Building the Running Base: How this Over 40 Runner Gets Ready to go From Zero to Marathon

build running base over 40

How I am rebuilding my Mileage base.

Last year, I took a particular approach to getting back to running after the NYC marathon that I thought worked well.

I’m going to post it here…not because I know squat about this sort of stuff, but because this is as good a place as any for me to keep track of what I’m doing from year to year.

My point: I’m not a running coach, and don’t intend my blog to be running advice or coaching.

I break my base-building down into 3 phases.

Phase 1: Base phase

I spent about 4 months rebuilding my mileage base to around 25 miles per week.

It was harder than I thought it would be and took longer than I wanted.

Mostly due to my work schedule last winter/spring, and …. get this…

….I pinched a nerve while getting sick during a food-poisoning ‘event’ in December 2016.

It was bad…couldn’t sleep at night from the pain, running was making it worse, and so I  spent 8 weeks with a physical therapist – Bo Harris over at Harris & Renshaw – getting my upper back and neck strengthened.

Give him a call if you are in Little Rock and need a physical therapist….

….not only has he put  me back out running with minimal down-time after an injury, but he also gave me the tools to prevent the problem from coming back.

2 Key Metrics for me in the Base Building Phase

Metric #1 – Weekly Mileage Increases. 

I don’t increase my weekly total mileage by anymore than a factor of 1.2x – 1.4x for the first 5 weeks, and then once my base is set at Week 8, my maximum increase in weekly mileage is 1.2 times my 4 week average total.

Metric #2 – Long Run as Percent of Total Miles.

I keep the long run each week as close or below one-third of the total mileage.

Here’s why I use those numbers.

After the NYC Marathon in 2016, I realized what I really like about running is first, the experience of running, and second, the challenge of pushing my body a beyond its limits.

Those are 2 very different things.

Given the chance, I push myself to the limit; when I do that, I eventually wake up to discover running stopped being fun.

One of the cool things about starting as a runner over 40 is that I know that  slow growth is stronger growth, and more fun growth.

So, to keep my growth slow, strong and fun, I use those 2 limits – they may not work for anyone else, but they keep me in check.

Here’s the 8 week base-building plan.

Week 1: 15 miles total (4 days running 2.5 miles, 1 day at 5 miles)

Week 2: 18 miles total (4 days running 3 miles, 1 day at 6 miles)

Week 3: 23 miles total (4 days running 4 miles, 1 day at 7 miles)

Week 4: 28 miles total (4 days running 5 miles, 1 day at 8 miles)

Weeks 5 – 8: 30 miles total (4 days running 5 miles, 1 day at 10 miles)

Phase 2: Speedwork

build running base over 40 speed

My half-marathon training plan has me running tempo pace at 8:25/mile.

I know I can run a half at 8:55/mile, so I’m going to need to do some speed work before I start that training plan.

This is new ground for me – though I did speed work for a few weeks last year, I have no idea what it takes to reduce my tempo pace by what seems a pretty massive 30 seconds per mile.

So, I’m just going to play around and see what happens.

There are 2-3 speed workouts I really like –  sprint & recover road runs, intervals on the track, and uphill sprints.

Being over 40, I have to take it really easy on speed.

My body will still go fast (at least by my standards):  my PR for a mile is 7:04, and for a 5k it’s 23:43.

But my only big running injury – which sidelined me for 8 weeks or so in spring 2016 – happened when I pushed too hard and too quick on speed workouts.

So, this year, I’m just testing to see what a good speed phase would look like, and how much time it could reasonably shave off my tempo pace.

Phase 3: Targeting a Specific Event.

I had such a good experience with a marathon plan (I used a slightly-modified-for-over-40-runner  BQ plan from my favorite podcaster, Chris Russell over at Run Run Live) that I decided to splurge and get the $4.95 half-marathon training plan from Runner’s World.

That’s the event I’m working up to in the Spring – the 2018 Little Rock Half Marathon (and the annual fundraiser for the Access School in Little Rock).


So there you have it… how I’m planning to re-establish my base in anticipation of a new goal for the start of spring racing season.

More on that goal later.

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