Speed To Endurance

Monday, April 29, 2013 | By Hal Higdon
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Got a question about running? You're in the right place. Every Tuesday, world-renowned coach, author and athlete Hal Higdon posts and answers athlete questions here. You can submit your question by joining the discussions on Hal Higdon's Virtual Training Bulletin Boards.


I am not an experienced runner, but I have run 10-Ks on three occasions in the last three years with a PR of 51 minutes. Now I’m planning to do my first marathon in October. Until then, I have been following one of your advanced half-marathon training plans and also working with a personal coach, whose approach is similar to yours: interval training, tempo runs and a long run once a week. For the marathon, I plan to switch to your Novice 1 program. Although this is my first marathon, my goal is to break four hours. Should I quit the program from my personal coach? If I keep training with his speed-based program, do I risk overtraining and injury? How can I tell if I'm overtrained besides feeling exhausted right after a training session?


There are a number of symptoms for overtraining, exhaustion being one of them, also inability to sleep or lack of desire to eat. The last can be critical, because if you don’t consume enough calories, you can drive yourself deeper and deeper into the hole. The best measurement might be an elevated pulse rate before rising.

As for training plan, as a somewhat experienced racer/runner, you might take a look at Novice 2. I’m not sure you need to train too hard for a first marathon. You and your coach have done a good job with speedwork, but now that you are in Marathon Mode, you need to make the switch to endurance.

I hate to tell you to fire your coach, but you could at least consult with him to see if he agrees that it is time to make this move. As for your four-hour goal, I checked one of the popular calculators: Greg McMillan Running. Greg suggests that someone with a 51:00 time for 10-K should be able to run 3:59:17 for a marathon. That is cutting it pretty tight, so I hope your more precise time at 10-K was not 51:59.

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