Introducing the Schmanson Plan

Buckle in, buddies! Today, believe it or not, we’re actually going to talk about RUNNING.

I know you wouldn’t know it from the past 12 years of emails, but there’s more to this Team in Training thing than spandex and brunch. There’s actually some training involved! I don’t talk about that aspect a lot, both because mile splits are supremely boring to non-runners and because I can never seem to keep track of them. This year, though, I’m going to give it a whirl.

Since 2017 is going to be my last year with the team, I’d like to try for a PR not just in fundraising but in actual running as well. Friend and Fitness Goddess Sarah Lucas hipped me to what I will henceforth to avoid copyright infringement claims be referring to as the Schmanson Plan, which several of our buddies have used to bound gazelle-like over the finish line and their previous personal bests. Writing things down helps me with accountability and I think I have enough runner friends at this point in my life that some of you might find it interesting, so I’ll post weekly updates here on how it’s going!

Ready? Grab a Gatorade and let’s go through the basics.

The Plan

The Schmanson Plan is an 18 week program comprised of four basic types of runs:

  1. Speed/Strength (Mondays): Early on in the program this is track repeats, building in interval distance each week. About halfway through you switch into strength mode, which is longer repeats at a slightly slower pace.
  2. Tempo (Wednesdays): The tempo runs give you a chance to practice running at your marathon pace. These start at 6 miles and build to 10.
  3. Long (Saturdays): Unlike most plans, the Schmanson Plan never has you running more than 16 miles at a time. The theory is that because you’re doing heavy mileage on the other days of the week leading up to your long run, that 16 mile run is going to feel like the last 16 miles of the marathon. You also only do runs at a “long run” pace every other Saturday; the other Saturdays you do long runs at an easy (slower) pace. Which brings us to…
  4. Easy (Everything in between): The rest of your runs range from 6-10 miles, and you do them at 1-2 minutes slower per mile than your marathon goal pace. For someone whose previous approach to training was “run…faster?” having built-in “run SLOW” days is a real blessing.

I’m not much of a plan person (cue Biggins nodding emphatically), but I’m going to try to stick to this one with minimal modifications. When I do have to change things up, I’ll try to do so in a way that still allows me to hit my weekly mileage.  I’m also going to throw some weights and core in there, since I’ve found that without them I end up running the last 6 miles of the marathon at a strong right angle.

Rare footage of the author emerging from the Mass Ave overpass

The Pace

You base your pace for each of the four types of runs on your goal marathon time, which for me is going to be 3 hours and 20 minutes. I picked it because it’s not crazy far off my previous PR (3:26 in the 2014 Baystate Marathon), and looking at the track/tempo/long run paces associated with that goal time didn’t give me a heart attack – I’ve run close to them before. I’m doing the Hyannis half marathon in February, so I’ll be able to see if I’m on track or need to re-adjust.

One other note about this goal – I’ve run Boston enough to know that you can’t out-train a nor’easter, a heat wave, or a particularly aggressive bike wheel, so if I don’t actually run a 3:20 on April 17th, I’ll be okay. I just want to train enough to know I could.

The Prep

A 3:20 marathon means running a 7:40 minute mile, which is a good bit speedier than my off-season waddle. And it’s not just the pace – the Schmanson Plan STARTS at 40 miles a week, so I had to do some solid base-building just to get ready for training.

When I started in mid-October, I was running about 25 miles a week at a pace that allowed me to – just barely – stay ahead of the Brighton can collecting crew . I was most concerned about increasing my mileage without getting hurt and trying to run a 7:40 pace for *any* amount of time, so I started there.

I bumped a couple of my typical 3-5 mile runs up to 6-8 miles and started doing one tempo run a week, beginning with 5 minutes of fast running stuck in the middle of a longer run (listen, I watched Everest – I am NOT about to die on the slopes because I didn’t take time to acclimatize). I inched both of those up a little each week until I was running ~40 miles a week and doing 45 minutes at tempo. Which catches us up to today!


Week 1 of the Schmanson Plan is just three 6-mile runs, which is not an adequate on-ramp to doing a 10 mile track workout if you ask me, so I did my own thing.

Sunday 12/11 (Yulefest 5k)

Goal Pace: 7:05 (22:00 total)/Actual: 6:50 (21:13 total)

I ran a faster than I thought, got a sweet hat, and most importantly defeated a man in a T-Rex costume.

Crushed him

Monday 12/12 (Track): 8×400 w/400 recovery (8.5 miles total)

Goal Pace: 1:40/Actual: Something around that

I do track workouts on the outdoor track at Harvard, so I run there and get a 2.25 mile warm-up and cooldown. (I’m assuming if you read this far you are someone who understands the importance of logging your runs to the hundredth, so I won’t apologize for it here). This was my first track workout in months and although I hit my target pace it was a STRUGGLE.


Tuesday 12/13 (Easy): 2.8 miles



Wednesday 12/14 (Tempo): 9 miles, 6 at tempo

Goal Pace: 7:40/Actual: 7:27

The devious thing about tempo runs is that they also include a 1.5 mile warm-up and cooldown (I don’t track my pace for those). I got all the way up to 6 miles for the tempo part of my tempo run this week, and if I can learn to pace a little better instead of panic flapping my way around the Charles, I might actually enjoy it.


Thursday 12/15 (Easy): 7.5 miles

Goal Pace: 8:45-9:15/Actual: 8:50

I spent the first half of this run gliding on the wings of an eagle, convinced I should start targeting a 3 hour marathon. Then I turned around and directly into a 25 mph headwind.


Friday 12/16 (Easy): 0 miles (VERY easy)

It was like -45 degrees, I went to hot yoga. Not shattering your IT band is a critical component of a strong training schedule.


Saturday 12/17 (Easy): 8 miles

Goal Pace: 8:45-9:15/Actual: 10:00

I was home in Barkhamsted for solstice, which means that I was decked out in a headlamp set to strobe and a second reflective vest before setting foot out the door (thanks Dad). To everyone’s surprise, I made it through a full 8 miles and several axe-wieldings with 0 casualties.

IMG_2334 (1).jpg




Phew! One week down, 17 to go.


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