How to Set Massive PR’s in Your 40’s (a behind-the-scenes coaching call)

Training for a PR in the marathon requires dedication, focus, and the ability to enjoy the process. Taking over 15 minutes off your PR when you’re already a sub-3 marathoner requires you to raise the bar even higher!

I’ve had the privilege of working with this week’s guest on the podcast for nearly four years.  Thomas Shanabruch came to me as a gifted runner who was looking to push himself to the next level, while staying healthy as a master’s runner.

Although Tom has been running in some capacity for much of his life, he spent his time before college playing ”all the sports” as a kid. It wasn’t until after graduation that he started running more regularly and got addicted to that glorious post-run feeling!

Racing came nearly 10 years later for Tom. When he saw that his street would be closed for a local half marathon, he decided to register and race. Despite (or maybe because of) the pain of being passed by a youngster on the final hill of the race, a fire was lit. Tom trained more regularly and ran even faster the following year, finishing in an impressive 1:23.

Tom ran his first marathon in his hometown of Chicago in 2010. Despite a strong start on track to a sub 3-hour race, he crashed into the proverbial wall at mile 20. He resisted running another marathon until 2014, where a little more training helped him run fast enough to earn a Boston qualifier. 

“I never have to do this again…”

Despite saying “he never had to do this again” after both of his first two marathons, Tom felt the pull of Boston. He faced the challenges of the Boston hills, and then continued to run a string of impressive sub-3 hour marathons.

But in spite of his speed, Tom’s race times plateaued. As he was turning 40, he also felt he needed to do more to support his running. His love of the sport meant that staying healthy for the long haul was a priority. Tom came to me for a PR race plan to get him ready for the New York City Marathon in 2018, and that’s when our coaching relationship began.

Step outside your comfort zone

When you’re looking to push your running to the next level, you have to be willing to challenge yourself in new ways. Tom’s new plan had him running more miles and more workouts than ever before, and doing regular strength work for the first time. The payoff was huge: a 6+ minute PR and a negative split race that felt strong from start to finish.

As you’ll hear on the podcast, Tom has continued to get even faster since NYC. I’m both a little mad and proud to say that he now has a faster marathon PR than I do! 

What does Tom think is the secret to his success? 

  1. Volume: Tom built a huge aerobic base by running more miles each week than he ever had before.
  2. Strength training: Consistent strength routines gave Tom the durability to support his increased volume of work

Tom and I discuss a variety of factors that have contributed to his string of PRs, including:

  • Taking your your workouts AND your recovery seriously 
  • The importance of setting bold goals
  • Stepping out of your comfort zone, whether it’s in a 5k or in the weight room
  • How to make time for strength work, day in and day out
  • The importance of mindset – taking the training seriously without it becoming a burden

What’s next up for Tom? He’ll be running the Boston Marathon in 2022 and as well as the Berlin Marathon to complete the world marathon majors. Although most of us aren’t as fast as Tom, everyone can learn from his love of running and racing, and his continued commitment to improvement!

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Thank You InsideTracker!


This episode is brought to you by InsideTracker, one of the most reputable blood testing companies in the world. They were founded in 2009 by aging, genetics, and biometrics scientists to help you analyze your body’s data and get a firm idea of how well you’re responding to training.

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