November Training Journal – Something New (Q&A for you)

Every month on Strength Running I write a review of the previous month’s training – what worked, what didn’t, my failures and successes. My hope is that you can learn from my training to improve your own.

I’m going to do something a little different today: open a Q&A in the comment section about your training. Let me know what’s going on with your running and how I can help. I’ll also answer any questions about my training, racing, shoes, whatever – it’s all fair game.

It’s no secret that November was marathon month for me. On 11/20 I ran the Philadelphia Marathon, running a personal best time in 2:39:32. I won’t write another race report here, so check out the race report linked to above.

Philadelphia Marathon

Training Ingredients: the taper, workouts, and shoes

Most of the month I was tapering for the race or recovering from it, so there’s not much to report in terms of  high-quality workouts or weekly mileage totals. Overall volume was low for me with only 151 miles.

I experimented with a shortened taper before Philly and it worked well. My strategy was to dramatically cut the volume on several key runs throughout the week (making them very easy and short) while keeping the mileage high on workouts and a few other days.

My longest long run was also extended by two more weeks compared with my NYC Marathon. I was worried that I’d carry some residual fatigue into the race but with the targeted rest I felt fine. This won’t be true for all people but a longer taper just isn’t effective for me.

Let’s look at the November workouts:

  • 6k tempo in 21:25 (5:44 pace) + 4x1000m in 3:18, 3:16, 3:15, 3:14.
  • 22 mile long run with 3 x 3mile in 18:46, 18:05, and 17:46 (marathon PR pace, goal marathon pace, sub-marathon pace).
  • 4xmile on the track in 5:57, 5:37, 5:25, 5:19 with 200m slow jog recovery. Ten miles total.
  • 5k @ Marathon Pace: 18:44, then 4x200m in 35, 34, 34, 33. Ten miles total.

The highlight of November was the Philadelphia Marathon so check out the race report for the splits and play by play.

I wore the Saucony Fastwitch shoes for the race – they’re lightweight at only 7.8 ounces but not as minimalist as I’d normally wear for a race. Support was important to me and I think it was a good overall choice even though I got a blister on my right arch at mile 6.

My goal for my next marathon is to wear a true racing flat, but this is something I’ll have to work toward in the next 6-12 months with plenty of workouts in flats, barefoot strides, and foot strengthening exercises. My ideal marathon shoe is the ASICS Hyper Speed but I’ll need significant training to race in these for longer than 10 miles.

On to the Q&A!

Now let’s have some fun – leave your questions about training, racing, running shoes, pacing, motivation, etc. in the comments below. I’ll answer every single one.

I love doing Q&A’s and this was the foundation of the Strength Running PR Guide, a Q&A guide that’s available for free to my newsletter readers. If you want a copy, just sign up below and you’ll get access to it.

Stumped for ideas? The questions in PR Guide are on the following topics:

  • how to increase mileage / endurance
  • how to pace yourself on an easy run
  • pacing strategies for hilly races
  • how to add plyometric exercises to your training plan
  • how to schedule core/strength exercises in your training plan
  • when to schedule rest
  • how to know when you’ve gotten as fast as you can
You get the idea – anything goes. Ask away!

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  1. What kind of workouts are good in the winter/base building? I like to run 4x/week to maintain running fitness but it sometimes still feels a bit too ‘scheduled’ for me.

    • The base period is a good time to focus on running at both ends of the spectrum – endurance (long runs) and neuromuscular fitness (strides / hill sprints). As you build your ability to run race pace – whether 5k or half-marathon – you transition to more pace-specific workouts later as you exit the base phase and go into the specific phase. One mistake that a lot of runners make is to never run fast in the base phase. You should keep this muscle memory! Strides, fartleks, and hill sprints are good ways to do it.

  2. Leo Castaneda says:

    Let’s say you run a 10/min mile pace in 50degF weather, and on race day it’s 70degF weather. How do you adjust your pace with heat/humidity?

    • This is a really good question. I am running at a much quicker pace for the same given heart rate in December as I was in August. How do I adjust for a race in warmer temp? Do you run according to your heart rate or according to the pace you you ran at all winter?

      • So two questions here. First, how do you adjust for a race in warmer temps. I answered this in an earlier question too, but it’s more important to adjust and be more conservative in longer races where pace management is key. In shorter races under 30 minutes you don’t have to adjust as much since you won’t have time to overheat. Some recent research shows that declines in performance due to heat/humidity are often mental (your brain forces you to slow down) rather than physical (the heat actually slows you down). So my recommendation is to run based on feel in training and if on race day it’s really hot, be 10-30 seconds slower per mile to start if it’s a longer race.

        Second question: Do I run according to HR or pace? I run according to feel, which most of the time is somewhere around 7min. pace. I use 7′ pace as an average, but sometimes I’m 7:30 and other times I’m probably closer to 6:30. Depends on weather, how I’m feeling, how tired I am, if I had 1 glass of wine or 4 the night before…

    • The longer the race, the more you’ll have to adjust. For a 5k or shorter, I’d stick with your original plan. Since you’ll be running for about 30 minutes, you don’t need to adjust too much. 70 also isn’t hot enough to significantly affect performance unless you’re getting into half-marathon or longer distances. But if you are running those distances, my recommendation is to start more conservatively in the 10:30 range. You don’t have to run significantly slower, but a pace that just feels easier will help you later when you start to feel the heat.

  3. I have been very inconsistent with my strength training during the week. Partly because I can’t seem to find a solid list of exercises I feel I am getting benefit from, and I really don’t know how much weight I should be lifting. i apologize if you cover your weight training elsewhere on the site, but I haven’t found anything directly related to it. Do you have a detailed strength routine you would be willing to share?


    • Good question Jerod. I need to write more on this topic (are you on my newsletter? I just sent something out about this). Until then, my advice is to stick to basic, compound movements like deadlifts, squats, bench press, pull ups, chin ups, lunges, military press, dips, etc. For distance runners, lifting heavy weight in the 4-6 rep range is a good idea. I wrote a very old post here with my lifting routine here (it’s a bit outdated):

      • Should you do strength building exercises on rest days in your running schedule, or should rest days be actual REST days.

        • Totally depends on your training program and history/background. Ideally you’d do some ancillary work every day but that’s not right for all runners.

          • To further complicate matters I also have two of “other” cross-training (sports) days. If I use those two days as my “rest” days (i.e. – 2 days Xtrain, 5 days running), where in my running schedule should I put my lifting days?; i.e. – Should I lift on recovery run days or on hill/speedwork days?

            Confused? me too 😉

            Thanks for the help!

          • Lots of things going on here, and without knowing the full story take this advice with a grain of salt! But a general rule is not to lift on a workout day. So do the lifting on a recovery run day. Hope that helps!

  4. I am relatively new to running (and fitness in general). I’ve been running less than 2 years, and I’m about to do my first marathon. I want to improve my speed next year – I am pretty slow, a measly 7min/km is my long run pace.

    What should I focus on in 2012 to gain any (even teeny tiny!) speed improvements? Should I consider focusing on a couple 10k’s and then a half, and maybe consider another marathon in 2013? Should I not think about speed at all and just keep getting my body used to long distances – regardless of pace?

    • Since you’re a new runner, you’re most likely lacking in the endurance department. To run faster over a marathon, focus on running more on a weekly and monthly basis at a conversational pace. I’d also have you do 4-6 strides after an easy run 2-3 times per week. For a weekly workout, something simple like a short fartlek workout (5 x 2 minutes or 10 x 30 seconds) at a relatively faster pace will do the trick. Along the way, throw in a 5k or 10k to try to beat your previous best time. With consistency, you’ll do great.

  5. Joe Richardson says:

    I always run with a GPS device and use it mainly for watching my pace during the run to make sure I hit my training marks. My unit broke down last week and I have been running without it my the past two weeks and using perceived effort but feel I might not be getting what I need out of the training runs. Any thoughts on using or the need of a GPS device during training and on race day?

    • I’m a big believer in running by feel and I actually don’t own a GPS watch. I wore one for the first time about two months ago and I found the pace was inaccurate on a moment to moment basis, but pretty accurate overall for the run based on my experience. I think ditching the GPS watch to get in tune with your body is a good idea – learn how different paces feel (heart rate, wind, turnover, muscle contraction force, respiration, etc.) and you’ll be better able to manage your pace in a race. In a race I’d only recommend a GPS watch if you really wanted it and if it were a longer race where pace management is more important.

  6. Hi Jason,

    Would love to hear your thoughts on the best way to incorporate a heart rate monitor into training. I’ve been running for several years and started marathon running (and a more disciplined training program along with it) three years ago. A few running buddies of mine are big fans of the heart rate monitor, so I’m curious to see if it would help me at all. I currently use a watch to track mileage/pace, and it has heart rate monitoring capabilities, so it would be easy enough to tack on. What are your thoughts?

  7. Leo Castaneda says:

    How do I start getting into minimalist shoes? For a beginner, is it a good idea to get one? How do I use them when training for a full marathon?

    • This is a follow up to Leo’s question: I was a 5 days a week, 35-40miles/week runner who got injured recently and is slowly getting back to running. I am leaning towards switching to a minimalist shoe but still wondering about the best way to transition to one. What do you think is better? Being by switching to minimalist shoes for 1 or 2 of the runs (maybe an interval run and an easy run) and slowly work towards doing all the runs in them. Or go full blown to a minimalist shoe and slowly build up endurance to run the long runs?

    • Leo/Kierthi – For someone new to more minimalist shoes, I’d start by doing one easy run in them per week. Your shoe shouldn’t be extremely minimalist (like FiveFingers), but something a little more minimalist than what you’re used to. I recommend a few pairs here: While you’re transitioning, you should start doing some foot strengthening exercises to help get stronger. One thing you may want to consider is that once you start running in a neutral trainer, there might be no need to go minimalist. Read this I just wrote about getting the benefits of minimalism without the shoes:

  8. I just took a little over a month off becasue of ITBS and I plan on starting up again next week. How should I do this? Should I only do a few runs per week and add more days later, or should I run everyday but keep them all very short in the beginning of my return to running?

    • Stick to the good principle of making your hard days harder and your easy days easier. So take rest days (you need them) and run every other day or every 3 days. You should also be doing enough strength/mobility exercises (like ITB Rehab Routine).

  9. Hi Jason, how do you structure your running over the course of a year? You used the term base training above? How does that work & how long? What are the other periods?

    • Hey Kris – my running is structured towards a race. So I’ll have a build up period (“base”), then a period where the workouts are more specific to the race I’m planning for, and finally a peaking/sharpening phase. The build-up or base period focuses on getting to a target mileage level with mostly easy running, but also includes strides and easier fartleks. The peaking/sharpening phase includes the taper and has a drop in mileage and faster workouts.

      If I’m not training for a race I keep running so I’m always building fitness. I highly recommend Brad Hudson’s book Run Faster for more info on training phases and other training ideas. It’s the best running book I’ve read.

  10. This post comes at a good time, because I was just thinking about asking you a shoe question. I know you have talked about doing a lot of trail running. Do you run in a trail running shoe? If so, do you recommend a particular shoe? Maybe a shoe that is slightly more minimalist. I love my asics, I run in the speedster 5, and the Gel-DS trainer 16, but I wanted to do a little more trail running this winter and had no thoughts of any particular shoe. Oh, Is there a shoe that might be better for winter weather?

    • Hey Sam, while about 70% of my running is on trails I don’t wear a trail shoe. The trails that I run aren’t too technical (the footing is good), so I don’t need one. But I know that some runners prefer some extra traction, so look for a shoe that has a more rugged sole. For a minimalist trail shoe, check out the New Balance Minimus ( – they’re popular. Also check out for lots of great shoe reviews. Otherwise, since I don’t wear a trail shoe, I don’t know a specific one to recommend. For running on snow/ice, you may want a trail shoe for the added traction, or you can get something like YakTrax that fit over normal shoes (

  11. I have read many books and articles about running. My question is about consistency for long runs. My 5K, 10 half marathon follow the race predictor times. My easy training runs are supposed to be 9 min/mi. I can maintain tis pace for 10 miles without any problem. After 10 miles my times slow to 10-14 min/mi depending on the distance. How can I maintain a 9 min/mi pace for 18 miles?

    • Hey Louis, it seems that you just need more endurance. This comes with time and consistent long runs, volume, and patience. You can’t go from 9′ pace for 10 miles and expect to hold it for another 8! Patience, my friend. It will come as you build more and more fitness.

      • Thank you for your response. It is much better than slow down. I would like to take it one step further, however. The 9 min/mi is my easy training run. I can run a consistent 8 min/mi for 6 miles. My 8K race is 7 min/mi pace. I thought if you slow down by 15 sec/mi you should be able to double your distance; hence, my 9 min/mi question. Going from 8 min to 9 min mile is much slower than 15 sec. Any additional input would be welcomed.

        • I don’t think you’re going to like this answer: you need to slow down. Unless you’re doing a faster workout, (for the most part) your distance runs need to be at an easy aerobic pace which sounds like it’s 9′ mile pace. Do you run a variety of race paces in workouts during training? You may want to look into that. Otherwise, run more, keep it easy, and your average distance run pace will gradually improve.

  12. Jason,

    I hope I haven’t caught this thread too late to get a question answered, but I have had something on my mind for awhile that’s been bugging me with my running. I’ve started running trail races this year, and I’ve noticed that (when compared to other racers) I run uphill very competitively, yet get blown away by very speedy downhill runners.

    My question is, do you have any workouts designed to help someone run faster downhill? Maybe it’s mental, too–I do have this nagging doubt in my head that if I let go and charge down a hill I will eat it. Any tips/advice for the mental aspect?

    Thanks in advance, Jason!

    • Hey Kurt. Happy to answer 🙂 First and foremost, I think downhill running is more art than science. It takes some getting used to and you definitely should practice it during training if you want to get better during your race. Focus on taking quick steps, not leaning back too far, and just opening your stride. Make sure you still land underneath your body though.

      This post might be helpful: The mental side of running downhill is trusting your body to get you to the bottom of the hill! If you practice in training, you’ll be better in a race. Good luck!

  13. You sort of already addressed this but other than hill sprints how should raw speed workouts be worked into a schedule? What workouts can it be substituted for or added to if you normally have a tempo type workout and a shorter faster interval workout each week?

    • Besides hill sprints, I’d use strides and short fartleks in the 20-30sec range. But it’s important to see How it fits with your training. With a short interval workout you could be getting all the stimulus you need.