Please, I need URGENT help to decipher the 5k to 50k 12 weeks marathon training!

Hello, I registered to run a marathon on May 22nd (about 16 weeks from now) I have only previously ran one half marathon on April last year and never ran again after that. I just started training for this marathon less than two weeks ago on a “traditional” marathon training, today was my first day I ran (barely) 10k since the half marathon. I got my 4HB book just this week, and I would really like to do the training provided in there but I cannot decipher what each thing on the training is! I’ve re-read both chapters related to the marathon training over and over again including footnotes and I still cannot understand what each thing means.

Can someone help me? If so, I can post my exact doubts for each item week by week…

Thanks so much in advance!

P.S. sorry about the category pick, there wasn't an option for the "Endurance" one.


The Best Answer

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I was a bit confused by some of the shorthand Tim used, too. Most work outs are either track workouts or crossfit workouts which I think can be searched on their website.

I was also a bit nervous to switch to 100% speed and weight training. Plus, I personally enjoy running, so I did want to run some days of the week, so I am doing a hybrid of the endurance plan that Tim outlines and a traditional training to train for a late March marathon. I've been doing 2 or 3 runs a week - 1 long run, building weekly (I'm now up to 15 miles) and the others are shorter, 3 to 4 miles max. On other days, I've been following 4HB's crossfit and kettlebell workouts as outlined in the book (using the workouts that I can understand for strength building)

Honestly, this has been a much smoother training process than training in the past for me. (I've run 1 marathon, 5 half and loads of shorter races) I feel really strong and I have not been suffering with overuse injuries to my joints, feet, etc. I'm getting faster each week and my long runs are not a struggle.

This hydrid is my recommendation to get rolling with the training asap. Once someone deciphers the endurance training schedule, then you can switch to that.

  • Pinky commented Mar 30th 2012:

    I have ran 9 marathons and quite afew halfs in the last 6 years. Including Boston and new York I strongly suggest that you train to run your fastest half in the spring and another fast half mid summer work towards a fall marathon...you might get discouraged by starting a new way of eating and training for a full marathon all at once...I have had a few bad marathons in the past by taking on more than I can handle....what ever way you choose good luck and pace yourself

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I had a quick look at the ultraendurance training plan last night.

Looking at the speedwork where you have something like: 8 x 200m "on 2min" - this means that you are supposed to run a 200m interval starting every 2mins, so if you ran 200m in 40 seconds you would get 1:20 rest before starting the next one.

It gets confusing when he then schedules 2 x 800m on 3min. For a lot of people they would be hard pressed to run 800m quicker than 3mins so I take it that you are supposed to run 800m and then rest 3min before running the next one.

5kTT = run 5k as fast as you can = 100% effort (help to set up training paces for future workouts - paced runs and tabata intervals).

Speaking of Tababa intervals give them a go as they are quite a workout. I started at 12% and 15kph but have added to the volume after reading through the original Tabata research and I'm now doing multiple sets.

My biggest concern when looking at the program is the lack of scheduled long runs, easy recovery runs and race specific pace work. I've done plenty of marathons and ultras (around 100k). There are also times in the program when there are no runs between 3-4 days. I would be worried about developing and maintaining aerobic fitness on this program.

The marathon is a harder run than say a trail ultra even though you are running for less time and distance. In an ultra you have variations in terrain and pace which give your legs and body a break but in a marathon you are best to maintain a steady pace which can be much harder on your legs and increase your fatigue levels.

I'm following some of the suggestions but as I'm doing I would suggest adding in some easy short runs and still keep building up a longer run each week (or every two weeks if that works out better for you).

The program outlined is for the minimum effort required to take someone (Tim) from 5k to 50k and it looks like a whole lot less than they schedule on the crossfit endurance site which you might want to check out. Try the sprints and speedwork as in the schedule but add in some aerobic runs. Tim hates running so is looking at doing the least amount possible just to get to the end. Do more and enjoy an easier marathon experience...

First week might look like:

Tue: 8 x 200s

Thu: 5k TT

Fri: 2 x 800m

Sun: longer easy run

Tue: short easy run

Wed: 10 x 200s

Thu: Kelly (which includes 5x400m runs)

Fri: 10k @ 80% of 5kTT run last tuesday

Sun: program calls for 3x800 (2:30 rest) but I would add some easy running before and after to make it a longer run - 30min easy + 3x800s + 30min easy (adjust to make time)

If you have further questions please ask and I'll try and respond.

  • Seitanist commented Dec 28th 2012:

    Thanks for this! I had some serious confusion with some of the terminology.


The premise of the Crossfit endurance type training is in effect to make your "engine" more efficient ( stronger,cleaner burning) , so there is a lot of high intensity ( feel like your head and heart will explode), these workouts are very short by nature( from 4 minutes to 15minutes) and very effective at developping aerobic capacity. Yes it is counter intuitive, but when your "engine" is used to running at max "rpm" ( red zone) it will make it a lot easier to go for 3 or 4 or more hours at 60 or 70%.

So do you need the longer runs a la "traditional marathon training"? Not necessarily, however they may be recommended once every 10-15 days ( 8 mile, 15mile) for tendon habituation or to make a psychological check that the short high intensity stuff is working.

The key is that the 400m or 800m repeats or Tabatas need to be done as hard as you can, as do the weight workouts, if you are unsure about the techniques Crossfit .com has many videos, and crossfit endurance has more specifics.

Hope this helps.


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Crossfit Endurance is a specific program that is done in conjunction with the regular Crossfit program. Brian MacKenzie, the dude with "UNSCARED" on his knuckles that sets up the workout schedule for Tim, is one of the leaders of the organization.

The workout that he gives Tim is not meant to be a one-size fits all. Check out crossfitendurance.com and you can see a little more about the program. It looks awesome, I just don't have the time.

Good luck in your race.


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I have a similar question as you Vickyra! By the way, May 22 is this weekend so how did your training go?D=

I, like Tim, absolutely loathe running and I don't even aspire to do a marathon, I just want to be able to run a 5K. My hate of running began as a child because I was born w/ really bad asthma that plagued me until my early 20s. I was actually quite good at sports (basketball, baseball, etc) but the required running at practice was miserable for me. It felt like my heart was going to explode and of course I had extreme shortness of breath and I would make a gasping noise like I was drowning while running. Of course I had an inhaler that I had to use. I think i could be a decent sprinter, but I always need to stop and let my heart calm down before I can start up again.

This is why I was really interested in Tim's endurance protocol. Any suggestions from runners for me as to the best way to train. My goal is to do a mini tri consisting of a 500 meter swim, a 2 mile run, and a 6 mile bike ride. At this point I can't run a mile w/out stopping.

PS, i don't use an inhaler anymore. Thanks for any advice and Good luck Vickyra on your race!

  • scottcowan commented May 18th 2011:
    I can see why you would avoid running. just start with something, go slow but try and still jog. you may have some walkers passing you but thats ok. work on your form and when you get comfortable with it increase the distance but don't go faster.


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If you want to go into more details on the running form he's using check out Chi Running its pretty similar. The big difference is after you have your form you only use your lower abs and not your leg muscles since your legs/arms just swing and you get pulled forward by gravity. It feels weird at first but I can do a 3h run without having sore muscles after.

I agree with branden I wouldn't skip a weekly long run. They let you know what your capable of and help you with experimenting with fuelling. Be careful not increase your long run by more than 2miles a week because Tendontes and Ligaments strengthen slower than muscles. If you have the time add a short casual cycle after your long run for recovery/cool down.

and listen to the marathon talk podcast http://www.marathontalk.com/

  • happymartin commented Jun 24th 2011:

    I've just begun a 20-week ChiRunning program myself and can vouch that it's similar to the POSE method in 4HB although I'd say it's less technical and far less intimidating.


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Hi guys - this was helpful as well. I am going to put more resources in this thread as I find them:


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