How to stay on top of your marathon training even when you travel for work

Meet Scott (aka Dr. Scott). Scott ran the Gold Coast Marathon with guidance and coaching from GoRun. Running one marathon is impressive.  At the time of writing, Scott had run 7 marathons, which is really impressive.  Running his fastest of all seven, by 73 seconds is super impressive, but none of this comes even close to Scott’s real story….

 

During the 5 months that Scott and I worked together on his Gold Coast marathon preparation, Scott flew over 200,000 kilometres, on 45 separate flights to far flung places like China, Germany, Korea, Brazil, Netherlands, Portugal and more!  That’s more than 5 times around the world!  All whilst marathon training…

 

It is definitely a challenge to coach and create a training plan for someone with that type of schedule.  Allowing for enough recovery and getting enough consistency with so many long haul flights can be tricky.  However, I am not the one doing the running.  I don’t have to get up, still groggy from jet lag and run 20km around the unknown cobbled streets of Lisbon, Rio, Seoul or Amsterdam, before presenting at a conference to hundreds of people, then getting back on a plane that evening.  I had visions of Scott running up and down airport runways and through terminals in order to make sure that he got his run sessions done!

 

As coaches, in situations like this, you have to admire the level of commitment of the person you are coaching.  Their attitude becomes more important than ever when faced with such logistics.  Scott admits himself that “After 6 years and 4 serious attempts at beating my PB I was beginning to feel that maybe I wasn't ever going to do it.”  Even so, there was no complaining, when it would have been easy to do so. His attitude was awesome throughout, even when things got a little rocky with a dodgy calf muscle and the travel was ridiculous, he kept running and following our plan.  We adapted his training as we went and made sure that it fitted with his schedule.  I will freely admit to being a little worried at times, particularly with making sure that he had enough recovery, but Scott knew his body and put in place his own tactics to help.  Compression socks on flights, finding water fountains on runs and finding other running groups to train with.

 

The second fascinating story is told in the graph below.  This is Scott’s 7 marathon history in one graph.  7 marathons, all the times and average paces over that 42.2km distance.

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In Scott’s words, “it tells a pretty sorry story and I now think I should have drawn this graph a few years ago. It's very clear that I repeatedly went out too fast and then faded.”   The majority of these lines are classic examples of ‘hitting the wall’ on a grand and repeated scale.


The RED line however, is the Gold Coast Marathon PB that we trained for.  No fading, no wall hitting, no over excited race starts here.  I will let Scott take you through the race day behind the red line, in his own words....

 

“On a perfect day under bright blue skies I finally managed to achieve my goal and finished my run in 3 hours 41 minutes and 53 seconds, a PB by 73 seconds. I was obviously very happy and managed a bit of a fist pump as I ran across the finish line. I could hear my wife as well as Chris and my other friends cheering me on from the stands and everyone involved was very happy for me. I ran the race as well as I could have hoped. I set out with a goal pace of 5.12-5.15 per kilometre and I managed to stick very close to that throughout most of the run. During the run I stayed within sight of the 3 hour 40 minute pace runner and at one point, around 18 kilometres, I actually got within a few metres of that group. Despite the temptation, I eased off a bit and let them keep a little ahead of me. Kilometres 35-38 were pretty hard and I did start to have a few negative thoughts about fading again. However, at 37 kilometres I saw I was only a minute behind the 3.40 pace group and my constant calculations in my head told me that with 5km to go I could average 5.40 per kilometre and still come in with a PB. For those final 4 kilometres I slipped into autopilot and just focused on the 5.25-5.30 pace that I'd relentlessly stuck at in my training runs. With a kilometre to go I knew I'd done it and I did manage to speed up a little, running my last kilometre at 5.07.”



So, what are the lessons from all of this?  Should we all look to travel relentlessly in order to achieve our next personal best time?  Probably not…

Here’s my FIVE key points on how Scott managed to fly 200,000km, in 45 flights, in economy and STILL run a marathon personal best.

 

  1. Scott managed to train consistently, even with all of that travelling. This took a bit of adaptation as we went, but amazing things happen when you are accountable, keep in touch and are able to string together a couple of months of solid training.

  2. Scott trusted the overall process that we created together and stuck at it, even when he wasn’t necessarily hitting all of the targets in training. This required discipline and trust.

  3. Scott had what he describes as “crowd-sourced motivation” all over the world. This kept him motivated and gave him people at parkruns around Australia and awesome groups such as Seoul Flyers to run with.

  4. Scott adapted and learned to run slower in order to run faster. The 5:20- 5:30min/km pace that we drilled into him in training is nowhere near as fast as he can run, but it ended up being the default pace for the tough sections of the marathon, which his brain and legs were so used to, that it felt natural.

  5. Our ’strong finishes’ training sessions paid off. We regularly put in strong, fast finishes to his long training runs, when his legs were tired, to combat the previous pattern of fading late in the race.

 

Many of us lead exceptionally busy lives with work, family, social and travel commitments, but as Scott shows, there is usually a way of making the training work and fitting it in.  As a coach, the communication with the runner becomes even more important in situations like this.  With more communication meaning that we can adapt plans as we go, to make things work.  I thoroughly enjoyed the journey with Scott and am very proud of what he managed to achieve up on the Gold Coast.  Hopefully this can be a rallying call to travelling executives and busy people who have put their marathon goals on hold because of travel. Time to give it a try!