Ever wondered if a personalised running training plan could help improve your running? We Run client Sarah shares her experience.
So Sarah, What’s Your Running Background?
I’ve been running for five years. I first started running to try and lose a little bit of weight, I’ve never been overweight as such, but I wanted to try something a bit different. I started by running from lamppost to lamppost – I used to do a quarter of a mile and come back home and think “Oh my God how am I ever going to do this?!” – I think everyone starts running that way don’t they? Within my first year of running I’d gone up to ultra marathon distance. The furthest I’ve done is 40 miles.
The problem I’ve had is that I tend to run well for 6-7 months of the year, and then I get injured and I’m out for 4-5 months, and then I find that I have to start all over again. It’s always been that way.
In the last 5 years I’ve covered every distance from 5k up to ultra marathons. Originally I was taking part in up to 20 events per year. I’m a bit of a medal collector – people call me a magpie! They’re all hung up in the spare room – my mum keeps saying that the wall will probably fall down at some point.
“The problem I’ve had is that I tend to run well for 6-7 months of the year, and then I get injured and I’m out for 4-5 months, and then I find that I have to start all over again. It’s always been that way.”
Tell Us About Your Injury Troubles
It’s always something different. It’s really frustrating because it means I have to go through physio again, and I’m not sure what to do to fix it. I’ve had stuff from piriformis issues, plantar fasciitis, more recently I was off running for nearly 4 months with a back injury and I’ve only just come back from that 3 months ago. That took me out for quite a long time, I went to see a specialist, I had scans done. They still to this day couldn’t tell me what it was, and it’s just randomly gone away on it’s own. Hopefully now it’s gone for good! I do tend to get all sorts of injuries – it’s never the same thing, which is the most frustrating part about it.
What’s Your Current Running Goal?
I’ve done 7 marathons before, but my time for my marathon doesn’t make any sense if you compare it to how fast I can run 5k, 10k and half marathon. I had never gone under 5 hours until last year, which if I’m running 24 minutes for 5k and 1 hour 50 minutes for half marathon, doesn’t really make sense.
My current goal at the moment is the Birmingham Marathon in October – it’s the first one so hopefully it’ll be a good one!
I went under 5 hours at the London Marathon last year, but again I got there with injuries. I still got injured and I thought although I got the time I wanted, it still wasn’t an easy process getting there, and I’m still getting injured every year and I thought I must be doing something wrong; either the amount I’m running in a week, how far I’m running, pace; something’s not going right.
I was talking to my partner (he runs as well), and he said maybe you need someone to help you with a plan. So I got onto Google, and you popped up!
I’ve always found training plans online, but they’re not tailored to you. I think they can just be a generic plan, and I think sometimes you can think “Oh yeah, I can manage that”, and maybe for 12 weeks you can, but then it’s too much and you get injured. So I thought maybe it’s time to get something that’s more specific for me and what I’m trying to do.
“I’ve always found training plans online, but they’re not tailored to you. I thought maybe it’s time to get something that’s more specific for me and what I’m trying to do.”
What Was The Process Like?
Well the first step was excitement; I literally couldn’t wait to see what the plan was going to say! I contacted We Run, filling in the form on the website, and Coach Alexa got in contact with me and introduced herself. She sent me a form to fill out; a questionnaire. I was actually really pleased with how in-depth it was. There were so many questions on there and I was really pleased with that because I thought it was actually going to be tailored for me. It asked what my best times are, how often I run, how often I want to run. I thought this is actually going to be for me, it’s not just a generic plan that I can give to a sub 3-hour marathon runner or a 6 hour marathon runner; this is for me.
It was a really really easy process, all I felt was excitement up until I saw the plan, and then I thought “Ok, now I know the hard work begins!”
“I was actually really pleased with how in-depth the questionnaire was. There were so many questions on there and I was really pleased with that because I thought ‘This is actually going to be tailored for me.‘”
How Is The Plan Going?
It’s amazing! It’s quite a long plan, obviously you have the option of how many weeks you want the plan to be, and because I was just coming back from my injury I thought it was best to build up gradually. I started repeating week one, two weeks before because I couldn’t wait to get started! So this is my eighth official week.
Since I’ve been doing it, I’ve PB’d at 1 mile, 5k, 10k and I did my second fastest half marathon, and that’s all in eight weeks.
And Any Injuries?
Nothing, no problems at all. Absolutely no problems. The reason I think this is, is when I was running on my own before or following a generic plan, for some reason I’d always run at 9-minute mile pace in the week. I’d always think that that’s all I’m capable of doing, and just do 9-minute miles. Come weekends if I was doing a race, I’d be trying to run 8-minute miles or 7.45, which just isn’t going to work. I think that’s why I was getting injured, because I was running so sporadically in the week, and I wasn’t really changing how I was running.
When I got my plan, the first thing I thought was “Ok, there’s quite a lot of new information here.” But actually I think the fact that I’m doing something different every time that I run is great; number one, I look forward to going out running because it’s not just “Oh, another 3 mile run tonight” and number two, I think it’s taught my body to run at a quicker pace for shorter amounts of time, so I’ve got used to doing it for a longer distance.
I was amazed, just before I started this plan my parkrun time was around 25 minutes. I had gone quicker, my PB was 24.09, but I hadn’t run that quickly for over a year. Then I did parkrun three weeks ago and I’ve got down to 23.01. Which is ridiculous! I don’t think some people believed me when I posted it on Facebook and told people, but of course when the parkrun results came up there it was. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t easy as pie at the end, but I wasn’t falling on the floor gasping for air!
It really has made such a massive improvement.
“Since I’ve been following my plan, I’ve PB’d at 1 mile, 5k, 10k and I did my second fastest half marathon, and that’s all in eight weeks.”
Generic vs Personalised Plan
The biggest benefit of a tailored plan for me is my lack of injury. When I go out to do a run, rather than feeling tired every day, and having dead legs, because my tailored plan has factored in easier days and tempo days, I’m actually enjoying the running more. Having it so you’re not pushing so hard all of the time so you’re actually enjoying the running you’re doing as opposed to thinking “Oh, I need to go for a run tonight.”
Do You Feel Your Personalised Plan Has Improved Your Running?
Yes; 100%! Honestly I can’t believe it, 100%, definitely. I’m already thinking ahead to my next training plan once I’m finished with this one!
I think it’s helped my running that much that I don’t want to stop doing it. I just want to keep going and whenever I get a new goal, then I’ll definitely be signing up to do another one. I can’t tell you how much it’s improved my running, I never thought I’d run a 23 minute 5k; if someone had said that to me 8 weeks ago I’d have said “What a load of rubbish!”
“Has my personalised plan improved my running? Yes; 100%, definitely. Honestly I can’t believe it. I’m already thinking ahead to my next training plan once I’m finished with this one!”