Tag Archives: half-marathon

“You have earned my respect, Runner.”

Which runners do I respect?  The ones that have earned it.

To the one that is running regularly for the very first time:  your kind of crazy

There may be a lot of walking, but you are out there doing what you can to improve your health and fitness.  You have earned my respect, Runner.

To the one that is just jogging to lose weight:

It is great that you want to be lighter, but you are making efforts towards running that puts you waaay ahead of the folks still on the couch.  You have earned my respect, Runner.

To the one that only runs for the social aspect:

Yes, you always run at “conversational pace” and you seem to be more happy at the beer garden after the run, but you are still out there.  You are there two or three times a week.  You have earned my respect, Runner.

To the one that runs EVERY 5K because races are fun:

Yes, you, … you 5K freak!  Even if you only run once a week, you are out there consistently.  You participate, you run, you help raise funds for charity, and you are a part of the running community.  You have earned my respect, Runner.

To the Half-Maniacs:

You know who you are.  You are the one that does as many half marathons each year as you can afford to do.  You supplement your appetite for half marathons by running more half marathons.  At whatever pace you choose, you are out there doing it.  You have earned my respect, Runner.

To the Marathoner and the Ultra-Marathoners:

People think you are nuts.  I think they are right.  I love you just the way you are.  You have earned my respect, Runner.

To the speed-demon, driven by the quest for age-group glory or more:

I get it.  You push long and hard.  Sometimes you overdo it.  So what.  You rock the world and sometimes the world rocks back.  To me it matters less that you win; it matters more that you try to improve.  You try with all of your might.   You have earned my respect, Runner.

To everyone that tries to run, for the ones in wheelchairs, the ones with guides, the ones with knee problems,… people of all shapes and size, people of all ages, genders, … anyone that runs in any way, shape or form:

 You have earned my respect, Runner.

“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”  — P. Mark Taylor



Runners Wanted: “Next Level” Training for 5K and Beyond

“I feel the need, the need for speed!”  — Maverick & Goose [Top Gun]

I mentioned a while back that I wanted to write my 3rd place in 1 mile 7 1 2014next running book about how to attain the next level.  I want to answer the question:  “When you have reached a plateau, how do you break through to faster personal records?”  I have done a lot of reading and a lot of experimenting over the last year.  Not everything has worked out… BUT, I think I have finally found a combination of research-based techniques that will do it.  This combination will bring runners to the next level!

Is this a magical elixir?  

It is certainly not magical and it is not a quick-fix.  It requires hard work and a precise combination of specialized training.  In other words, you can’t just go run whatever you want.  You also can’t skip days or change workouts based on how you feel.

What kind of workouts will it include?

My “Next Level” training for breaking plateaus is a combination of 4 types of workouts.  Each of the four workouts have a very specific set of purposes.  Each of the four workouts have been proven to be effective for those purposes.  What is truly new about my program is the combination of the workouts.  In his book Running Science, Dr. Owen Anderson identifies 7 variables that impact running performance:

  • Maximal aerobic capacity (VO2 Max or VDOT)
  • Running Economy
  • Minimum velocity for maximal aerobic capacity (vVo2 Max or vVDOT)
  • Velocity at lactate threshold
  • Maximal running speed
  • Resistance to fatigue
  • Running-specific strength

Of course the variables overlap, with each one affecting several if not all of the other factors.  Still, any balanced approach to enhancing your performance in running must account for all seven.  If you design separate workouts for each variable, you would not have enough time or energy to get them all done and see the changes you are seeking.  Hence, the real trick is in finding specific workouts that lead to significant positive changes in several of these variables.  For the purposes of the Next Level training system, we will call these types of workouts “Super-Workouts” because they do super things for several of the variables.  Like superfoods, superworkouts are powerful.  The right combination will make you much more fit and help you break through to the next level.

Runners Wanted

Before I publish that next book and share the specifics of this new system of training, I need to assemble a group of 20 runners who want to try out my Next-Level Training System.  Interested runners would hire me as their coach for the next few months, following the fee structure outline on my coaching page.  We would start by discussing the specifics about your current level of training and performance.  I would then tailor the Next Level Training System to your specific needs in terms of your paces, goals, and lifestyle.  Then we would closely track your progress and tweak the program as needed.  Runners that stick to the program will then be featured in the book about the Next Level Training System.

Eligibility:  Are you ready to go to the next level?

Runners at all levels are welcome to participate as long as you are willing to stick with the program for at least 8 weeks.  16 weeks is preferred but not required.

Reply Now by emailing me your request to participate.  I will take the first 20 runners regardless of current performance level.  Send me a message as soon as possible to make sure you are included.

“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”  — P. Mark Taylor


Getting to the Next Level: The Role of Patience in Your Training Plan

I am guilty as charged.  The crime?  Lack of patience.  The evidence?  My training plans from the past.  They are riddled with inconsistency.  Why?  Because I am a tinker.  I like to tinker with plans and try to perfect them.  Why is this a problem?  Because it takes months for a plan to fully unfold.  A balanced plan will have stages.  It will allow for the development of new speed as well as moving your lactate threshold, running economy, and much more.  You can’t do all of that at the same time.  Bottom line: It takes months to improve the variables that impact running performance enough to see a measurable difference.

What have I done wrong?  I have continuously tweaked programs based on how I was feeling rather than sticking to the original design of the training program.

Remember This!

You should stick to your training plan without major changes for at least 3 months.

It takes ten days to get the full extent of adaptations from a workout.  If your plan is ideal, then four weeks of work could possibly show a measurable difference.  That means that it takes about 1.3 months to see a perfect plan work.  Now throw in the idea that we have good and bad days.  If you have a bad day in the race where you expect to see the results of 1.3 months of work, you might reach the wrong conclusion that it did not work.  It is only after about 3 months of steady progress that you will see a significant change even if you have a bad day.  That is why I say 3 months is the standard.  Follow a plan with multiple stages and complete 3 months as it was designed before you draw a conclusion on whether it worked or not.

Looking back at my own running over the past 5 years, it becomes clear that the times I made the most progress were the times that I stayed with a program most consistently.  That is true regardless of the program I was following.  When I first started, I followed programs from Hal Higdon.  When I wanted to get faster, I followed the plan of Dr. Jack Daniels.  Then I heard about the innovative work of the Hanson Brothers.  I followed their program and got another big improvement.

Since that time, I have been tinkering with different types of workouts.  I have found several workouts that work well on changing some of the variables of running performance.  I have gone through several and been frustrated by my lack of overall improvement.  I just keep changing things.  When I was on a coordinated program for at least 3 months, I made progress.

training program picWhile I was tinkering with my own programs, I have developed training programs for many athletes during the same time.  When they have stayed true to the program I developed for at least 3 months, they have seen the improvements they sought.  Now I need to practice what I preach.  I have developed my Next-Level Training Program and personalized it for many runners, including myself.  I know that if we stick to the program, we will get the results and move on to the next level.  I just have to stop tinkering.  I have to wait for the program to develop.  I have to wait for all of the changes that come with all three stages of the program.  I have to stop evaluating the program in the moment and wait until for my next training schedule to make any changes.

I know that my Next-Level Training Program is a balanced approach that will get me where I want to go.  The components and stages are all first-class, trustworthy workouts.  The stages are in the right order.  I just have enough trust and patience to stick to the program.

 “Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”

    — P. Mark Taylor


 UPDATE: 9_24_2015

The training plan worked for me as well as it did for many others.  I ran the 2015 Boston Marathon fast enough to qualify again.  Boston is a tough course, so I was thrilled to BQ there!

My Running Form: In Pictures 7/25/2013


running form 7_25_2013

My Personal Running Progress 2009-2013

This post is not advice.  It is just a personal report of the progress that I have made over the last 4 years.

In the summer of 2009, my life was hitting some speed bumps [understatement].  To deal with the added stress, I hit the road running.  At first I just ran a few miles every two or three days.  I just ran when I felt like it.  I ran down backwoods country roads in the hot summer and it felt good.  I had given up competitive running back in 1985 because of some tendon issues that went unresolved.  Yet, here I was.  I was running… and running felt good.

Barely moving at the end of the Oak Rige Half Marathon, 2009

Barely moving at the end of the Oak Ridge Half Marathon, 2009

By the end of the summer, I decided that I would run a half marathon.  I was enjoying longer and longer runs and it just sounded good.  Besides, in 1984 I ran a half marathon in 1:20:48.  How hard could it be to get it back, right?  WRONG!

I continued to run erratically.  I had no plan.  I just ran what I felt like running.  The Oak Ridge Half Marathon was in November that year.  I had run a lot, or so I thought.  On race day, I felt strong and went out waaaay too fast.  By the half way point, I was quite tired.  Then came the killer hill.  By the time I came down that hill my pride was completely gone.  All I had to do is just survive the next 6 miles.  Survive I did.  Barely.  I had started the day in a sprint and ended barely moving.  Everything hurt.  The world was spinning a little bit.  Man, that was hard!

As tough as it was, I did manage to squeak in just under the two-hour mark.  That performance is roughly the equivalent of running a 26 minute 5K.

But this article is not about how fast I was or am.  It is about my progress and how long it has taken.  Hence that is just the beginning of the story.

Here are my race results

2013 KTC EXPO 10k  – 10K Run TN 5/25/13 1 24 28 6:23 39:43
Covenant Health Knoxville Half Marathon 2013 TN 4/7/13 3 49 57 6:55 1:30:41
Shamrock Marathon  2013 VA 3/16/13 13 107 121 7:22 3:13:22
Whitestone 30k TN 2/24/13 2 6 7 7:17 2:16:02
Strawberry Plains Half Marathon 2013 TN 2/9/13 5 12 14 6:41 1:27:42
Calhoun’s New Year’s Day 5K 2013 TN 1/1/13 1 19 20 5:58 18:35
Secret City Half Marathon  2012 TN 11/18/12 10 10 10 6:46 1:28:41
7 Bridges Marathon 2012 TN 10/21/12 22 22 22 7:44 3:22:44
THE HAL CANFIELD  5 MILE 2012 – Run-5Mi TN 9/3/12 2 9 12 7:06 35:33
THE HAL CANFIELD MEMORIAL MILE 2012 – Run-1Mi TN 9/3/12 3 23 26 5:43 05:43.00
The Butterfly Fund of East Tennessee 5K TN 8/18/12 2 14 17 6:31 20:14
29th Annual Carter Mill 10k 2012 TN 7/21/12 2 24 30 7:11 44:39
Pilot’s Fireball Classic 5K TN 7/3/12 5 78 89 6:36 20:31
Summer Solstice 8K TN 6/16/12 3 32 38 8:18 41:20
8th Annual Provision Health & Wellness Dogwood Classic 5k 2012 TN 4/28/12 4 24 24 6:10 19:11
Covenant Health Dogwood Mile 2012 TN 4/27/12 1 6 6 5:34 05:34.00
Strawberry Plains Half Marathon 2012 TN 2/11/12 3 20 22 7:01 1:32:01
New Year’s Day 5K 2012 TN 1/1/12 6 39 45 6:23 19:52
Secret City Half Marathon  2011 TN 11/20/11 4 22 26 7:08 1:33:31
Seven Bridges Marathon 2011 TN 10/16/11 5 19 20 7:55 3:27:27
34th Annual KTC EXPO 10K 2011
TN 5/28/11 6 40 45 6:56 43:09
Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon 2011 TN 4/3/11 24 152 187 9:00 3:55:59
Secret City Half Marathon TN 11/21/10 6 47 66 8:18 1:48:53
Tennessee Sports Medicine Expo 5k 2010 TN 5/29/10 5 24 25 7:03 21:55
Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon 2010 TN 3/28/10 62 330 479 12:46 5:34:38
Oak Ridge Half Marathon 2009 TN 11/21/09 7 87 112 9:07 1:59:27

If we just compare the half marathon from 2009 [1:59:27] to my PR in 2012 [1:27:42], then here is the progress:

  • 31 minutes and 45 seconds faster overall for the half marathon distance.
  • 2 minutes and 26 seconds faster pace per mile
  • VDOT score estimates went from 36.5 to 52.5

This 16 VDOT point progress was made in approximately 42 months.  Hence, I advanced about almost 4/10 of a VDOT point per month.  Considering that I was ill for 6 moths last year, that is pretty fast progress!  Under absolutely ideal conditions that none of us have, you could expect to progress at about .8 VDOT points per month.  Moreover, the pace per mile for the half marathon pace changed about 3.5 to 4 seconds per month of diligent labor.

If we only look at 5K races, then I ran a 21:55 in May of 2010 and a PR of 18:35 in January of 2013.  Here is the progress:

  • 3 minutes and 40 seconds faster over the 5K distance
  • 1 minute and 5 seconds faster pace per mile
  • VDOT score estimates of 45 to 54

Since this improvement happened over 32 months, that would be nearly 3/10 of a VDOT point per month average.  Moreover, the pace per mile changed about 2 seconds per month of diligent labor.

To Sum It Up

Over the last few years, my average progress for each month of training has been:

  • about 2 seconds faster pace for a 5K
  • about 3.75 seconds faster pace for a half marathon

“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”  — P. Mark Taylor


Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:


The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & future runners  Wise Running Book COVER mockup


Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life

Marathon Training: Love, Hate, and The Taper

“I wanna go fast!”  — Ricky Bobby

Tapering is a time of running lower miles and slower paces as you approach a long race, such as a half or full marathon.  It is designed to help us be ready for the big day…to help us meet our goal.  Amongst my hundreds of runner friends on Twitter, Facebook, and this blog, however, there is a disdain (or at the very least a discomfort) that is often expressed towards the taper.

If the taper can help us meet our goals, why such negative emotions?

Why is it that runners have such a tumultuous relationship with the taper?

For most of us, it can best be described as a love/hate relationship.  Theoretically, we love the taper.  We know that we have been using and abusing our bodies in hill workouts, 20 mile runs, track workouts, pace runs, tempo runs, interval training, and many other torturous yet wonderful ways.  Struggling through these workouts and giving everything we have has built our muscles, our endurance, and our confidence.  Runners love to push themselves.  We pride ourselves on this kind of self-denial.  Push, press, strive!

Here is where the conflict arises.  I have now been training for this marathon for over 4 months.  I have pushed my limits and done all of the aforementioned workouts day in and day out for 17 weeks.    For 119 days, pushing it to the limit was my goal.  The days that I had to take off were horrible!  I was thinking about what I should be running.  Now… after all of this time… you want me to ease up?  You want me rested?  Fewer miles?  Less effort?  Are you absolutely nuts??!!??  Where is the “Dislike” button on this thing!  No. It is absolutely unnatural.  I don’t want to do it.

The conflict continues as our brain reminds us to check in on our body parts.  Feet?  Sore.  Knees?  Swollen.  Calves?  Do you even have to ask?  Hamstrings, quads?  Yes, they are communicating loudly as well.  We know that we need the rest.  We know we need the time to heal.  It makes sense.

In the meanwhile, our spirit cries out for more striving, not less.  Our habits call for more miles, not fewer.  Our hearts love the long run.  That is why we got into this.  We love endorphins.  Let’s go get some more, right?  Wrong.  It is time to taper and heal.  We must stifle the voice crying out for endorphins and go with logic.  Bottle up all of that energy.  Store up all those carbs.  Build up that emotional energy… and pop the cork on all that pressure on race day.

If we taper right, we will be like the champagne bottle coming uncorked on race day.  Our spirit will burst forth at the sounding of the starting gun.  The cap will fly off and all of that conflict, … all of that pressure that we allowed to build through the taper… if we can manage the flow just right… will end up in a PR & all of the endorphins from two weeks flow in one session.  Good times, but only if we taper.

Happy running!