Runner’s World Challenge


Well, I officially completed my first week of marathon training. My plan called for short runs Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, then a long run yesterday and a short one today. Since I ran a half last Saturday and was sick in the beginning of the week, I took it easy and didn’t do all the runs on the plan. I think this was a smart decision on my part. Yesterday’s ten-miler began a little rocky, and by mile four I was thinking maybe I would turn around and only do eight miles. I continued on, and when I got to five miles to turn around, endorphins kicked in and I felt really great. I tried a new gel – Clif Shot mocha with caffeine – at mile five, and ate the whole thing. I drank a little too much water and got a bit of a stomach cramp, but it went away quickly, and the rest of the run was issue-free. Mile nine was even my fastest. I have been reading a bit about running cadence, so I experimented with counting my steps, to see where I was at. I was running at about 160 strides per minute, which is pretty common. Lots of articles (here’s an example) recommend 180 steps per minute, so I tried to increase my strides to hit that. Counting my steps was actually pretty fun and a great distractor. I usually am only thinking about what my arms are doing, so it was a nice change to focus on something else.

There’s one thing that worried me on my run yesterday. My left knee pain has come back some, and it bothered me a bit in the first half of my run, but then I felt nothing the second half. It’s a little tender today, and I iced it and foam rolled yesterday. It started hurting me after a bootcamp class a few weeks ago when we did a lot of jumping, so I stopped going to bootcamp for the time being, and I realized that I haven’t gone to yoga in a couple months. It could just be that I wasn’t stretching some of the muscles in my leg enough and it put a strain on my knee muscles. It could also be my shoes, I went and tried on some new running shoes on Friday at the local store here, and the lady working told me that I supinate, and need neutral shoes. This is different than every other time I’ve been fitted at a running store, and that’s why I’ve been wearing stability shoes. I ordered two pairs of neutral shoes online and will test them out next week. I’m just hoping so badly that my knee issues will go away soon, I’m looking forward to getting into full-on marathon training mode.


After making the big decision to register for a full marathon, and then spending two weeks obsessing about which one to choose, the next step was deciding on a training plan. I have used Hal Higdon plans for past half marathons, and considered using one of his marathon plans, but I wanted to try something new. I saw a screen shot on STUFT Mama of the Runner’s World Challenge plan, and it included an email sent out every night with a detailed description of what the next day’s training consisted of. I really liked this, and thought it would be a great motivating tool over the next few months. After a little confusion about how the Runner’s World Challenge worked, I finally have it all sorted out. Once you purchase a plan (there are lots to choose from), this is what is included:

  • Four months access to the RW Personal Trainer interactive training log
  • Personal coaching from RW’s nutrition, training, and injury-prevention experts
  • Motivation e-mails from Chief Running Officer Bart Yasso
  • Runner’s World Challenge technical T-shirt
  • RW’s Complete Book of Running
  • A watch
  • Online access to the Runner’s World Challenge community, where you can connect with other runners who are taking the Challenge

I didn’t realize that in order to receive the daily emails and have access to the training log, I had to create an account on Training Peaks and load the plan into the calendar. Luckily, the person I was emailing with at RW did that for me and got me all set up.

I received my shirt, watch and book a few weeks after purchasing the plan.

IMG_2321 IMG_2325 IMG_2323

As far as choosing which marathon plan, I had to decide between these two:


Ideal candidates: First-time marathoners, and runners who have at least one year of experience, and run three to four times per week on average.
Weekly routine: 3 days of rest, 4 days of running
Weekly mileage: 18-36 miles
Long runs: start at 8 miles; peak at 20 miles
Speed work: strides, marathon goal-pace runs (MP)


Ideal candidates: First-time marathoners, and runners who have at least one year of experience, and run three to four times per week on average. For more experienced runners who have completed at least one half-marathon.
Weekly routine: 2 days of rest, 5 days of running
Weekly mileage: 25-42 miles
Long runs: start at 10 miles; peak at 20 miles
Speed work: Yasso 800s, marathon goal-pace runs (MP)

I like only taking two rest days per week, so the First-Timers plan sounded good to me. After looking at the long weekend runs on this plan, however, it has three 20-mile runs included, the first one being in about four weeks, which I think is a little too soon for me. The Beginners plan gradually works its way up until 20 miles, and the 20-miler happens three weeks before the marathon. I think I may follow the First-Timers plan for the weekday runs, and then the Beginners plan for the weekend long run.

All in all, I’m happy I chose this whole system, and look forward to getting into it!


  1. Wow a 20 miler just 4 weeks in for first-timers?? I think it’s so much smarter to build up. I like that you are combining the plans. It’s hard to know exactly which plan is best for you, I always end up re-writing a training plan to fit my schedule and needs. Sounds like you get a lot of guidance from Runner’s World for your money, good luck training!

  2. I think you are being very smart about your training here, taking the first week easy when you weren’t feeling well and fully recovered and also by thinking carefully about the running plans. I find it really important to have a plan for target races and to follow it, but it’s equally – if not more – important to not become a slave to it and follow it blindly. I treat plans a solid guidelines, but always see how I feel and how the training fits into my life. In reality, I often change little things, such as when to take rest days – over the years, I’ve learned what works best for me. As for which plan to follow, personally think that the number of days you want to run is one of the most important factors. If you are already running 5 days a week, I’d follow the first timer plan – you can always build the long runs up a little more slowly than suggested. Having said that, having three 20 milers in a marathon program sounds pretty good to me. I hope your knee won’t bother you any more either. The fact that it got better during the run is promising I think. In any case, remember that you’re coming into this with a solid fitness base, so you can afford to rest a little more at the moment to let your knee settle down. The first few weeks of marathon training are usually to build a base, then you build speed and up the miles. Best of luck, I really look forward to hearing all about how you get on!

    1. Thank you so much, this is so comforting. Really! I’ve always been one to follow a training plan as a guideline, but never afraid to veer from it. It’s so important to listen to your body, and I’m pleased with myself that I do this so much. Plus with traveling, I know I’m going to have to make adjustments here and there. I’m also glad to hear you say the first few weeks of marathon training are building a base up, since I’m going to take it easy the next week (again). I’m so intimidated by the 26.2 and I’ve been putting a lot of pressure on myself since my whole family is planning a trip around the race, I really need to settle down. Now I just need my knee to cooperate!

  3. I hear you on the knee pain! Today was supposed to be long run day for me…and I completely took it off! This morning when I woke up, my shin and calf muscle were killing me, and I was hobbling around all day. Since it pained me to WALK on my right leg, I wasn’t even going to attempt running on it! I’m really upset I wasn’t able to do my long run this week (or half the runs I had scheduled), but I know that I would be even more upset if I couldn’t run my first marathon because I kept pushing it. So I’m just going to wait and see how I feel tomorrow, in two days…and then I will POWER ON!

    I hope you do a review on the new running shoes you ordered. I love to read running shoe reviews!

    1. Stupid little injuries are so stupid! Although neither of us are injured… just anything that prevents us from running the miles we want. Had you experienced those pains before yesterday? I’m going to take today off (I’m really tired of taking rest days), and I’m just hoping it’s not a situation where I should take a couple weeks off to see if it gets better. I’m hoping for the best!

      1. No, I hadn’t experienced those pains! My calf was a little tight, but I didn’t think much of it, and have just been making sure I stretched a lot. I know my foot has been landing funny when I run because for some reason my sneakers are all of a sudden bothering me. My leg is still bugging me today. I’d say it’s time to foam roll and I’ll probably have to take one more day off and hopefully that will be enough to help my leg recover…

      2. I hope so too! I did a yoga video and foam rolled yesterday, and my knee does feel better today. But this happened a couple weeks ago also and it came back, so I’m hoping new shoes will help. I should be getting both pairs in the mail tomorrow, I’ll let you know how they are!

  4. I wasn’t sure about the Runner’s World Challenge at first (I did a product review on my blog, going to do another after my half marathon) but it may just be winning me over. Still haven’t gotten my watch, book or t-shirt but I’m looking forward to it. Good luck with your marathon!

    1. Thanks, good luck on your half!! It is such a bummer because I had an injury (not a major one, but one that was enough to take a break from running), so I keep getting the emails every day and I’m not able to complete them! But I still really like the plan, as long as I’m able to get back on track soon.

      1. At least you didn’t try to push through the pain and make the injury worse. I hope you do well! I like how they describe each day really well…I technically start next week (I’ve just been gearing up for the training plan with some short runs) but I really like what I see.

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