Book Review: Showdown at Shepherd’s Bush

The 1908 Olympics, held at Shepherd’s Bush, England, came at a pretty interesting time in world history. For instance… On December 31, 1907, a 700 lb. glittering ball dropped at Times Square in New York City – the first time in what would become a New Year’s Eve tradition. In May of 1908, an oil well was struck in what’s now southern Iran – the first discovery of petroleum in the Middle East. In September, the first Model T rolled off the Ford assembly line in Detroit. Hawaiian George Freeth introduced surfing to southern California later that fall. In December 1908, Jack Johnson became the first African-American heavyweight boxing champ.

And at the 1908 Olympics, held in London, England, an Italian, an American, and a Canadian duelled for the title of the world’s best marathoner. The Italian won, was disqualified in favour of the American, and the Canadian collapsed and DNF’ed. That contest not only cemented the modern Olympics as a permanent fixture in our world, but also launched marathoning as a huge craze. It was the first wave of marathoning, and it hasn’t subsided yet.

Showdown at Shepherd’s Bush: The 1908 Olympic Marathon and the Three Runners Who Launched a Sporting Craze tells the story of a world in change, of the century’s first running celebrities, and of a sport many of us love with a fierce passion.

It’s a grand story, and Davis tells it well. Like all really good sports journalism, it carries you along with same sort of energy as the subjects of the writing. But, like good journalism of any kind, it digs deeper too. In this case, it’s about the world as it was, and as it was becoming something very new and very different.

A quick look at the main players:

Tom Longboat Tom Longboat, for instance, though he was probably the best distance runner of his time, had to struggle constantly against a nasty racism that denigrated him and his talents. Longboat, an Onondaga from the Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation Indian reserve near Brantford, Ontario, won the Boston Marathon in 1907 in a record time of 2:24:24 (on the old 24-1/2 mile course). He collapsed Near the finish of the 1908 Olympic marathon, but won a rematch later in the year at Madison Square Garden. He then turned professional, and in 1909 at the same venue won the title of Professional Champion of the World in another marathon.

Johnny Hayes Hayes was a scrappy Irishman from the tough part of New York city, and was ever fighting to prove himself in the larger world. Hayes started his athletics career with a fifth place finish at the 1906 Boston Marathon with a time of 2:55:38. He improved on that the following year by finishing third in Boston with a time of 2:30:38 and winning the inaugural Yonkers Marathon. In 1908 he finished second, 21 seconds behind Thomas Morrissey in the Boston Marathon with a time of 2:26:34 and thus qualified for the London Olympic Games.

Dorando Pietri Dorando Pietri was a poor Italian from a small town, and had to struggle to find the means to get to running’s big events (until he found fame and fortune as the winner of the Olympics). Pietri débuted in a distance race in 1904, finishing second in a 3,000 meter event in Bologna. The following year he achieved his first international success, winning a 30K race in Paris. On April 2, 1906 Pietri won the qualifying marathon for the Olympic Games to be held in Athens that same year. However, in that race he had to to retire because of intestinal illness. He was leading by 5 minutes at the time. In 1907 he won the Italian championships. He was by then the undisputed leader of Italian long distance races, from 5000 metres to the marathon.

Around these three athletes was a complex world of promoters, gamblers, fans, and naysayers. Not much different from today’s sports world, to be sure, but it was all very new at the time. On the way to the 1908 Olympics, there was a growing rift between amateur athletes (the ideal of the English upper-classes) and professionals (a more modern and much grittier world view). That rift grew wider and clearer with the numerous “grudge matches” between Longboat, Hayes, and Pietri (and a host of other, less well-known, runners) which took place in England, the U.S., and Europe. There was a lot at stake in these matches, which were staged in places like Madison Square Gardens, and to sold-out crowds numbering up to 30,000 people. National sentiments were sharpened, large sums of money were won and lost, and runners’ health was placed at risk because of the grueling schedule. (Not to mention the “performance enhancements” of the day, which included, for example, a mix of brandy and strychnine given to runners who flagged.) The hoopla was part business, part entertainment, and partly the growth of a sport. Because of the 1908 Olympics, marathoning secured its place in the popular imagination, and the Olympics themselves became an institution.

To date, I’ve run five marathons. I’m a recreational, not an elite, marathoner. Crowds don’t follow my running career, and no-one (as far as I know, anyway) has bet on my finishing times. But it’s a good feeling to know that I’m part of a tradition like this one. David Davis has given me that, and I’m grateful. This is a good book – read it, and you’ll probably feel much the same as I do.


Heart Rate Training

I’ve begun to explore the art and science of heart rate- based training. I like what I’ve seen so far- so much so, in fact, that I’m going to use it to prepare for both of my spring races (the Sarasota Half Marathon on March 17, 2013 and the Mississauga Half on May 5, 2013).

Why the new training model, when the one I used to prepare for the Scotiabank Toronto Marathon worked so well?

First, there’s always the discovery of a new tool, and the desire to make it part of the ongoing “experiment of one. ” That’s something that’s always excited me, and something that’ll always be part of my journey.

Garmin 210 Second, there’s the Garmin Forerunner 210 I acquired a while ago. It’s a great little peice of technology, and I’m already seeing how analysis of the data it provides about my runs – particularly over an extended period of time – will inform and enhance my training.

And last, well, I’ve become hooked into wondering how much I can push the performance parameters of my half marathon races. As I’ve said before, the half is my favourite race distance, so it’ll be interesting to use heart training training to explore the distance’s potential. If I can improve my PBs to any significant degree, then I’ve learned something important about my body, how it works, and what it’s capable of doing.

OK, enough of the backstory. Now, more about heart rate training…

“The beauty of heart rate training is that it relies on a system (your cardio-vascular system) that reflects your overall state of stress 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It reflects when you’re tired, overtrained, sick, cold, or hot, and therefore can guide you in making changes to your plan. More important from an exercise point of view, it provides immediate and consistent feedback about your stress level, intensity level, and rate of adaptation in terms of overall fitness. “

Heart Rate Training So say Roy Benson and Declan Connolly, authors of Heart Rate Training. In the book, Benson and Connolly show how to determine deficiencies in training and performance, create targeted programs to increase endurance, raise lactate threshold, increase speed and power, and monitor recovery between workouts. The book’s sample programs allow the manipulation of heart rate training components to design an individualized long-term training plan.

Now I’ve got two excellent tools – my own heart and a nifty gadget that allows me to see what my heart is up to!

And the timing for all this is working well. With the Scotiabank Toronto Marathon all done, I’m in a transtion/base-building period until I start training for those two spring half marathons. At the end of a season, I usually dither for a while before settling into a new routine. I “play run” for a while, get in a few treadmill runs as the weather gets cooler, and get my head squared away for a winter of training. That means a lot of treadmill runs, some outdoor runs (once or twice a week, until the snow comes, anyway), and regular sessions in the gravel bucket. This time, I’m doing my runs – most of them outdoors, because the weather’s been good – at a slow and easy MAF (Most Aerobic Functioning) pace. That means I’m running at under 20% of my maximum heart rate, for whatever distances I happen to run. The point of the exercise is to build aerobic fitness, not to build speed or strength. Those will come later.

Here’s where the Garmin comes in. On each of those runs, I wear the Garmin and an HR monitor chest belt, and set the Garmin to show my heart rate. I always run at my target HR (which happens to be ~120 bpm), and I can already see, after only three weeks of following this regime, that my aerobic fitness has improved.

How do I know that? Because when I started, running at a steady 120 bpm HR meant I was running at a 7:30 min/km or so pace. This morning, I ran 8K at an average HR of 120 bpm, at a 7:03 pace. I’m getting faster while my heart’s working at the same calm, easy rate. That’s building an aerobic base, and is the foundation upon which I’ll later lay on speed and strength workouts, all of them targeted at specific heart rate zones.

This is fun! It’s got data (which I love), slow running (which I excel at), and the promise of steady improvement, all based on solid and demonstrable science. That’s going to make following the winter training program, which I’ll start in early December, both doable and enjoyable. Have to like it when things works out that way!

Do you follow a heart rate-based training plan? If you do, tell me about it. If you don’t, would you like to? Tell me why!

Race Report: Scotiabank Toronto Marathon

Crossing the finish line

The thousand-yard stare in the above photo notwithstanding, the marathon was a success. It was my fifth marathon, and the first one I’ve done barefoot. I had finishing times in mind (the usual spectrum of target, goal, and wishful thinking), but my real goal was was a state of mind. And I achieved it. (My chip time, by the way, was 5:17 and change – an improvement of 2 minutes over my last marathon finishing time, in 2010. Not only am I getting older, I’m getting better!)

For a number of reasons, I’ve taken a while to get my thoughts down about this event. That may be a good thing, as it’s meant I’ve had time to reflect on the race, my performance, and the future. They’re all good.

The Goodies

For starters, I had the pleasure of running almost all of the marathon with fellow barefoot runner Dan B. Dan and I have known each other online for about 3 1/2 years, but met in real time only the day before Scotiabank. He traveled from his home in Massachusetts for the race, and I showed him around Toronto a bit as we did a (car) recon of the route, drank espresso in a couple of my favourite local places, and chatted about running, barefooting, and life in general. For the marathon itself, Dan and I ran the first 30K side-by-side,as we’d agreed beforehand. (That must have been quite a sight, judging by the cheers and comments we got from race spectators!) After the 30K mark, we yo-yo’ed back and forth, until Dan surged ahead to cross the finish line about 15 minutes ahead of me. Sharing the race with Dan was the high point of the marathon for me, as well as one of the best things that happened in my running year. I very much look forward to running with him again.

If that weren’t enough, I had another couple of major successes – this was the first marathon I’ve completed without any walking, and, more importantly, the first in which I didn’t experience any black moods at all. I got pretty focused towards the end of it, but my thoughts were all positive, all the time.

The Race

A very soggy start

It was a very soggy start. Rained all night and hadn’t let up by the 8:00 AM start time. So we had about 16,500 runners (4,500 for the marathon and 12,000 for the half) lined up along Toronto’s University Avenue waiting for the “go” gun in th cold, dark, and wet – not anyone’s favourite weather conditions, but there you are.

In fact, we weren’t lined up at all. We were in corrals, according to the goal times we’d indicated on our registration forms. Being older and wiser than I used to be, I tucked myself in at the very end of the last corral, clad in the poncho I’d bought at the dollar store a couple of days before, while chatting with Dan and with other runners. We were a sea of colourful cheap plastic ponchos and those ubiquitous green garbage bags, most of which got chucked as soon as we started moving.

That took a while, though, given the number of start corrals (eight, if I remember correctly). The start gun sounded, we heard muted cheering from the middle distance, and we waited. A couple of minutes, some more muted cheering, and we waited. And again. You get the idea. A full 20 minutes after we’d heard the start gun, we crossed the start line, activated our watches and Garmins, and set off.

Scotiabank’s designed and marketed as a destination marathon, i.e., its organizers (Canada Running Series) crafted a new route for 2012 which took runners through many of Toronto’s more interesting neighbourhoods before heading down to the lake shore for the long stretches that made up the bulk of the race route. They also worked hard to include 12 neighbourhood cheering sections, each one “owned” by a specific neighbourhood to offer support to race participants. All of that simply added to the street party flavour of this race.

So we barreled along for the first few kilometers, sorting ourslves out in the crowd and settling into our chosen paces. Dan and I, in these early stages and for the better part of the first 30K, were running at about a 6:38 min/km pace, which is what we’d agreed on beforehand. That worked nicely, moving us along at a reasonable speed and along with or slightly ahead of most of the runners around us. Once we’d gone through the downtown section, we met some of our fellow DMers (members of the dailymile running community), introduced ourselves, and both gave and received support. By this time, the rain had stopped, and, though the skies were still overcast, we no longer laboured under the ominous rain clouds of the early morning.

At the 19K mark

By the 19K mark, we passed under the Gardiner Expressway, a behemoth of an urban expressway, where Nicole M., another DM pal, waited for us with her camera and a couple of inspirational signs. Talk about support – Nicole stood in the damp and the cold for a couple of hours, cheering us along as well as every other runner passing by. This is what the running community is made of, folks! It was especially helpful to this barefoot runner as I navigated a sea of discarded paper cups from the nearby aid station. A tip of the barefoot hat to you, Nicole! (Photo courtesy of Nicole M.)

After this, of course, the serious fun started. Everything, as I’d expected, went well enough until about the 28K mark, when my pace started to fade. Not too much, but, after about 32K, to a notable degree. I’d known it would, and had experienced this in enough previous marathons not to be dismayed by it. In fact, I felt like the “observer” of Buddhist meditation – not reacting positively or negatively, simply watching what was happening. That’s what I’d planned, and that’s how it rolled.

Scotiabank marathon pace chart

As you can see from the above chart (from my Garmin Forerunner 210), my paced dropped steadily from that point until the end of the race. That was partly due to the usual depleted fuel issues, partly because the soles of my feet were getting a little tender, and partly because I haven’t yet been able to manage the mental strength to go deep and draw on some buried resources. As I said, though, I had no moments of existential doubt, and maintained a very positive mindset while watching what was happening.

About 2K from the finish, the race route went back into the heart of Toronto’s downtown core, amid looming office towers, streetcar-tracked narrower streets, and a surprisingly large number of spectators, all of whom seemed to understand what we end-of-the-crowd runners were experiencing. It was still a street party, but a more serious one that at the marathon’s start. I turned up from Wellington Street onto Bay, and did my level best to run gracefully as I entered the finish chute, which was tidily located right between Toronto’s old and new City Halls. (“Why do you call it the new City Hall if it was built in 1965,” Dan had asked. I still don’t have a good answer.) Dan was there waiting for me, and we shared a manly handshake and an even more manly hug to celebrate our shared success.

The Winners

Taking it easy post-race

Dan B. and yours truly, immediately post-race. We felt we’d earned the right to sit down after running 42.2K barefoot! Getting up was a bit of a challenge, I must admit. But we did it, and staggered off, full of the sweet, sad tiredness that comes after running a full marathon. (Photo courtesy of a friendly stranger.)


Lots of learnings from this one.

First of all, I learned how good it was to race with a friend. I strongly suspect that the shared pacing (not to mention support) that came with the “companionate running” with Dan made a huge difference to my physical and mental accomplishments. Second, the fact that I wasn’t bitten by the black dog of despair I attribute to three things: 1/ the psychological approach I’d taken in my training; 2/ the very careful carb loading I’d done in the two days before the race; and 3/ the training program I’d followed to prepare for Scotiabank.

There’s more, of course, but I’m still thinking about it. As Dan said before the race, he always takes something different from each marathon he does. The something I got from this one is big and deep, and I haven’t finished exploring it yet.

Next Time

I want to do Scotiabank next year. I like the route, I like the organization, and I like the street party. What I’d like to pull off in 2013 is a 5 hour finish. My strategy (yes, I have one already) is to start really slowly, at a 7:00 min/km pace), and hold that for as long as I can. Ideally, that would be for the whole 42.2K distance. I want to enter into that post-30K threshold space with more psychological and physical strength, and I want, once again, to be the observer. With less fade and more awareness, I may be able to knock some minutes off this year’s finishing time.

And finally…

Back to the thousand yard stare in my finishing photo… Given all the above good stuff, I’d argue that it wasn’t, after all, a zombie look. Instead, as I’d written in an earlier post, I wanted the final 12k of the marathon to be an opportunity to look past a threshold to “the place where the definitions are.” I got that. For all my sore muscles and tingly feet, those final kilometers were a private, quiet, and, yes, peaceful space where I got what I needed. Come to think of it, I got a whole lot more than I needed – and that, my friends, is the real reason we run marathons.

Interactive STWM Course Map

The Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon is only 11 days away. That means I’m reviewing all kinds of things, from weather reports to clothing options to race-day logistics… and the course map.

On the STWM website, I found a cool interactive route map, on which one can look at elevation details for any point on the course. That would mean a lot more if the course were a hilly one. It’s not at all; in fact, it’s heavily marketed as “flat and fast.” All the same, it’s a nice piece of work. You can check it out here.


Training for Toronto: Psychology

This is the last article in the series “Training for Toronto,” an account of my preparation for the 2012 Toronto Waterfront Marathon. Previous articles included Foundations, Fueling, and The Program. Here’s an overall picture of the article series and its contents:

Training for Toronto

“The marathon is less a physical event than a spiritual encounter. In infinite wisdom, God built into us a 32K racing limit, a limit imposed by inadequate sources of the marathoner’s prime racing fuel – carbohydrates. But we, in our human wisdom, decreed that the standard marathon be raced over 42K. So it is in that physical no-man’s-land, which begins after the 32K mark, that the irresistible appeal of the marathon lies.” Dr. Timothy Noakes, The Lore of Running.

Change “spiritual” to “mental,” change “God” to “nature,” and you’ve got the subject of this article: how am I going to get my head around running the Toronto Marathon in my goal time of 4 hours and 30 minutes?

To do so, I’ve learned about something called the Central Governor Theory, changed my thinking about the much-feared “wall,” and have integrated both into my training.

First, the Central Governor Theory… This is a hypothesis, first proposed in 1924 by Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine winner Archibald Hill, and later developed by Noakes, that posits a process in the brain that regulates exercise regarding a calculated safe exertion by the body. In a nutshell, it suggests that the CGT controls the body’s level of physical activity so that its intensity can’t threaten the body’s homeostasis by causing anoxia damage to the heart. Basically, the proposed “central governor” limits exercise by reducing the neural recruitment of muscle fibres, which is then experienced as fatigue. This is a complex idea which doesn’t lend itself to brief explanations, though, so you might want to look at the Wikipedia article on the subject.

OK, that’s a start. But the CGT is deep-set in the brain, and doesn’t lend itself easily to change. It’s going to prevent me from going so quickly I expire – but how can I modify what goes on in my brain to allow me to go more quickly, or at least more comfortably?

Brain Training for RunnersI’ve found the beginning of an answer in Brain Training for Runners, by Matt Fitzgerald. In it, Fitzgerald offers an eight-step “mind training” program that works by “tweaking,” if you like, the way the mind and the body interact when training for races. This isn’t positivist psychology – there’s no talk of attitudinal adjustments, “believe and it will happen,” or mantras. Instead, Fitzgerald suggests training programs that build coordinated mental and physical strengths to approach and surpass previous limits. In fact, his programs aren’t dissimilar to Pete Pfitzinger’s Advanced Marathoning, which I’ve been using to train for Toronto. And both Fitzgerald and Pfitzinger acknowledge a debt to coaching legend and author Jack Daniels, whom they see as a mentor and coaching model. (I highly recommend Fitzgerald’s book, by the way. It’s easy to read, chock-full of ideas, and helpful.)

Which brings me to the idea of thinking about “the wall” differently.

Threshold: “Hitting the wall” (or “the bonk,” as it’s affectionately known) describes a condition caused by the depletion of glycogen stores in the liver and muscles, which manifests itself by sudden fatigue and loss of energy. That’s the time-honoured theory, anyway – there are a number of new approaches to endurance running that suggest it may not be wholly valid. One I’ve cooked up on my own (credit where credit is due, right?) is to turn the whole thing around, and see the 32K limit as a desirable rather than something to be feared. That’s a big job for me. The 32K mark has been my nemesis on every marathon I’ve done so far (in 1980, 1981, 2009, and 2010) and was also the place where I decided to abandon the barefoot 50K ultra I attempted in 2009. In a very real way, I’m scared of it – and I don’t want that to be the case at Toronto. So I’ve tried, on my long and very long training runs, to see 32K as the entry point to a place I want to be, a place where I can discover myself anew, a place Hunter S. Thompson once called “the place where the definitions are.” From the start to the 32K mark will be familiar territory. I want to approach the territory between 32K and the finish as somewhere good, because I’ll discover good things there. The image I have in my head looks something like this:

Looking for the threshold...

Training: My training for Toronto has gone well. I’ve had the usual bumps along the way (including a puncture wound that took longer to heal than I thought it would), and the usual crises of confidence about 1/ running a marathon at all and 2/ doing it barefoot. But I’ve had some very positive training experiences as well, including a growing feeling of physical strength and a good half marathon race. I’m just a few days away from the beginning of my taper, during which I’ll continue to add strength/speed runs and, perhaps more importantly, look within myself for the mental depth that will, I think, make all the difference towards the end of the 42K distance.

Will I be ready? Well, yes and no. Yes, because I have trained well. I’ve been consistent, I’ve been adaptive, and I now know my strengths and limits better than before. No, because there’ll always be that little corner of my mind that is in awe of the challenge of running 42K. But that’s part of the appeal and the magic of the marathon, isn’t it? It’s all about ordinary people (like me) doing something quite extraordinary – and not only living to tell the tale, but celebrating the experience and the result.

Here’s to the marathon, whatever it may bring!

Training for Toronto: Fueling

The more I run, the more I’m convinced that fueling is the key to making everything work right. Sure, a good training program matters. So does getting one’s head on straight. But proper fueling is fundamental. If it’s not there, nothing else is going to work.

So, in preparing for the Toronto Scotiabank Marathon, I’ve made some significant changes to my nutrition and fuelling strategies, at all levels. In this post, I’ll cover what I’m doing about my general nutrition, in my training, and what I plan to do for the race itself. As always, all this is the result of what I’ve found works for me. I’m not suggesting it will necessarily work for you or anyone else! However, I hope that my ongoing “experiment of one” will give you something to think about. If it helps you run or race better, that’s all to the good.

First, some background… After following a vegetarian diet for many years, some months ago I began eating meat and fish again. In fact, what I’m doing now is eating a more-or-less paleo diet. That means lean meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, and nuts, with little or no grains, and hardly any dairy. (I still have a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast each morning, and I eat a small bowl of yogurt once each day.) I started eating meat and fish again simply because I wanted more varied sources of protein. I cut back on bread, rice, potatoes, and then eliminated them entirely from my diet, because I found that doing so helped me lose weight. Three months ago, I weighed 158 lbs. This morning, I weighed in at 147. Forty-six years ago, when I graduated from high school, I weighed 145 lbs. Not bad, hey?

I’ve made equally significant changes in my training program for Toronto. As always, I do my training runs first thing in the morning. Starting in May, though, I started doing those runs without eating breakfast first. I made that change after reading in both Tim Noakes’ Lore of Running and Hammer Nutrition’s Endurance Athlete’s Guide to Success that running/training on an empty stomach is an excellent way to train the body to run on fat rather than glycogen. That doesn’t matter much to sprinters, but running a marathon successfully is all about running on fat. In his book, Noakes states that there’s no need to eat before a run or race if one has eaten a decent meal the night before. To be fair, before any of my medium or long training runs (i.e., any distance over 16K), I have a Hammer Gel five minutes before the run start, and I drink Hammer HEED during the run itself. And I follow each run with Hammer Recoverite and my regular breakfast (a bowl of oatmeal with raspberries or blueberries, and perhaps a banana after that).

The results of the above regimen speak for themselves. I’m obviously fueling well, because I’m running strongly and smoothly. I’ve lost weight. My energy levels are more consistent throughout my runs, particularly on long runs, which means that my body switches over quickly and easily from burning glycogen to burning fat. My training program is helping me develop strength and endurance, so I’m hoping that my improved access to fat-burning will keep me from fading in the latter stages of the race (a bad habit of mine in long races).

What does all that say about racing the Toronto Marathon on October 14? I think it’s pretty obvious that I’ll continue what I’m doing now. It’s working, and it’s working well. The day before the race, I’ll eat normally, though perhaps taking only a light meal in the evening. I won’t have breakfast on race morning, but will instead have a Hammer Gel. I’ll drink HEED and ingest gels during the race, and, as quickly as I can after I finish, drink some Recoverite and toss down a couple of Hammer Bars.

It’s a strategy, and I think it’s a good one. Sure, it may develop in time (it’s an ongoing experiment, right?) but I want to stay the course throughout the rest of my training schedule. After the marathon, there’ll be time for reflection, analysis, and further tweaking.

Next in the Training for Toronto series: The Program.


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!