A Comparison of Marathon Training Plans-ColumnNotes

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Notes on the columns

  • Plan. I have generally used the last name of the primary author of the plan, except where the plan is better known by another name.
  • Name. This is the name of the plan with the in the book, or in the case of Jack Daniels the parameters used to generate the plan.
  • Long Run Speedwork. While some plans have the longer runs as steady easy continuous running, some include elements of speed work. This is typically sections of the long run where the pace is increased to marathon pace or faster. I believe that this type of speed work can be remarkably effective.
  • Duration. The simple view of the duration of the plan is the number of weeks from start to finish, but this can be rather misleading. Many runners training for a marathon have a higher level of fitness than that required for the start of the plan. If a runner starts a plan that has several weeks of training at significantly below their current fitness level, they may actually become detrained. For example a runner who is used to running 12 mile long runs would not needed to begin at the start of the Jack Daniels "Plan A (4hours, 50miles/week)", but might be able to skip the first 12 weeks.
  • # Runs 16+. I consider that the 16 mile mark defines the beginning of "the long run". While this is somewhat arbitrary on my part, I believe that counting the number of long runs that are 16 miles or more is a useful metric. The first run the diesel 16 miles or more is highlighted in green in the weekly section.
  • # Runs 20+. There is some limited evidence that suggests that runs over 20 miles provide important adaptations for marathon running, and help prevent "hitting the wall". This column gives account of the number of runs that of 20 miles or more.
  • Total Miles Over 16. Another way of evaluating a training plan is to look at the number of miles run in excess of 16 miles. For example an 18 mile long run would count as 2 miles in excess of the 16 mile Mark. This metric reveals some dramatic differences between some of the advanced plans.
  • Starting Mileage. This column shows the mileage of the first long run, and may be useful in selecting a plan based on your current fitness.
  • Weeks To 16. This is the number of weeks from the start of the plan to the first 16 mile long run. This section of the training plan I've called the "initial ramp up" that brings a runner from their initial level of fitness to what I consider the threshold of performing long runs.
  • Weeks 16 To Max. This is the number of weeks from the first run of 16 miles or more to the longest run in the plan. If the longest run is repeated more than once, I use the first instance, which is highlighted in red in the weekly section.
  • 16 To Race. The number of weeks from the first run of 16 miles or more to the race itself.
  • Max To Race. The number of weeks from the longest long run to the race itself.
  • Ramps. One key aspect of any marathon training plan is how quickly it increases the mileage. It seems likely that one of the biggest factors behind excessive fatigue and injury from the long run is at this rate of mileage increase. Therefore I have attempted to quantify this rate of increase as a "ramp", which is approximately the number of miles per week the long run is increased by. (For those interested in the details I use the least squares approach to calculate an approximate slope between the two points on the training plan. This approach has some obvious limitations when the training plans have cut back weeks.)
    • Initial Ramp (First To 16). This is the ramp from the first run to the first 16 mile or longer run.
    • Core Ramp (16 To Max).This is the ramp from the first 16 mile or longer run to the longest run.
    • Overall Ramp (first to max). The ramp from the first run to the longest run.