Last week (How to Run Faster – Part 1 – The Plan) I mentioned that when I hear runners asking how to get faster, the first thing I always hear is that they should add intervals and speed work.  Intervals are important, but they shouldn’t be the first tool you reach for when trying to improve your running pace.

Prague MarathonA 2016 study of marathon runners showed that runners who ran intervals completed their marathon 3 minutes – 5 minutes faster than those runners who did not incorporate intervals into their training.  However, when comparing runners who ran an average of 30 miles per week during training vs. runners who ran 50 miles per week, the higher mileage runners saw an improvement of 25 minutes – 32 minutes in their marathon time!  I believe that for the vast majority of runners, running more miles should be #1 on the training plan if you want to run faster.

So, what is happening in our bodies when we run more?  Your heart gets stronger and is able to deliver oxygen-rich blood to your legs faster.  You gain muscular endurance as your mitochondria (the “powerhouse” of your cells) increase in size and quantity.  The capillaries that deliver blood to your muscles grow.  And, your muscles and tendons learn to be more efficient at the running motion – so, every step is a little easier than it was before.

 

I always use the analogy of a car when talking about running more mileage versus intervals.  Starting to train with intervals and speedwork is like putting high-octane fuel in your car — it’s going to help you get the most speed out of what you have.  But, running more miles consistently is like putting a bigger engine in the car.  You will be able to go farther, faster.  And, when you are ready to add that high-octane fuel, you will get even more out of it.

 

The Magic of Miles

If I have been injured, or maybe over in Europe for an extended period researching new races and running tours, my weekly mileage drops a lot.  So, when I’m ready to start increasing again, I find that once I hit about 60 – 65 miles in week, magic happens.  Even though I’m increasing my miles, and my legs are tired, I will all of a sudden start running faster, my heart rate will drop for the same run I did the week before.  And, my Garmin Recovery Advisor will show that I need 10 – 15 hours to recover from my runs, rather than the 15 – 20 hours that it would recommend in the preceding weeks.

Now, I’ve always been a higher-mileage runner, and a 7-day/week runner, so don’t take “60 miles” as gospel.  Each of us is different and you need to listen to your body.  (It’s better to run less and be healthy, rather than get injured!)  But, I encourage you to increase your mileage slowly and see if you can find that same magic.

How To Safely Increase Mileage

Lot’s of people talk about the 10% Rule for increasing mileage.  The rule says that you should add no more than 10% more miles each week.  This is a decent rule-of-thumb, but don’t it’s not written in stone.  If you are running 4 times per week for a total of 20 miles (5 miles each run), then you may be able to add another day of running to your week without too much risk of injury.  That would be about a 20% increase.  On the other hand, if you are already running 40 – 50 miles per week, then 10% may be too aggressive.  In order to stay injury-free, you may need to limit yourself to a 5% increase.

The other plan I like when increasing miles is to step up for 3 weeks, and then step down for 1 week to let your body recover.  So, you may start at 40 miles, and in the following you bump up the miles to 43.  Then, 47 miles, and then you have a recover week where you drop it back to 42 miles.  And, then you start the process again, but the starting point is a couple miles higher than the previous month.

If that is too aggressive for you (some body’s can handle increasing mileage easier than other), then I would suggest stepping up the mileage 5% and keeping it at the new level for 2 – 4 weeks to let your body adapt before increasing again.  The most important thing is to not get injured – so, back off if you feel an injury coming on.

 

 

While I said that increasing mileage is more important than intervals, that doesn’t mean that intervals aren’t important.  Intervals are another tool to help you run faster in your next marathon or half marathon, and I’ll talk about interval training next week.  So, stay tuned and get out there and run!

I’m well on my way to my coaching certification (read about my journey to coaching here).  There is so much information to absorb and to compare & contrast to my 40+ years of running and racing experience.

Running CalendarAs I’ve focused more on the technical and physiological aspects of running, I keep noticing runners in Facebook groups asking about how to get FASTER.

That’s what we all want, right?  Keep improving and moving forward – get a Boston Qualifier, break 2 hours in a half marathon, get that PR (Personal Record).  But, most of the advice I see immediately suggests intervals and speed work.

There are so many ways to run faster, and intervals and speed work have their place (and I’ll be talking about them in a couple of weeks), but the first thing you need to is to do pause and PLAN.

The plan is the most important part of running faster.  Legendary Coach Jack Daniels says that you must always be able to answer the question, “What is the purpose of this workout?”  If you don’t have a schedule of how far & how fast you are running, then you very likely don’t have a purpose for each run.

Without a plan, two things can happen — and, they are the complete opposites of each other!

  1. You can flounder.  Without seeing that 3 miles written on the calendar for today, it’s so easy to just hit snooze and sleep in.  “I will run tomorrow,” you might say to yourself.  Well, tomorrow it will be cold and dark, and that extra hour sleep will continue to entice you.
  2. You can over-do it.  Last fall I was in pretty good shape and I was running a lot.  I was building up the mileage week after week.  I was enjoying seeing those big numbers on Strava and I kept increasing the mileage until I injured my hamstring.  If I would have planned out my autumn running schedule there is no way that I would have written down those big mileage weeks.  It would have been a better thought-out strategy of increasing my mileage for a couple of weeks, and then resting and recovering for a week before I started building again. (We’ll look at the magic of building up your mileage next week!)

Where should you get your running plan?  The answer to that question depends on your goals, how far away your goal race is, your experience, and many other factors.  There are tons of great coaches out there to help guide you in your plan to run faster.  (Message me and I can help, or I can point you to a another good coach.)  There are also lots of good books – I’m reading a bunch of them right now, and I will be reviewing them here soon.  But, some classics are “Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide” by Hal Higdon, “Hanson’s Marathon Method,” “Advanced Marathoning” by Pete Pfitzinger, and many others.  Also, check out your local running stores and running clubs for training groups and training plans.

But, you can even create your own plan!  I think it’s important to have a plan, even when you aren’t “training” for a goal race.  You might be 8 or 10 months from your goal race, so you are not yet in the thick of the training, or maybe you are recovering from an injury and not back in shape yet.  But, having a plan — even if that plan is all easy running — will help you stay in shape, stay focused and stay injury-free.

You also need to remember a plan isn’t set in stone.  Evaluate how you are feeling each day.  Are you inching up on an injury?  Did you have a terrible night’s sleep?  Is there added stress at home or work?  It’s ok to move a workout to different day, or skip it entirely.  The only caveat is to be sure about the reasons.  There have been many workouts when I just wanted to skip it during the warm-up, but once I forced myself to get started it, ended up being a great workout.  (Always remember the famous runner mantra – “The first mile is a liar!”)

Faster Marathon RunningOver the next couple of weeks I will be talking more about how to run faster.  I will be discussing the magic of mileage, threshold training, intervals, speed-work and more.  So, stay tuned and get out there and run!

I have a been a runner since just about the time I could walk.  My dad was an NCAA Div. I track and cross country coach (and a pretty darn good one), so I grew up around some of the best runners and coaches in the world.  I’ve always been a student of running – I’m always reading and researching training plans and coaching methods.  I even remember taking the final exam for my dad’s university-level Track & Field course when I was about 10 years old!

But, now I want to take that knowledge to the next level and get my running coach certification.  I am going to help our tour guests achieve their goals, and then I want to celebrate their success with them on our running tours to Europe!

I’m currently studying the legendary coach Jack Daniels, learning about “Critical Velocity Training” from Tom “Tinman” Schwartz, and absorbing everything I can about running from books and videos, old and new.

I’ll be documenting what I’ve learned here on the blog so you can take advantage of it and improve your running.

It’s almost Christmas, but if you are like me, you still have some shopping to do.  We’re sharing our favorite gifts for runners below, so you can find a great running gift and then get back to enjoying the holiday season!

Goodr Sunglasses

Goodr SunglassesGoodr sunglasses are amazing!  Made by runners, for runners – they don’t slip and don’t bounce, and only $25.  Plus they have so many fun colors and styles (if you aren’t that adventurous, they have some “tame” ones, too.)   Be sure to check out the names of each style – hilarious!  🤣

 

 

 


Running Socks – Wrightsock

Everyone has their favorite running sock, but mine is Wrightsock.  It has two layers so the sock rubs against the sock, and not your toes.  So, no more blisters!  They are also great in the winter – the double layers hold in the warmth.  They offer tons of styles and colors, so, check them out!

 


Finish Line Travel Running Tour

Antwerp 10m and MarathonObviously, the best running gift ever! 😉 It’s almost the new year and we will be racing and traveling again soon – so, reserve a spot and make 2021 something special with an unforgettable running tour to Europe.

 


Road ID

We love Road ID – especially on our running tours.  Stay safe by having your contact information easily accessible on your wrist in case of an accident while you run.

 


Run Fast, Eat Slow

Tasty and healthy recipes by 4-time Olympian Shalane Flanagan and chef Elyse Kopecky.  My wife’s favorite are the “Superhero Muffins” and I love the hearty (and spicy) Minestrone Soup.

And, also check out their new cookbook – Run Fast, Cook Fast, Eat Slow – Quick Fix Recipes for Hangry Athletes.


Honey Stinger

Honey Stinger is our favorite brand of running fuel.  I love that they are all organic – healthy fuel!  My favorite chews are the Cherry Blossom flavor, and for those really long runs, I love the caffeinated strawberry kiwi energy gels.

 

Nope, we’re not going anywhere.  Nope, we’re not happy about our suitcases collecting dust.  But…we will get back to traveling and that’s what we’re here to share!

First of all, we are still here.  Finish Line Travel is not going anywhere.   We’re just not going anywhere in 2020.  We’ve decided that since things are still questionable, we’re just going to put all of our focus into a spectacular 2021 for you.  We are still passionate about travel and running.  And we are just as passionate about bringing the combination of these two together for you in the form of the most unique experience.  Your patience in 2020 will be rewarded with the most memorable of experiences in 2021.  So, all of our 2021 tour itineraries are up on the website.  Plus, we are offering a no risk option for booking your 2021 travel.  There is an early bird special for each tour with a reduced down payment of only $49 and it’s fully refundable until January 1, 2021.

paris cheese board and wine

Give yourself something to look forward to and peruse all of the tours we have available.  We have been reminiscing about our past travels and while we’d love to be traveling right now, the good memories are keeping us going while we ever so (un)patiently wait for normal operating procedures to return.  Think of what fills you up (besides a glass of wine at an outdoor cafe in Paris or one of many beers in a Belgian bar).  Is it running along the Seine and seeing so many bucket list sights in one run, running through some of the top breweries in Belgium with a great post race party or having the Swiss Alps as your backdrop for your race?  We say “yes, please” to all of these!  But check out the itineraries for the full details for your travel dreaming.

Great Breweries Marathon Finisher

 

To help bring your dreams to life, we are starting a series of virtual tours, so you can hear directly from us and our European guides and partners about our various tours.  These virtual tours are starting next week!

Stay tuned for more virtual tours via our Facebook page or website.

Stop just dreaming about racing and traveling again and start planning.

According to Strava, January 19th is when most people give up their New Year’s Resolution, and quit running.  You don’t have to be one of those people!  Here are a couple of ideas to keep that running goal in your sights.

Sign Up for a Race

The best way to motivate yourself to keep going is signing up for a race.  It’s on the calendar, and it’s not moving – so, you better get moving!  And, what better goal race than a race in Europe.  Check out our tour calendar and message us for details.

If you like beer, then the Great Breweries 25km & Marathon is for you.  Love history?  Then check out the D-Day Half Marathon & Marathon in Normandy, France.  Looking for beautiful scenery?  How about the Swiss City Marathon & Half Marathon?

Find a Running Partner

Have a friend to run with makes sticking to your goal much easier.  So, ask a buddy to head out with you this weekend.  Or, if you don’t have a regular running buddy, ask around at the gym, or head to your local running store and check out their weekly group runs.  If all else fails, message us and maybe we can hook you up with a running partner.

Cut Yourself Some Slack

January can be cold, icy, snowy and just plain unpleasant for a lot of us in the U.S.  And, the treadmill alternative can be boring and depressing, so just cut yourself some slack for the next couple of weeks.  If you don’t run a lot this week, that’s ok!  Just make sure that it’s just a temporary “pause” of your running goal, and don’t completely give up!

We know you can do it, so just keep putting one foot in front of the other and run!

We love this article (“Travel Is About Commas, Not Exclamation Marks,” by Samantha Brown) because, like most things in life, travel really is about the little things, or as Samantha Brown puts it “the commas.” When you plan your trip, you’re thinking about all the big sights you’re going to see, the great adventures you’re going to have and the delicious food that you’re going to eat. And, absolutely, you will see and do those things in your tour with us. But what travel also offers is a step beyond these things that you are expecting.

Travel to Paris outdoor cafeThose “commas” can be found in the conversations you have with your waitress, who comments on your French, the taxi driver who tells you how much he appreciates you visiting his country, making friends with a woman in the grocery store line in a small town where no one speaks English – those little moments that give you big insight. All of these little moments have made us feel more connected with where we are at that moment in time and give us that true spirit of what travel is all about.

Paris France Running ToursSo, in addition to satisfying your expectations of seeing that piece of art you’ve always wanted to see, finally visiting that city you’ve dreamed of, or seeing the Eiffel Tower twinkling at night, with us you will also get to experience the “commas.” You will be able to participate in a road race where countless countries are represented, where you may not understand what the spectators are saying to you, but you know they’re cheering you on and that there are no language barriers when it comes to a post race party! Since we like to slow things down a bit so you can enjoy just being where you are and enjoying being in the moment, you’ll experience more of this spirit of travel.

We love the café scene in Paris. Sitting at a sidewalk café sipping a rosé and maybe enjoying a “croque” while watching the world go by – it’s relaxing and exciting at the same time.

But, there seems to be a million cafés to choose from. How do you know you are finding a good one, and not a tourist trap? Here are 3 quick tips:

1. Get away from the busy tourist spots. Sometimes we want to sit with a front-and-center view of the Eiffel Tower. But, just know that you are over-paying for that glass of wine, and the atmosphere & service may not be top-notch.

So, when you find yourself on a busy square surrounded by tourist sights, walk around the corner, or just down the street. Or, better yet, find a quiet alley nearby. You will be sitting with the locals, rather than other tourists. The service will probably be better and prices will not be inflated.

2. Look for a busy spot. This may seem to go against tip #1, but if you can get away from the busy tourist area, and find a busy café that means that you found a good spot. If the locals are flocking there, you want to be there, too. It could be that the café has great happy hour specials, or it means the food, drinks & service are great. Either way, it’s a win for you!

Now, it can be a little uncomfortable — you will probably feel like you are sitting on the lap of a Parisian. But, it will be worth the effort.

Paris Cafe3. Sit outside, facing out. Many cafés have cute interiors, but when in Paris, sit outside.  If it’s cool, don your scarf and sit by a heater.  If it’s warm, find a table under the awning, or just bask in the French sunshine!  Outside is the place to be!

Our favorite cafés have all the chairs facing out to the street. Sometimes, you just can’t find that setup, but when you do, grab a spot! People-watching is a favorite Parisian pastime, so a table with both seats facing out means that everyone get’s to take part. Sit back and watch the action of Paris.

Please note: European (and, Parisian) restaurant etiquette and procedures are a little different than how it works in the U.S.  Keep an eye out in the next week for our post on tips to make you seem like a local.

Have you tasted Swiss wine? If you answered “yes” then you must have visited Switzerland! Over 98% of the wine produced in Switzerland is consumed in Switzerland. The Swiss know how good it is, and they keep almost all of it to themselves.

Your tour to the Swiss City Marathon will give you an opportunity to try it! After your scenic ride through the Alps from Lucerne to Lausanne (on the shores of Lake Geneva) you’ll spend a day touring vineyards and wineries with our private guide.

Switzerland produces some varieties you are probably familiar with, like Pinot Noir, but their most plentiful white is a relatively unknown grape – Chasselas. It is a dry white wine which pairs perfectly with, you guessed it, raclette and fondue. (You will be hearing all about raclette and our private, post-race raclette dinner in another post.)

We are very excited to share this delicious little secret with you on your next running tour to Switzerland.

Fall 2019 Marathon & Half Marathon Training

Great Bruges Marathon and HalfMany coaches and athletes agree that 16 weeks is a good amount of time to properly prepare for a marathon, while 10 to 12 weeks is usually sufficient for a half.

In all cases, building upon the aerobic base you’ve hopefully maintained throughout the spring will be followed with a number of specific training phases – speed, strength and endurance – that each last several weeks. Finally, the two to three weeks before race day are reserved for the taper, a time that focuses on rest and recovery.

Need some coaching help before your fall run?  Contact us, and we can help you find a coach!