Risk, reward and finding the right path

I had dinner with a couple of friends Sunday night, one of them is training in a beginner marathon training program at Rogue. We got to talking about running, go figure, and she started talking about how she and another person in her group want to get faster and are concerned about the chance of injury with an intermediate program instead of a beginner program. Now this is a question with so many angles to it. I’m not sure what I said exactly but at one point I think the words “you’ll get some injury when you train to get faster”. That may have come off a little fatalistic but then we did talk about a number of other related topics. Below is a series of kind of related threads on getting faster, injury and finding your own path.

I was on the trail volunteering and promoting the Rogue Austin Marathon Training program and a guy came up with a question.

Can you qualify me to run Boston?

Now that is a loaded question. I asked him how long he’s been running and how many marathon’s he’s done and what he’s run. 3 marathons, around those many years and all around a four hours and twenty minutes. Now I don’t know if he’s physically capable of it but he can try for sure. His training for all his marathons (was just running some long runs, no speed work, no hill work. So doing those will of course get him to run faster. But they will also increase the chance of injury. Will they get him to run Boston, that’s something he’ll have to work towards and find out.

My first running injury was when I jumped into an informal group that met twice a week at the Rock and Tuesdays was track work and Thursdays was hill work. That was the first time I’d run with any intensity and within a month I had shin splits. My foot, calf and lower leg didn’t have the strength and stability to effectively slow down my foot on landing which created too much stress. I was out for close to a month and did  the whole physical theraphy thing, the electrodes and exercises with bands. With this group it was informal so it the same for everybody and you just went out and did it, in hindsight I didn’t know where I was in my physical condition or ability and really wasn’t ready for the combination of volume and intensity during that time.

During my 7 mile run this morning I started thinking through the different Rogue training programs I’ve been in. The first was training for Chicago in 2004, which ended up being my Boston qualifier. The 5 monthish program was very gradual in it’s build up of both milage but also the intensity and volume of speed work. I was in an intermediate program. Back then and today there is a significant difference in how the beginner, intermediate and advanced programs are handled. They all gradually build up milage but in addition the once a week quality work volume and intensity varies. It makes complete sense of course, when you’re a “young runner” you’re less likely to have the right strength and fitness to handle a five mile track workout whereas somebody that’s been running and training for 5 years does so each program is tailored to differing running experience.

The other thing that seems to become even more improtant as we push our limits further are all the little things I know I didn’t really have to focus on when I first started running. Basic strength training, stretching regularly, taking a recovery drink within 30 minutes (for energy AND muscle repair), ice baths, sleep, diet … the list goes on and on. All those things take on more importance as intensity, frequency and volume increase. But that’s the price to pay to get faster and avoid injury. Each of us have differing natural running talents so what we choose to do and the extent to which we do it will vary, but I know that for me to truly excel at running and get as fast as I can I for one need to do a lot more with things outside of the time I’m running.

Run Today: 7 miles – 56:30



  1. I began my running career exactly 3 years ago (Motive training program) this week, and jumped into the intermediate group. I ran a bunch of the long runs with the advanced guys.

    In Rogue speak, the only difference I’ve ever found in the beginner vs intermediate vs advanced is the number of repeats on a track workout etc, and also the few added miles to the long runs.

    My ‘regular joe’ opinion is that if someone is somewhat athletic, the ‘intermediate’ is really not a big deal. I’d even venture out to say the that you probably risk getting the same injuries from running regardless if you’re beginner or intermediate.

    Granted, if you’re a newbie whose never gone over 5 miles, maybe you should just go beginner. But I was a newbie. Training back, maybe my IT pains and my hipflexor injury could have been averted, but then again, i personally doubt it.

    off my soapbox.

  2. This all really does get down so much to the individual. I ran my first marathon 4.5 months after I ran 2 miles for the first time. I know others don’t have the same body type etc so doing the same thing wouldn’t make sense. I agree with Mike W’s statement of if you’re somewhat athletic the intermediate will probably be fine. If you’re a biker there will be some different muscle groups that will get stressed but you probably know enough about how to take care of your body. There are so many people that have run 3 miles at most and sometimes not even that that jump into a program, in that case the beginner is a much safer route … note safer, not the only and not necessary the most rewarding route based on your goals that you can choose 😉

  3. I believe that in a group atmosphere most [emphasis on “most”] people are motivated to run further and faster than they would/could on their own. However…

    Even when a training organization gives careful attention to structuring schedules for all levels of runners – beginner, intermediate, and advanced – there is no one perfect schedule for every person. If the training load is inappropriate for a particular athlete, a couple of things are likely to happen: either under-achievement OR burnout/injury.

    Individual, one-on-one coaching could be the answer. The initial cost is higher though. And what I see is that many runners choose to pay after the fact in the form of treatment and/or time off, rather than up front in the form of coaching fees.

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