You Be the Coach: Help Zach Plan his Training and Win a SRBC Membership

Today is your chance to be the coach and help a fellow Strength Runner with his upcoming marathon. Ready to show me your brilliance?


You might remember earlier this year when I asked for your coaching help with Michael. Over 50 of you replied and offered suggestions on why he bonked the Houston Marathon. They ranged from insightful and smart to hilariously off the mark.

Today is a second chance to prove that you’ve read, absorbed, and applied what you’ve learned here at Strength Running. You’re not just here for training porn, are you?

Zach is a 32 year old who’s starting to train for the Richmond Marathon after finally getting healthy from an Achilles injury. Last year, I created a PR Race Plan for him but lingering Achilles problems caused him to drop out of training after just two weeks.

A year after his injury, he’s finally ready to tackle Richmond this fall but he’s not sure how to modify his training plan.

Read his email here:

Hi Jason,

I’m writing again to seek your advice about this training plan. I’m finally running consistently and trying to figure out what to do. I deferred my 2012 registration to 2013 and have about 16 weeks to go.

So now I’m mostly healthy, I think, but still trying to be conservative. I’ve got a run-streak of 40 days going (averaging 3.7 a day, so it’s not as aggressive as it sounds). I’ve worked up to about 30 mpw for the last few weeks and I’m handling that load pretty well. I did a Marathon Pace workout of 4 miles on Saturday and that felt good. Also, I’ve been pretty good about the various strength routines, even while I’ve been not running.

Anyway, since the plan you wrote for me was for a more in-shape version of myself (it starts at about 50 mpw), I’m trying to figure out what to do:

Option 1: Work my mileage up for the PR plan, building mileage until I can “catch up” with the plan at whatever point it’s at.

Option 2: Stay conservative for now, maybe do a generic Hal Higdon plan for Richmond, and then focus on a Spring Marathon (VA Beach on 3/16 looks good) with your PR plan in effect. The problem there is that it’s 17 weeks between races, and I figure with a month of recovery from Richmond, I’m only getting 12 weeks of good training for VA Beach.

Option 3: Something else? I’m absolutely open to suggestions.

Whatever advice you can provide, I’d be grateful. Thanks for your time.



Zach is no longer running 50 miles per week with regular interval and tempo workouts like he used to. After being in recovery mode for about a year, he can’t jump back up to his previous training levels without a big injury risk.

So what should he do?

Leave your response below by 8/2/2013 at 11:59pm EST describing which option Zach should take (or propose an alternative direction he should take his training for the next ~4 months).

The best coach gets complimentary enrollment in the SR Boot Camp.

Something to think about: last time we did this, there were crazy suggestions about muscle fiber composition and identifying dominant leg muscles. Dear God. 

Good coaches are able to take complex subjects and simplify them so they’re easily understood and actionable. To quote Vern Gambetta, if you want to be an “exercise guru” you should:

Make everything as complex as possible. If you are not sure, make it more complicated.

This tongue-in-cheek observation illustrates that effective coaching (i.e., getting results, overcoming hurdles, and communicating what’s necessary to achieve a goal) should be easy to understand. The simplest explanation is most often the correct one.

After I choose the winner I’ll also share my thoughts on Zach’s best path forward this fall. Good luck!


UPDATE: After reading through all of the responses, I was blown away by how thorough and thoughtful every single one of them is. This was a VERY hard decision and I could have easily picked five winners.

I decided to choose Andrew for a few reasons:

  • I agree that it’s probably best to skip the Richmond Marathon (however, after reading Zach’s comment that he’s basically healthy right now, I’m 50/50 on the decision). I’m very conservative when it comes to marathons because, well, they’re really hard. I don’t like running one for “confidence” or a sub-par performance. If you’re going to do one, do it at your best effort.
  • I gave a slow clap to this sage advice: “Running two [marathons] in seven months while trying to come back from an injury seems to be asking for more trouble.” Again, I’m conservative when it comes to marathons.
  • Andrew advised continued base building without the stress of being tied to a goal race

Even though I absolutely loved Andrew’s response, it’s not exactly the same advice I gave to Zach.

I told Zach that if he’s itching to run a fall marathon, his best option is to scale back both the volume and intensity of the PR Race Plan I wrote him. Since he was “mostly healthy” I think keeping some intensity (faster work) is a good idea to continue building his fitness.

I also mentioned that because he won’t be in the best shape, if he decides to run a fall marathon Zach needs to scale back his expectations.

Again, I want to thank everyone who contributed to this article. It’s always fascinating to hear your thoughts on training, races, and injuries. Cheers!

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  1. Zach/Jason

    I’m in a somewhat similar situation and I’m going to share with you the approach I’ve decided to take.

    Coming off of a lingering injury that you fear can re-appear at any time is no vote of confidence to start aggressively tacking on the intervals or speed work that could instantly end your comeback.

    You can still do a ‘Jason’ plan but modify it to address your concerns and current fitness level. If aerobic endurance is king of the marathon I’d suggest that you focus on building your volume and total miles again to levels that approach your ideal range, as best as possible.

    Limit your quality work (other than the long run) to once per week, or even alternating weeks, focusing on fartleks and negative splits and strides. Why? Because deep down we know this race will not be our ‘A’ race after dealing with injury setbacks.

    Use this time to re-build a legitimate marathon base with limited faster-quality work, and think about how all of these easier miles are going to lay the foundation for your marathon specific pace work training that you will focus on for the Va Beach race.

  2. I would take a conservative approach. I would run the race and not necessarily go for the PR. You want to continue to run and not just run this one race. I think you could with the conservative approach for the 1st marathon – try to do the 2nd marathon at a PR pace.

  3. Shelly Browne says:

    I’m w/ Chris – Richmond is going to be a race for confidence not PR. I don’t know what Zach’s PR goal is but doing 50+ miles a week right now might not be the best because of the ‘healthy, I think’ part. Until you’re sure you can say ‘healthy, I know’ then working his way into completely healthy might be the best thing.

    With 4 months to go, that should be enough time to train to finish that race and stay healthy. I think the goal should be staying healthy and running smart. Continue with specific rehab exercises for the Achilles injury to not re-injure – keep the mileage comfortable and pain free until the injury is completely healed. The last thing that’s needed is a re-injury.

    I’m training for a race in Sept and my mileage started at 17 mpw to a high of 42 mpw and I’m consistent with my core and strength routines.

  4. Because he is coming off of an injury, I think he should take a more conservative approach to his training. I would recommend that he use the 16 weeks to build up from 30 mpw to peak at around 50 mpw before a taper.

    Since his injury has been an achilles injury and having had them myself, if he is worried about it becoming re-injured or that it might not be up to par, I would limit hill work to every other week and focus on doing some “pre-hab” eccentric achilles exercise in addition to other strength work. The off weeks when not running hills, a fartlek or other type of speed work could be used.

    Other than that, focus on prehab and consistency in his training will be the golden ticket to getting him there on race day.

    I hope he finds something great that will work for him! Good luck.

  5. Thanks for essentially calling me an idiot, Jason!

  6. After missing six weeks of marathon training with a hip flexor injury, caused most likely by running mile repeats too fast, I modified my marathon training. I made long runs the most important aspect of training and did almost no tempo runs for the two months prior to the marathon. Because I limited the hard workouts, the hip was fine by race day, I was still able to run the mileage I was previous to the injury and I set a 13-minute pr.

    I would take the conservative approach for this one. Zach mentions that he would only have 12 weeks to prepare for Virginia Beach. Wrong. Just incorporate the first marathon into training for the second one (There’s a great article on how to train for two races at once (It doesn’t involve crossfit, by the way) on this site).

  7. Stick with the principles Zach and Jason’s PR (Premium Race) Plan will have you ready at some point in the future to finish the 26.2 in strong fashion.
    Be faithful at your pre-run and post-run core strength and flexibility routines.
    Be consistent and maintain excellent nutrition habits.
    Keep building up the mileage at a safe-conservative pace.
    Remember that you “Run today in a way that let’s you run again tomorrow.”
    Don’t forget the reasons why you ENJOY running, make sure to refresh them.
    Listen to your body and err on the side of REST and/or REHAB if needed.
    Keep a journal, to help track your progress and know what works and doesn’t.
    We look forward to celebrating with you when you cross that finish line whether it’s Richmond, VA Beach, Chicago or Boston! 🙂

  8. Brandon says:

    In my opinion you do not want to switch training plans and begin using a generic one. Jason has likely spent a good amount of time tailoring your plan specifically for you and your needs. Obviously, with your history of injury you will need to adjust the plan from Jason to fit your current fitness. My suggestion would be to follow the same general flow of the plan however scale it back to fit your current mileage. If the plan calls for a 10-12 mile long run, bump it down to 7-9. If it calls for a 6 mile tempo, bump it down to a 4 mile tempo. This way you are still stressing the different systems but doing it at your current fitness level. Adapt the program down to your current mileage and fitness and follow the progression of the plan (meaning if it bumps up 5 miles in a week you could bump up a similar percentage. Not mile for mile because 5 miles in a 50 mile week is 10%, but 5 miles in a 30 mile week is nearly 17%).
    I am not familiar with your full history but I would also possibly have you look into new shoes. Or, if you still have tenderness in the achilles a small heel lift insert might help calm things down. The heel lift should only be seen as temporary and you could slowly ween yourself off of it as you get stronger and healthier with strength training.
    As many have said above the first marathon definitely needs to be seen as a building block and not one to seek a PR necessarily. If you stay healthy throughout training and the race itself then I would consider the short break and build back for the spring marathon.

    Just my thoughts.

  9. Daniel C Powell says:

    Good job on sticking with it and returning to running after properly recovering from an injury. You need to build slowly and crank it back every 4th week to get some extra recovery time. A good mileage goal would be: W1-30m, W2-33m, W3-36m, W4-40m, W5-34m, W6-37m, W7-41m, W8-44m, W9-36m, W10-40m, W11-44m, W12-49m, W13-42, W14-46, W15-50, W16-race. Do 1 dedicated speed/track workout weekly with a easy run the day before and after, vary these workouts and make them more race specific as you get closer to the race. 2 days a week do strides after a easy run, on one of these stride days do them on hills starting around week 4. Alternate daily Core/Strength/Rehab. One day work on core, the next day work on strength and injury prevention exercises, then the next day do specific exercises and stretches for your Achillies. Increase duration and intensity of these as time progresses.

    Hope this helps

  10. Hi Zach/Jason,

    I, like some others, would advocate a conservative approach for Richmond with a less strenuous training plan than the PR Jason worked up for you earlier with perhaps the longer-term goal to get to PR plan fitness for a Spring marathon (but maybe something later than March?). I’d also want to incorporate some cross-training either in the pool or on a bike to continue to build cardiovascular fitness while not overly stressing your legs & newly healed Achilles. Foaqm-rolling, strength-training, and massage are, as I suspect you know, also your friends.
    Good luck with it!

  11. I know that I’m repeating what everyone else has been saying, but I’ll say it anyway. I would make your Spring marathon your goal race. I would still try to run in Richmond, but I would use it to rehearse elements of your race execution strategy. Without knowing your race history, I don’t know if there are things that continually crop up in races that you want to eliminate, e.g. GI problems, hamstring cramps (a personal favourite), inconsistent pacing, problems running uphill/downhill, etc.

    As for training, I have used various off-the-shelf (off-the-web?) training programs with varying degrees of success. You have in your hands a custom-developed plan. I would tend towards selecting option 1 – ramping up the mileage so that it intersects at some point with Jason’s plan – but I would dial back the more intense sessions (e.g. shorter or slower tempo runs/interval work) until you know your body is handling the mileage without risk of re-injury. By my math, a 10% increase in weekly mileage (10% I know, I know – I’m using for crude, simple math) puts you at nearly 60 miles after 7 weeks. See how the Achilles feels at 7 weeks and then start gradually increasing the intensity. Who knows, maybe you could nail it in Richmond, but that wouldn’t be my first goal. I wish you all the best, Zach.

  12. I’d say do something else completely-basically agreeing with everyone else. I wouldn’t go generic, since you may not be satisfied with that ESPECIALLY post-injury. I wouldn’t do intersection since the plan starts with much higher mileage (that means the mileage would build to a peak that may be risky from the point you’re at regardless, I’d think?) What I might do is take Jason’s plan and decrease the mileage or tough workouts-prioritizing long runs and mileage, as others have suggested. If you try speedwork/tempos and they don’t go well, then reevaluate. If all else fails and you feel lost, put that plan on the back burner for another race and go crazy and buy another one. (This what I would really do. Because I’m not a coach. And I always need a plan.)

    I certainly don’t know that I’d target two races immediately. I’d hold off to see how the first race goes and then target the next. Marathons seems like they are hard! 😉

    Good luck.

  13. I just want to say that I really enjoy these types of articles and I love reading the feedback from fellow runners. This is a unique and engaging way to involve runners on your site. Keep up the good work.

  14. I think that this is a difficult question to answer without a better idea of what caused your Achilles injury in the first place and your training history. Have you run 50 mpw successfully in the past? Is there a factor like speed, hills, etc. that initially led to the injury and can be limited as you come back? Were you not doing strength work in the past, meaning that it’s reasonably likely that adding strength work will prevent a recurrence of the issue?

    However, from what we do know, I think that answer is to skip the upcoming marathon and focus on Virginia Beach in the spring. There simply isn’t enough training time to run the upcoming marathon in the way that you want, and running the upcoming marathon will compromise your ability to give your best effort at Virginia Beach because of the limited training window after the recovery period. Running two marathons in a year is plenty. Running two in seven months while trying to come back from an injury seems to be asking for more trouble.

    Develop a plan for the next few months to continue to build your base, gradually add in hills, speed, distance, more challenging strength work, etc. while continuing with the strength and mobility work. Base building without a specific goal race will let you keep the necessary flexibility in the plan to skip a workout or cut the speed or distance if you aren’t feeling able to give your full effort. For me and the other runners I know, having the specific goal makes it too likely that you will do a workout you know you probably shouldn’t (i.e. my knee is pretty sore, but I need to do a 14 mile long run this week to stay on pace for the 16 and 20 mile runs coming up).

  15. Zach/Jason:

    Firstly, I permanently fractured my foot in marathon last fall (due to babying a non-running related injury on the oposite foot!). It can be easy to become gripped with fear of reinjury and not wanting to “get back out there too soon”. Trust me, I know and lost a lot of training time and fitness over this past winter and spring debating whether or not it was “too soon” to get back at it and train hard.

    Second, I’d say for a confidence booster, go do a race immediately. A 5K or something similar, not more than a 10K for sure. Just something to get you revved up and motivated.

    Third. I say go with my modified version of “Option 1” from the above email. This is what I’ve personally done with a RYBQ plan I have from Jason and I’m in week 9 of 16 going strong w/o reinjury. For this example, let’s say that Jason’s PR plan is 20 weeks, and you’ve stated you’re now 16 weeks out from the marathon. So you’re 4 weeks behind. Not a problem. Borrowing advice from marathon coach Jeff Galloway’s book “Marathon: You Can Do It” you can pick up with Jason’s PR plan quite easily and with reduced risk of reinjury. For the long run that is in the current week on the PR plan run up to the most recent mileage you’ve done in a long run, plus a mile or two and then walk the remaining miles in the run. Your body will still adapt even with the walking. A different twist on this would be if the long run isn’t any longer, and the PR plan calls for more mileage than what you’re used to, run up to the your typical 30mpw + 2mi, and then walk the rest of the miles. It’s not an identical adaptation, but your body will still adapt.

    During a training cycle I also cannot stress enough how important it is for proper nutrition, ample sleep (8+ hours per day, napping if necessary to make up lost sleep), and using some sort of form of personal therapy such as foam rolling, “The Stick”, or similar. Do this daily and you will have an incredibly fun time, stay healthy, and best of all a great race at the end of the plan!

    Train smarter, not harder. 🙂

  16. You need to readjust your goals in light of the injury. At this point you’re not going to run your best race regardless of what you do now. You can finish the marathon but need to be realistic about PRing. Personally, I’ve had a chronic achillies injury and I speak from experience that what aggravates it is speed and hills. Distance has actually made it stronger. Since the marathon is 99% aerobic, regardless of the injury, the best type of training you need will be increased mileage.

    My suggestion is to ramp up your mileage. That will build a strong base that will allow you to complete your marathon and stay healthy. You won’t get a PR this time around but if you can train for four months with higher mileage, you will have a base that will allow you to slowly add faster tempo and speed workouts for your next marathon. Further, you don’t need a month to recover if you have an adequate base going into the marathon. Three or four days off and then build back to your regular mileage within a few weeks. At that point, assess your injury (or lack thereof) and start adding those faster workouts in one-to-two times a week if your body is telling you it can handle it. If the workouts are making your injury worse, back off and reassess. This should set you up for a great second marathon at a much faster pace.

  17. I don’t think a plan tailored for a runner doing 50mpw with quality intensity is going to be worth modifying for a runner doing 30mpw without any “quality” workouts. The best option would be to get another training plan to cover the transition…make Jason more money….

    I think you should plan on running at Richmond. The question is whether you should be running the full or the half (you can switch for $10) and whether you should be racing it or just running to finish. Run the full with the intention of turning in the best time you can given the circumstances but not being heartbroken if you miss PR, and you’ll have a great idea of your condition before training for that spring marathon.

    I don’t think you need a full month off in between, unless you know that from personal experience: a week of very light activity (perhaps no running), a week of “easy” running, and two weeks of ramp-up ought to do the job. Plus, you’ll have a really solid training base to build on–running one race won’t “reset” your training.

    Race plans aside: you’re running every day! Are they all about the same distance? It’s time to start breaking that weekly mileage up. Start lengthening out one run into a long run–how do you feel? Do some running at your “support paces”–again, how do you feel? Your “faster” support pace is a slight increase in intensity. Have some zero or very easy days. The specifics of the plan are fine points, but if you’re doing 4 miles every day at the same intensity you’re neither giving your body training stimulus nor recovery time.

    The biggest thing is the injury. Say you jump into the PR plan this fall after Richmond–what’s different that makes you know the injury won’t flare up after two weeks again? The strength training’s a good contribution. Are you doing flexibility work? Check your shoes? You need to make sure you can keep on running rather than getting reinjured. Everything else is details. It’s the year of consistency, right?

  18. First – way to get back out there! I like your Option 2, while continuing to run (not race…) Richmond.

    You need to prove to yourself that you can handle 26.2 on the legs that you’ve got. 30 miles/week is sufficient for completing a marathon. I might look at the Higdon plans (or maybe even a Galloway plan…) to get me through Richmond, with the goal being the Spring Marathon.

    I would try to get in four runs per week and a few strength sessions. Look at Jason’s hip routine and his core routine. Consider these AS important as (maybe more important than) the runs. I would run three times M-F in a 3-5-3 or 5-8-5 and then do progressively longer runs on the weekends. Don’t sweat speed on the long runs – just keep moving and stay on your feet.

    Then, take it easy and finish Richmond with strength in the bank, a smile on your face, and the confidence you need to put in some intensity. 2-3 weeks recovery before getting back out there for your “real” training for Virginia Beach.

    Don’t forget than running is a gift. Have fun. Stay on your feet. Stay healthy.

  19. Zach,

    I also had this issue, and brought a calf stretcher and would use this for 5mins on each leg after every run or interval session and have not had issues since.

    You may have biomechanical issues which are causing stress to the tendon, or it could be coming from a muscle weakness which can be corrected with the right strength exercises. I would recommend you go and get tested for this.

    Start with running in terms of minutes rather than trying to run a specific distance, you will be able to judge how your achilles is feeling. Start with 40mins this could take you 6 miles or you could only run 4.5 miles during the 40mins. During the first 4 weeks just work on your aerobic base filling up the tank as much as possible, then introduce the intervals when you feel comfortable or use the deep water running mentioned below. Gradually increase your volume and speed as you feel.

    When it comes to speed work try deep water running. see youtube clip below

    I used this when I had a stress fracture and spent 6 weeks doing this every day. Because your heart rate is 20 beats lower under water you can do speed work every day. After about two weeks out of the pool I ran a 32min 10k. Do workouts like 5x 5mins with 90sec recovery or a ladder starting with 10mins and working down to 1min with 90 sec recovery between each interval then try the dreaded 2hours of up and down the pool. You can read more and see a program here

    Good luck Zach don’t give up.

  20. At 30 mpw (with limited longer aerobic stimulus, since he has been doing this 7 days/wk), I don’t think it is worth trying to race the marathon, whether it is for the experience or for a PR. Its not worth the risk and there is no reason to run 26.2 miles for the sake of confidence. Take the long term perspective and use the base you have at your current mileage and build some confidence by using a PR Plan for racing the half at Richmond and use that fitness (and progression of increased mileage during that time) to build toward VA Beach for the marathon distance. By the time you race Richmond (with a PR of course), you will have built a support system to handle quality work and moderate volume you’ll need to progress to the marathon distance. Just make sure to be ready for running into a headwind at VA Beach – it can be pretty brutal if you aren’t ready for it!

  21. Zach, I would do like a lot of the others have said be conservative with your running until you are sure that you are 100%. The thing that I would like to add is if you cant get to the 50 miles a week running why not run what you can and cross train to make up for the rest I’m sure for a little extra $ jason would give you some excellent alternatives to workouts that could be done on either a bike or in a pool to make up for the lost miles over the next 16 weeks with a little creativity and a lot of hard work I think you still have a chance to pr the fall race….if you’re anything like me settling to just finish is hardly an option so give your all and good luck

  22. Mike Salamon says:

    Okay, not knowing the full story, I will make the following assumptions. First that Zack really wants to run in Richmond. Second, that most of his runs have been the same type of runs with maybe the occasional marathon paced run for a few miles. Third, that the goal he set for this race is relatively aggressive though realistic if he properly followed the PR program. Finally, that he is not a beginner, that he has run at least a few marathons before.

    First, and this trumps anything else I’m going to suggest. How confident is Zack that he is going to be able to successfully train for Richmond without suffering another setback, and then complete his goal? If his confidence level is anything lower than a “7” on a 1-10 scale, then we have our answer right there. In his e-mail he said he’s “mostly healthy, I think”. That sounds a bit skeptical. I don’t think he is ready for a PR program just based on that.

    I don’t like either of the options he suggests. First of all, trying to get to 50mpw and then “catching up” with the program sounds like trouble. It would just seem to invite him ramping up the mileage too quickly, and/or, limiting his strength training which seems to be important in keeping him injury free. And with catching up to the program, the program probably has different kinds of runs built into it that he may be suddenly adding. Realistically this option is too risky.

    On the other hand, nothing against Hal Higdon, but I don’t feel a “generic” program is the way to go either. Zack is not a generic runner. He is an individual runner with individual needs, and therefore, one way or the other, should have an individual program.

    Therefore I think his goal should be just to finish the Richmond marathon. Possibly aim for the goal of averaging a minute per mile slower than his goal pace or perhaps even slower. Let the goal be for him to finish, stay healthy, and have fun with the race. People tend to forget the the joy of just running a marathon because they are so concerned with getting a good time. This would be a good time for Zack to focus on the joy of it all. Wave to the crowd, crack jokes, maybe run with a slower friend, this is what the marathon is all about.

    I also believe that by running it at a nice slow pace, that he can just treat the race like a very long training run. True nobody I know except Galloway advocates doing a training run that long, but I don’t think that running a slow 26.2 miles will require a months recovery time. So here is what I recommend:

    With the help of Jason, revise the PR program, slowly adding mileage to the program, maybe no more than 2 miles per week with a cut-back week every third or fourth week. Begin by making one run per week a longer run, at this point done at least 1 mile per minute slower than goal pace. Also begin to add one quality run during the week. Maybe the first two weeks just make that run an easy run with 3-5 short fartlek sessions in it (or strides whatever lingo you want to use) After that, start to introduce some tempo style runs done at a threshold type pace, still being very conservative with this. Lastly I would add more interval type runs done on a track after he’s already proven that he can do the other runs without discomfort. I don’t think I would add another quality run during the week, just the one quality run and the long run, maybe the last three long runs I would focus on him picking up the pace the last 5 miles.

    I would have this program maybe peak at 50mpw maybe a month before the marathon. After that, I would apply only a modest taper since the marathon is only going to be really a training run. After a successful race where hopefully he only feels just a little more soreness than he would for a regular long run, Hopefully at this point he is feeling competitive and ready to tackle the original PR plan.

  23. Scott Smith says:


    The first step to determine how you should modify your plan would be to ask what your goals are. Are you looking to PR this year or simply to run a marathon this year and try to PR next fall?

    If your goal for this year is only to run a marathon, I would focus on Richmond but scale back on the training plan, particularly on the speed work. There is enough time to train to complete a marathon safely between now and November, assuming you are not aiming for any time.

    If your goal is to PR by the mid-winter/spring, that would change things. One option would be to incorporate the Richmond marathon into your training for the VA Beach marathon, perhaps as your long run at about week 10 of your PR plan, albeit a bit slower than you would otherwise run. Another option would be the Blue Ridge marathon, if you can handle the hills, in April in Roanoke which would be 22 weeks from Richmond.

    Either way, cross-train. This would enable you to build aerobic capacity and endurance without stressing your achilles. You could possibly add in some brick workouts, that is running as soon as possible after doing some other workout such as biking. This would allow for a training impetus for your quads and hamstrings equivalent to running mileage that is greater than the mileage that would be applying stress on your achilles. Further, make sure you exercise your calf muscles and achilles. Good luck.

  24. Deb Potash says:

    I love this stuff!! So interesting……! Just had to comment. You can delete this post now.

  25. Hello Jason, hello Zach,

    Unfortunately there is some important information missing in order to do a thorough assessment of the situation and to give recommendations how to proceed

    Injury history

    Was the bout of Achilles problems the first time that this occurred? Or does Zach have a history of lower limb problems?

    Importance of the Richmond marathon

    Apart from the possibility to lose the inscription fee if another deferral is not possible, are there any other factors that would make the Richmond marathon more important than any other marathon? E.g. if Zach is running that marathon, he will win a bet, or if you do it a certain time, he could join a particular masters running club.

    Zach’s general motivation for running

    Is Zach a competitive runner, striving on completion, or is he rather a “fun runner”, doing it to stay in shape but still have a challenge

    The answers to these open points might change the recommendations that I will provide below.


    Reading Zach’s emails there are definitely some red warning flags:

    “…. I’m handling that load pretty well…”

    “…. So now I’m mostly healthy…”

    To me these comments do not sound very promising at the beginning of 16 week buildup to a marathon. I believe one should not be only “mostly healthy” but mentally and physically in a good / very good shape before starting a marathon endeavour.

    I recommend to skip the Richmond marathon altogether and focus on the spring marathon with the PB plan instead.

    The obvious question is why not tackle Richmond with a conservative “Hal Higdon”-like training plan. Well, the obvious counter question is: “What would be the advantage of doing Richmond???”

    In my opinion the risks of preparing a Marathon at Zach’s current state outweigh the advantages. Honestly speaking, I don’t even see a real advantage a part from maybe staying motivated and avoid losing your inscription fee.

    The risk though are as follows:

    Having to ramp up the milage too fast and risking another injury

    Bad race experience because missing aerobic fitness

    By not doing the Richmond Marathon Zach would gain some valuable weeks. In these weeks I would recommend continuing to build the milage very slowly, based on Zach’s feeling and not a particular “percentage rule”.

    No speedwork in the beginning, maybe some strides. I would not even push the pace, so no threshold runs.

    General strength / core work & stretching.

    Whatever excerices your physiotherapist was recommending (stretches, heel raises, etc.), really follow his recommendations

    Beginning of October I would start to throw in some harder workouts. Threshold runs, short hill sprints (8 seconds – slowly increase the quantity)

    The sum of these recommendations will result in Zach being in an excellent physical and mental shape to start the 16 week block for his spring marathon.

    If Zach is a person who likes and need to compete to stay motivated and in good humour, he could throw in a 5k or 10k race. Less taxing on the body. But still make sure to hold a little back to get injured again.

    Take care and above all, enjoy the rid


  26. Hello everyone,

    As the “Zach” referred to in the blog post, first let me say thanks for everyone for taking a look at my question and offering your suggestions. It’s been interesting to read all your ideas, and I appreciate that everyone was so encouraging. As you know if you’ve dealt with injury, it the road back to consistent running can be a long and frustrating journey, so thanks for the kind words.

    I don’t know if Jason has picked a winner yet, but since some of you had the same questions about my situation, I thought I’d try and answer them here.

    First, I’m a pretty experienced runner, 33 years old. I’ve done 3 marathons and lots of halves. I ran competitively in college and then took some years off in grad school. I got back into running in 2009 but have been focusing on shorter distances.

    Second, some background on the injury. I wrote up the whole story on DailyMile, but in a nutshell, my guess is I injured the achilles by overdosing on speed intervals while training for my later-life 5K PR (17:06) this past June.

    Third, the plan was written for a BQ attempt (3:05) at Richmond, and I really think I had a shot at low 2:50s based on my racing in the year prior to getting injured.

    Finally, as an English professor, I love that so many of you were analyzing my rhetoric in the email I wrote to Jason. Looking back on it, the “healthy, I think,” is indeed a phrase that stands out. I don’t know whether that’s my characteristic tendency toward under-statement or if it’s just a conservatism borne out of so many disappointing failed comebacks, but I really do think I’m healthy enough for training. That’s not to say I don’t have some sore days, and I definitely have been pre-habbing, re-habbing and even icing a bit when the mood strikes or when the post-run soreness is even just a little asymmetrical.

    Anyway, since I don’t know whether Jason has chosen a winner, I guess I shouldn’t reveal which option Jason advised and which I’m going with. But for now I will say that I did 45 miles last week with a long run of 14, and I feel pretty good about that.

    Happy running!

  27. Sure, now we get the details 🙂

  28. Here’s my simple answer…just have Jason write a new plan for the Richmond marathon based on current fitness. Worry about a spring marathon after the Richmond marathon.

  29. I just updated this post to give my thoughts and announce the winner. Congrats Andrew and thanks everyone for your contribution!

  30. Another nugget of wisdom from Andrew really nailed my running personality as well:

    For me and the other runners I know, having the specific goal makes it too likely that you will do a workout you know you probably shouldn’t

    I have definitely fallen into that trap before, and I should realize that by pushing ahead for Richmond, I’m running that risk again.

    But that’s what I’ve decided to do, unless anything changes with my training or if my injury flairs back up. I appreciate that many of you were advising a conservative approach, and that’s what I probably would have advised, too. But I spent about 12 months being conservative in healing my achilles issue, so I think it’s time to start training with some confidence.

    Also, to put my goals in some perspective, a PR for me would be anything under 3:20. I feel that is actually a relatively conservative goal given where I’ve been performing in recent years. My last marathon was 10 years ago, and it was an awful experience because I was underprepared. That effort resulted in a 4:30, so I’d be content with just about anything faster than that where I don’t finish feeling awful.

    The only specific urgency I’m attaching to Richmond is that 1) it’s right down the road, 2) it should be a good BQ course, and 3) I’m already registered since I deferred last year’s entry.

    I’ll turn 35 in November 2014, so it’s my goal to qualify before then, when it’s theoretically as hard as possible. Ideally, I need a tune up race or two to determine how realistic any of these goals actually are in my current condition.

    So for now I’m back to following the plan Jason wrote for me, but I’m reducing the mileage proportionally as I try to balance caution with optimism.

    Again, thanks for all the advice!