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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