To prepare for the Gold Coast Airport Marathon, which took place last Sunday, I have been training with the Coached training programme for the past few months. This programme had helped me to get a new personal best, shaving off 45 minutes in a marathon, so I’ll share a little of my training with you.
A heart rate training programme for runners and triathletes
Coached is a heart rate training programme for runners and triathletes that allows you to optimise, track and enjoy your training. Coached gets you to do your runs at a low intensity, in order to train and build your aerobic heart rate base, so that you will be able to run at a faster pace at a low heart rate zone.
I like the idea of being able to run well but without smashing the body in training. The minimum number of training sessions per week that Coached advocates in order to prepare for a full marathon is four, which was the programme that I had followed.
Most of the time, my weekly training sessions were usually done on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. During the weekend, a long run is done. The sessions of running had to fit in with my schedule. What I like about Coached, is that the sessions are flexible enough, so if you are tied down and can’t train on a certain day, then you can always shift your scheduled training session to the following day instead. This helped me to manage my running and other commitments.
For those who would prefer to do more sessions, there is a five session and six session per week option for runners, but Coached strongly recommends at least one complete rest day per week.
And in total, Coached advocates a 12 to 16 week training cycle to prepare for a full marathon. Mine had been about 12 weeks. Most marathon training plans, after all, last for a minimum of 12 weeks and Coached is no exception.
Strength Run at the Botanic Gardens and a Speed Run at Kallang with the group
My running sessions under Coached had consisted of a Strength Run on the hills of the Botanic Gardens every Tuesday and a Speed Run at the Kallang Practice Track on Thursdays. These two weekly sessions were conducted by Ben Pulham, the founder of Coached and would be tailored for each runner, based on whether we had a key race coming up or not.
For example, those who had an upcoming race, would do a slightly different session as compared to the rest of the group who did not have any races coming up. This programme was quite flexible and had catered well to my running needs. It was also quite fun to run with the Coached group even though we were all running at different paces and intensities. And we would be running round in loops, so as we passed each other, we would often encourage each other along the way and that was quite motivating during the training workouts.
Strength Endurance Run and Long Run on my own
But in addition to the pre-determined group sessions, I also had to complete a hilly Strength Endurance Run on my own, as well as the weekly Long Run, which slowly built up the duration of my running from a short 80 minutes, to a maximum of three hours.
The maximum length of the Coached Long Run is always three hours, even for those who are targeting a marathon in five hours or longer, because Coached includes strength sets, such as squats and lunges, within the long run. For example, at every 15 minute intervals during the Long Runs we must complete 30 seconds of squats, lunges, planks or whatever strength exercises we choose.
These, according to Coach Ben, are supposed to help to smash the legs quicker and make you feel as though you have run for a long time, when in fact you haven’t actually. I think that Coach Ben has a point there. During my Long Runs, the squat sets that I did were easy at the beginning but after the hour mark or so, I was feeling some strain in my legs and they were getting quite heavy. It took some effort to push on each week, but I managed it, and did not cheat on my training programme.
I do admit that I was a bit worried at one point as the race drew closer, because my longest run had only been 25km in the build up to the marathon. I wondered whether I would be able to withstand 42km of pavement pounding on race day. But then again, Coach Ben himself had used to be a professional triathlete prior to starting up Coached, and he should know what he is doing in terms of designing his training programmes.
And as the distance and time had increased, I found the Long Runs to be the most difficult to fit into my schedule, and there were times when I found myself having to sacrifice sleep and waking up before dawn in order to get the Long Run completed, due to other commitments later in the day. It was quite exhausting, but I think that I managed myself well, and didn’t skip any of the Long Runs.
These long runs were usually completed at the East Coast park for me, because I have always found this to be a great place to go, and one of the few places in Singapore where a run is not interrupted by countless traffic lights, overhead bridges, or road crossings.
On the other hand, transportation was a bit of a hassle for the Strength Endurance Runs, as Coached had required us to run on hills for these sessions. The area that I stay at is quite flat, so I often found myself having to head to hilly locations such as the Marina Barrage or the Botanic Gardens to complete these runs, taking up valuable time spent travelling as a result. But it was a sacrifice that I would have to make, if I wanted to do well at the Gold Coast Airport Marathon.
An option for those who really can’t get to the hills, would be to replace the hills with strength sets or staircase runs, but doing hills is still the most ideal, because as Coach Ben always says, hills are the best way to strengthen the legs without smashing the body at the same time.
Weekly mileage increase was 10 per cent
I had also noticed that the weekly mileage increase was about 10 per cent per week with the Coached programme, a philosophy that most other training programmes also abide by.
I do admit though, that there had been times when I had squeezed in a few extra running sessions during times where I was supposed to be having a rest day. But then again, when I did these, I always made sure that I kept my pace within my Easy heart rate zone, in order to not push my body too hard. I suppose that a little bit of extra aerobic training could not do much harm. Perhaps I was a little worried that I was not getting in enough mileage for the marathon, but based on my performance at the Gold Coast Airport Marathon, these extra sessions can’t have caused any harm to my running.
Smashed my personal best time
As some may know by now, I had smashed my personal best marathon time at the Gold Coast Airport Marathon by 45 minutes, running negative splits. I think that the weather had played a huge part in this, but Coach Ben also did comment that fitness level is also another reason.
My splits for the last 10km had been approximately 1 1/2 minutes per kilometre faster than my split times at the beginning. Did I start out too slowly? I will probably never know the answer to that, but it is best to be cautious rather than sorry, when it comes to running a long race such as the marathon.
Thank you once again, Coach Ben, for the training and advice in the build up to the Gold Coast Airport Marathon.
Will continue to train with Coached
I will continue to train with Coached for my next marathon, which will be the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon in December, as I can certainly see the benefits of being on this training programme.
How YOU Can Train With Coached Too
Coached is offering a free 14-Day trial for runners and triathletes who are thinking of trying out the Coached programmes for themselves.
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