McMillan and Me: Marathon Training 2.0

When I planned for the Newport Marathon last year, I did so in a manner that I imagine is pretty common among first timers. I found a pre-written training plan online (I went with one of Hal Higdon’s), shifted one or two things around in order to fit my particular schedule and lifestyle, wrote it up on a calendar, placed it on my refrigerator, and went to work. I followed it nearly to a T. It worked. I completed my first marathon and even recovered from it pretty quickly (Thanks, Hal!).

Newport 2014

But the truth of the matter is, even though pre-written training plans are infinitely helpful (especially to newbies), each runner is unique and to get the most out of it, training needs to be personalized. There isn’t really any such thing as a one-size-fits-all training plan.

Which is why I knew going into this round of training for my second marathon (which is, by the way, once again the Newport Marathon), that I wanted to do things a bit differently. But . . . do what differently? And then . . . how differently? Anyone who has ever trained for a race likely knows the options for putting together a plan are bountiful. I’ve toyed with the idea of seeking the help of a professional – a paid professional – like a coach or a site that will personalize a plan for you, based on your input. Those are certainly still options on the table for future events, but for this one I decided to put my trust in myself and Greg McMillan.

You McMillanGreg McMillan, a distance running coach and exercise scientist, is the author of You (Only Faster), which is the book that ended up being my primary guide for developing my next marathon training plan. The book provides training plan templates, however, it also guides you through several steps of self-assessment, allowing you to adapt the plans through each phase of the process to best suit your individual body, running style, goals, and needs. For me, this was an ideal approach. It struck a great balance between having a plan developed from scratch just for me (which was kind of an intimidating prospect) and working straight from a pre-existing plan that didn’t take my specific self into account (which is not as effective as I would like).

Plus, I learned a lot – I repeat A LOT – about myself as a runner as I moved through the steps outlined in the book. I tuned into my body and running patterns and learned more about what type of runner I am, including what type of runs are most challenging for me, what types I recover most quickly from, and what types help give me the greatest confidence boost. I’m still applying this information and learning new things all the time.

One of the great parts of this process is that it lines up perfectly with something that I mentioned back in January. You may recall that I wrote about wanting to focus on living with purpose and intention this year. McMillan’s plan has helped me apply this to my running. I am thinking about what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. Some runs may be about going slow and building my endurance, others are about pushing on that VO2 Max, or about simply being in the moment and enjoying a run without a distance or pace goal in mind, but through all of them, I have a particular purpose and that feels really good to me. Quite good, actually.

I tend to excel in most areas of my life when I have a plan, a goal or two, and purposeful steps along the way, so it makes perfect sense to me that I follow a similar trend when it comes to running.

So here I am, five weeks of training under my belt, and about ten more to go. I’ve to say, I’m really loving how this is going so far. In addition to the positives that I’ve already pointed out, I feel like my body is responding well. I’m building back up some of the endurance that I got away from during the winter, but I’m also adding in more speedwork, which hasn’t ever really been much of a focus for me before. I’m challenged by my speed days, but I also find them to be a new satisfying way to push my abilities a bit further. I’m feeling healthy and committed to my training, too, which certainly doesn’t hurt.

It’s still early to be able to say how this will all play out in Newport, but my hat is off to Greg McMillan for pushing me to be Me (only faster).

35 comments on “McMillan and Me: Marathon Training 2.0

  1. runner1313 says:

    Best of luck with the rest of your training plan. Have a great marathon! I bet it’s a pretty race. Dying to get back to the Pacific Northwest.

  2. I love this, and will keep this in mind when i am training for my Marine Corps Marathon.

  3. Laura says:

    I’m glad you reviewed the training plan in this book – it’s always good to mix things up, and I’m glad you are making the plan fit for your life and fitness needs!

  4. Mary says:

    This is awesome, I’m training for my second marathon too! (Portland in October) Similarly, I did a Hal Higdon plan the first time and am looking to tweak things this time around so I will definitely be checking this out. Good luck and thanks so much!!

  5. Kristin says:

    Love it!! You’re going strong!! Good luck with the rest of training!!

  6. Holly says:

    I also use Greg’s methodology for pacing short and long runs so I can eventually meet goal marathon or half times. Ive been following the method for three years and it’s pretty accurate especially the 2 mile tests. I’m glad your finding guidance to marathon training that is working for you. I feel like every runner should be open to new ideas and plans because why wouldn’t we all want to improve or learn something new? Hope the rest of marathon training goes well for you!

  7. Good luck with the rest of your training!! Xx

  8. jfgirlie311 says:

    Good luck! I’ll be training for my first half marathon here shortly, and it looks like that book may be a good one to pick up and read along the way!

  9. Joanne says:

    Since I often train with Team in Training, I end up kind of just going along with their plan (which to me seems like it is based on Hal Higdon’s), but the coaches are always giving input about how to personalize things for our bodies and trying to impress upon us how important it is that we listen to our bodies. I’m going to have to check out this book!

  10. Sounds like a good book for training. I’ve only read some of McMillan’s running tips in Running Times articles, and they were all very helpful tips. Good luck with your marathon training 2.0!

    • Oh, yes, he’s written some good stuff for Running Times! If you’ve found it helpful, then I would definitely recommend the book. Thanks for the well wishes and for commenting! 🙂

  11. Alaina Maeve says:

    I’ve been wondering how to personalize my training, as well (still following one of the Hal Higdon plans). This looks like a great book to check out! Thanks for sharing, and I look forward to hearing how it all goes!

  12. Five weeks in, your just beginning. Try to keep the joy and enthusiasm. All those runs can turn into wok or duty after a while. 15 weeks is about right. I did 18 weeks last year and it was 3-4 weeks too many.
    Run well my friend!

  13. egeedee says:

    As a once-in-a-while runner (I have only done 2 10K and many 5K) I love how it’s going for you. I really wish I had more confidence to run longer and stronger. I have so much fun running, I know this much. I just wish I knew how to do more.

    • Thank you so much! I don’t know if this will be true for you, but for me I found the confidence just sort of gradually grew over time. Through lots of practice and just getting after it. And, of course, I still struggle with that. Confidence in always in flux, I think. 🙂

  14. runmonster says:

    You’ve made me want to run out (ha) and buy that book! Thanks for the info and good luck with the rest of your training!

  15. Jim Brennan says:

    Amen, Shannon! Running guru George Sheehan used to say we are all an experiment of one, as you point out. I followed training programs for my first couple marathons and wound up running injured from over-training. Now, with over a dozen more in the books I’ve learned to do what works for me. An experiment of one. Well done!

  16. I occasionally read some of McMillian’s training advice, but haven’t read this book. It’s time.

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