. I’m honoured to be included!

  2. Alan, you are making phenomenal progress. That’s a heck of lot of miles each week – no wonder your body requested a little break! I’ve also been doing longer runs that incorporate speed work (adapting a Jack Daniels plan) and have found these runs to be incredibly enjoyable. Keep up the good work, my friend!

    1. Thanks, Ape. I too have found the speed work enjoyable – much to my surprise. And I’ve also noted similarities between Daniels and the program I’m using. Makes me want to check his stuff out. Thanks for the nudge!

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