Marathon Training Plan

That Didn’t Last Long

It’s marathon training plan time. Unfortunately, my best-developed plan has been torched before I’ve even run a step. I went into my Girona cycling trip with my TrainingPeaks plan informing me that I am 30% fitter than last year. Then, the plan was five good days in the Girona hills to top me off. Finally, back to the UK to start running on the 3rd of May, six months before my New York Marathon challenge.

Marathon Training Plan - photograph of my broken clavicle surgery

Unfortunately, I had a massive crash in Girona and have had a plate put into my broken clavicle this week. In addition, I need an investigation into some dizziness I have had since the accident. Nine ribs and a painfully fractured scapula need to heal, too. Bugger! The photo on the left is post-titanium insertion.

It’s a huge irony. I crashed badly last year, and on my road back to health, I visited New York and watched the marathon. It very much inspired me. The morning after, I bought a pair of ASICS running shoes. I imagined it early and put my plan in place. And then, a handful of days before training started in earnest, I was scraping myself off the tarmac for only the second time in a long cycling love affair.


I’m told I will be in a full-on shoulder sling for six weeks. That takes me to the end of June before I’m unencumbered. I can imagine that my ribs and shoulder will be healed by then. The head issue I am – possibly naively – assuming will be nothing of note; an imminent CAT scan should tell me.

Therefore, I will have four months to train for the marathon. I’m told by various people that is enough time. But I’m also conscious that most people will go into the four-month marathon training plan with some fitness. My fitness leaks away like seawater through the sand; I will start with a very low fitness base.

First marathon—tick. 67 years old—tick. Much larger than your average runner—tick. Starting with a poor fitness base—tick. It’s all good then; Jake and Ellwood Blues are preparing to drive to save the children’s home in Chicago.

Ellwood: “It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark and we’re wearing sunglasses.”

Jake: “Hit it.”

A handful of wise people have encouraged me to recover in my own time and worry about extreme physical challenges once that is sorted out. This makes sense; I’m highly competent at putting myself under unreasonable pressure. Another friend said to me this evening, “You’ve got this. This is right in your wheelhouse. Even if you have to run, walk, and run, you can do it.”

At this stage, I’m saying to go for it. But medical advice may rule me out. If I don’t make it, I will go for a charity entry for London 2025 and roll over my NYC entry until 2025. I want to raise a reasonable amount for a cancer charity whenever I run; therefore, I don’t want to let down people who have donated.

Is It Doable?

I bought an off-the-shelf novice marathon run training plan, and the first session is on July 1. That’s not the issue. The problem is I will be carrying very low fitness into that first training day. My shoulder sling is due off in mid-June. I need to get resourceful. For example, can I at least wake up the aerobic system with some low-intensity indoor bike rides? How about some bodyweight lower body strength work during June?

Taking a pessimistic perspective, this will be touch and go, and I can’t afford to lose any sessions for any reason. The margin for error has gone. But so what? I don’t want to have a ready-made excuse lined up and a brave withdrawal late in the day. This is my 2024 misogi, and it should be hard.

A man who inspires me is Tommy Rivs, the American runner who returned from an aggressive lung cancer and 90 days in an induced coma to run New York a year later. As the New York Times documented, he finished in over nine hours. Matt Long, a New York fireman, suffered massive internal injuries and many fractures and returned to run the marathon. His book The Long Run is an inspiration. These men came back from much more severe illnesses and accidents than I did and ran the NYC Marathon. Sure, they were elite athletes and much younger, but their experiences were incredibly traumatic.

It will be bloody hard, and a lot needs to go right. The big unknown is the potential for injury. Hangover issues from the recent crash, inflammation in my knees, and older bones challenged by common running injuries such as plantar fascitis or shin splints or the like.

Let’s start with a plan. Without a plan, I’m dreaming.

Marathon Training Plan - Tommy Rivs

Before The Plan, The Goal

It will be unmotivating and ultimately disappointing to aim for too challenging a target. This is my first marathon and I’m coming back from. a very serious accident. What would be an achievement? I did a straw poll among my cycling colleagues, and the answer was “finish the course.” That makes a lot of sense. Putting up something like five hours, for example, could be crushing if I miss by ten minutes. The odds are stacked against me. The goal is misogi level. That in itself should be more than good enough.

My goal is to cross the start line at the New York Marathon on 3 November 2024 and to cross the finish line on the same day. I don’t care how many hours it takes and don’t mind whether I run, walk, or crawl. The goal is to complete the course.

With a goal in place, let’s take a look at a plan to achieve the goal.

My Holistic Marathon Training Plan

I know that following a run training plan won’t help. Failures in other parts of my body and mind are much more likely to prevent me from achieving my goal. Some things are a given, like my age and the associated muscle loss and lack of mobility that comes with the territory. Personal weaknesses include osteoarthritis in my knees, and I have suffered lower back pain, shin splints and plantar fasciitis over the years. Situational weaknesses are the lack of mobility and localised pain from my recent accident. These areas require attention. I won’t list them as handy future excuses; rather. I highlight them as items to address.

After addressing weakness, I turn to physiological matters. Once again, a running plan is not at the forefront of my thinking. Running won’t do anything to improve my muscle mass, and lack of focus on strength work will let me down later. Regular gym work, as well as helping to address some of my weaknesses, such as knees and relatively poor mobility, will also give me essential upper, core, and lower body strength to give me more resilience.

I must address sleep and nutrition to get the most from my strength and running. Sleep is crucial, and to my credit, I have developed sleep routines to help improve my rest. Nutrition in the before, during, and after phases must be nailed consistently. Having spent a substantial part of my career in sports science and nutrition, I only have myself to blame if I screw up this part of the marathon training plan.

Finally, a decent running plan. You thought I would never get there, didn’t you? I see all the other items as foundations to my performance pyramid, and only then does my specific training become the consideration. Without foundations, I’m doomed to fail. Here is my visualisation of what I’m looking to execute.

I will briefly touch on each of these areas now, and cross-reference to any useful supporting material.

The Foundations

I’ve mentioned in another blog post the need to consume more protein. Older adults need more, and athletes benefit from more. I’m slightly over 100 kgs, and leading-edge sports scientists are adamant that I should take 200 gr of high-quality protein daily. That’s tough, but that’s what I will try to do. I supplement with protein powders and bars, so it’s doable. For example, I start my day with 40 gr of protein in a shake and like kefir-based protein yoghurts that deliver 30 gr. That goes a long way to bridging the gap from my regular diet to my target.

I’m involved with an early-stage company called Hexis, which has developed a unique AI-driven personalised nutrition app. I know the importance of carbohydrates for sports performance, given my profession over the years, but now I have a tool which will enable me to optimise my carb intake. The Hexis technology is based on Carb Coding, conceived by a former colleague and good friend of mine, Professor James Morton. The technology looks at my training load, drawing down data from my Garmin. But it cleverly looks forward seven days at what is in the training plan logged in my TrainingPeaks calendar. Looking at actual and planned activities allows the technology to schedule my nutrition needs daily.

The Foundations – Sleep and Supplements

I’ve mentioned in a previous blog that I’m supported by the Tumeric Co and their excellent shots. This is a crucial supplement for me; inflammation could be a significant issue in my preparation, and my experience of the shots is that they dramatically reduce pain in my arthritic knees.

I also take creatine daily; it is possibly the supplement with the most scientific support. This is a crucial habit in my efforts to maintain lean muscle mass.

After I have dealt with my two particular must-do supplements, I will top off with some essential products which cover a range of general wellness and sports needs. I take vitamins K and D for general health purposes. Vitamin B12 and a high-quality Omega-3 are targeted at supporting my body through the stresses of training.

My sleep has improved over the last 18 months. Seven hours is a good night for me. I monitor with an Oura ring; whether it’s accurate or not doesn’t matter to me; it’s all about the trend. I will hit the pillow consistently each night, and I’m good at rising in a fairly tight window, too. Before sleep, I will supplement with Valerian and a high-quality CBD oil from Naturecan.

Physical Resilience – Muscle Mass

Losing muscle mass is a given from as early as the mid-thirties. By my age, it’s possible to lose close to 20% of muscle mass unless something is done to address this. This phenomenon can then lead to a range of age-related issues, with infirmity becoming an issue, together with a sharp increase in mortality risk.

Fortunately, we respond well to strength training not only in our sixties but also in the following two decades. If I do nothing, I will be less robust. I also know that running alone will not improve muscle mass. Therefore, my marathon training plan needs a couple of good gym sessions each week.

Two strength sessions focus on my diet and sleep, and that’s an underrated yet important aspect of the plan dealt with.

Physical Resilience – Target The Weaknesses

My knees can become very painful. Before me falling and smashing a few bones, I would have said the major element which would stop me from achieving my goal would be soreness in my knees. I was initially diagnosed with arthritis in my knees after a meniscus tear three years ago. This was successfully tackled by utilising the methodology pioneered by Ben Patrick, aka @kneesovertoesguy. I come back to this regularly and, indeed, have bought the critical piece of training kit, the Tib Bar. I can quickly fit in Tib Bar raises, and other ATG Coaching bodyweight exercises such as calf raises and single-leg ATG squats.

On one of my gym days, recent months have seen me gain a lot of benefits from single-leg quad raises and hamstring curls. It has built the crucial musculature around my knees impressively.

Add to this the supplementation mentioned earlier, and I believe I can manage this fundamental weakness well. One thing is for sure, crossing my fingers and hoping I make it through is not a realistic plan.

Marathon Training Plan – Structure, Miles, and Rest

I have chosen a tried-and-tested Hal Higdon Novice plan for run training. There’s no silver bullet here, and I don’t believe one plan will have some hidden advantage over another. The Higdon plan has been around forever and has helped thousands of novice marathon runners. If I have a misgiving, it’s the three sessions early in the week. While only 3-4 miles each, the lack of a rest day may be an issue, and if I have any doubt, I will drop the second session.

It’s been a while since I’ve followed a very structured training plan. My life has a slightly less pressured pace now, and I no longer leap out of bed in the morning darkness to smash high-intensity sessions out. However, this will need structure; I do not believe shortcuts in training frequency and miles will lead me to success.

Proactively looking after rest and sleep will also be a huge success factor. In addition to making the time available, I intend to look for every edge, such as sleep regimes and natural supplements, including the previously mentioned CBD oil and Valerian. Regarding adaptation, good things will happen as I pound the road, but better things will happen while I sleep.

Will I Be Fit Enough?

The TrainingPeaks chronic training load – that is, my fitness – shows I can be in reasonable shape with a score of 74 as I climb on the flight to the USA. Not where I want to be, but also possibly good enough to see me finish.

Of course, there is no scope for illness, injury, or missed sessions. It would have been great to build a base in May and June and then train in earnest from July.

But the cards have been dealt; I know the plan and understand the risks.

I’m using a Garmin 965 watch and Garmin HRM Pro heart rate monitor to log my performance, with all the data being uploaded to TrainingPeaks. I check my heart rate variability in the morning with an Ithlete Pro finger sensor. HRV is the gold standard for fitness and form monitoring and is also an early warning system when illness or overtraining becomes a risk.

Excuses, Excuses

I don’t have any excuses. My body will either see me complete the training plan, or it won’t. My plated collarbone may be a problem, as could my knees be the issue, or something else unforeseen. But worrying about what may happen will achieve nothing.

I’ve got a marathon training plan and a nutrition and supplementation strategy, and I know to focus on rest and sleep. Those are things I can control simply by showing up. Illness and injury are uncontrollable, so what’s the point in wasting energy pondering those possibilities? Hell, I may even simply give up and say, “Not for me.” Who knows?

I’m going to give it a crack. Draw on my tough times to motivate me. I’m going to seek to raise money for a worthy charity. Push my physical and mental limits. What’s not to like?

Let’s do it. #runmoonyrun

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