I should title this post, “girl meets Jack. Jack tries to kill girl but a phoenix rises from the ashes and runs a 1:48 half marathon.” This is the story of how I met Jack Daniels Marathon Training Program A and how it rocked my world.
After I ran Cowtown in October I took a month or two to just run. My mileage was a decent level but I was just running for fun. I had some success with a Turkey Day 5k and had a sub-8 average for the first time (don’t ask me how, I hadn’t really been running with any purpose) but really was taking it easy. Then… I got bored. And ready to start training again. And so, the first weekend of December I decided to use Jack’s Marathon Training Plan A as a dry-run for CIM this year. Only I wasn’t going to race a marathon– just a half marathon but train for a full (minus the long runs). I decided a little late and jumped in the program at week 4 but I was ready.
I have a good friend who is a 2:29 marathoner. He’s sponsored by Saucony and he’s just the most amazing runner I’ve ever met. But the thing is– he’s really talented but he also works really hard. Really hard. 100 miles per week hard. And he also works hard answering my millions of questions all the time. I’ve actually renamed him Jack although lately I’ve taken to calling him Alberto. I’m sure he loves this (not). He originally recommended Jack’s book to me in 2007 and I’d read it several times but never used a training program. So, I began. And I got much faster. Jack’s basic recommendations aren’t anything revolutionary but they really, really work. I ran at a peak of 50 miles per week but the bulk of my weeks were between 35-45 miles per week with 40 being about average. Although it was winter- cold, foggy and rainy I managed to get through the entire training block without skipping a run. This was key.
The first workout was a really hard one (2 miles warm up, 4×5 mins LT, hour easy, 10 mins LT) and I thought I might die. I was achy and wanted to fall asleep immediately. But I decided to give it a few weeks and see how my body responded to the running. Jack calculates your paces based on a really complicated formula based on your vo2 max but you can also use the handy dandy charts in the book to figure out your various paces. At this time I was also a lab rat in a study so I learned my VO2 max and got a read out of my paces for training and guess what? They matched exactly. Jack’s awesome like that.
Most of the training involves running at your lactate threshold or “comfortably hard.” Very little of the program focuses on going “all out” which worked well for me. Suddenly I was throwing down sub-8s in races consistently and feeling really, really good all the time. The workouts were hard, but running easy on non-quality days allowed my legs to recover nicely and each week it got easier. I PR’d in the 4 mile (I took 7 minutes off of the previous year. In a 4 miler. I’m telling you, JACK WORKS!), 10k (took off 10 minutes from the previous year) and finally, at the Shamrockn’ half marathon I took 10 minutes off of my half-marathon time from October. 10 minutes in 5 months blew my mind.
I’m not trying to brag- I still consider myself a fairly average runner with little to no talent, but I think I’m proof that if you work hard, you’re going to get results. And you know what? I’m glad I used to be slower. It’s actually easier now that I’m faster– running takes less time, my body is less beat up and I think it takes a lot more courage to be a runner when you know it’s going to take you a long time to cross that finish line or you have no chance of placing. And I try to remember that often.The other key is that I read about running voraciously. Elite athlete blogs, regular people blogs, books, magazines, columns, etc. I figure the more I know the more I’ll grow!
At this point in my running career, PRs are much more difficult to come by. I think my days of knocking full minutes off of my 5k are over and I highly doubt I’ll ever dip into the 1:30s for a half. Which is ok. The fact that they are more difficult now just makes them sweeter. I used to PR in every race and now I have to, as Prefontaine says, “race to see who has the most guts.”
You know, typing this all out is giving me some confidence moving forward with this year’s marathon. Reflecting on how scared I was to break 2 hours (which I now do regularly when running “easy”) for a half, improve my 5k and start going to the track reminds me that it’s okay, and probably a good thing, to be a little nervous about the task in front of me. If I wasn’t scared I think I’d be selling myself short. So, I’m glad that I have a little trepidation.
If anyone has any other questions about specifics let me know. I’m happy to answer although I’m not a coach so you should take me with a grain of salt.