2018 Broad Street Run training plan to finish faster

From left to right, Zarabeth Davis, Erin Siegle and Amy Weigand pass City Hall on their way to the Navy Yard during the 2017 Broad Street Run.

Editor’s note: On May 6, 40,000 runners will toe the starting line of the Independence Blue Cross Broad Street Run. Now is the time to ramp up your training, with local running coach John Goldthorp’s 12-week plan. (Find the second installment here.)

For those of you who have trained for the Blue Cross Broad Street Run in the past and successfully finished, ready or not, it’s time to start training again.

Sure, you could repeat the same training you did last year and you’ll finish. It seems to me you’ve already proved that to yourself, though. Why not kick things up a notch?

What if I told you that you could run faster? That, with a few training tweaks, you could beat your previous finish time?

The best part: You might even enjoy running more than you currently do.

This year, we’ll add strides and hills, along with different pacing, to help you get faster.

Ramping up your training makes the workouts more interesting because the pace often changes, which challenges you to tune in to your body and manage your effort as best you can. I think that’s what it comes down to: the challenge. That’s the point. Can you do just a little better this time compared with last time? It feels good to push yourself (if you do it safely).  It feels good to see measurable progress.

That’s why I’ve created a 12-week training plan that will help you run the 2018 Broad Street Run faster than you did last year. (And if it’s your first time training for the 10-mile race, we’ve got you covered, too.)

Before you freak out, we’re not talking about Olympic-level training. Often small changes to the old plan, applied consistently, can yield impressive results.

Let’s get started.

For a printable PDF, click here.

This program is intended for runners who have been cleared by their physician to train for a 10-mile race and who can currently, before beginning the program, run five miles with minimal breaks. Your No. 1 goal is to get to the starting line healthy and injury-free, then have a great experience on race day. This plan is not written in stone; you’re in charge of monitoring your body, and adjusting the plan as necessary. The plan can be tweaked to your personal schedule in many ways, such as shifting the workout days when you have conflicting obligations.

One thing that you’ll want to keep in mind is that stress paired with rest equates to growth. Therefore, we need to push ourselves hard on some days (twice a week you’ll have longer, more challenging sessions) and go easy on other days. Let’s make the hard days, hard, and the easy days, easy.

Despite following the most thought-out approach, sometimes injuries happen. Nine times out of 10, if you feel something achy (and it’s not typical delayed onset muscle soreness), it’s best to take two or three days off so that you can recover. Ideally, you’d stay active in ways that don’t reproduce the pain, such as cycling, swimming, rowing, or using an elliptical machine. And don’t hesitate to seek guidance from a medical professional if an ache or pain feels like a more serious issue. You’re better off being pro-active than digging a deeper hole. You’re in this for the long haul, right?

Training terms explained

Brisk walk: Instead of taking a day of complete rest, going for a walk the day after a long run helps to speed recovery. It’s important to walk at a brisk pace, not a stroll. Think: walking with a purpose. Stay loose and allow your arms to swing, rib cage to rotate, and hips to move side-to-side.

Easy running: Even though we’re training for a faster race, the majority of the running you’ll do needs to be at a relaxed, conversational pace — slowly enough that you could run with your mouth closed, if you tried. If you rated your exertion level on a scale of 1-10, where 1 is a slow walk and 10 is a maximal effort sprint, an easy run should fall around a 4 or 5.

Breathing: When you are truly running at an easy effort level, breathing tempo usually equates to approximately an inhale for three or four steps and an exhale for three or four steps. Focusing on that rhythm — IN-2-3-4, OUT-2-3-4 — can help keep your pace in the right place and keep you relaxed and present, rather than worrying about how much farther you may have to run.

Strides: Basically, you’ll run at your 5K race pace or slightly faster for 20 seconds. These should be completed in the last third of the session. So if you’re scheduled to run 4 miles with four strides, around the last mile, you’ll want to start your first 20-second stride followed by 60 seconds at a slower pace before the next stride. The key with these is to remain relaxed and allow the faster pace to come to you rather than forcing it. Tension is the enemy here, so focus on being smooth and effortless.

Hills: Early in the training program we’ll use hills as a way to build leg power. This will improve your stride efficiency, effectively making flat-ground running feel easier. You can use a treadmill or, ideally, do these outdoors. To start, you’ll want to find an incline that takes roughly a minute to climb. Generally, the uphill repeats are to be run at 70 percent to 80 percent effort and the slow jog back down to the starting line should be enough time for you to feel ready to go again.

Pacing terms explained

5K race pace: This is the pace at which you could run for a 5K race today. If you’re not sure what that is, it is usually a minute and a half to 2 minutes per mile faster than your current relaxed, easy pace.

1-hour race pace: This is the pace you could run for a one-hour race.

BSR pace: This is the pace you realistically expect to run during the Blue Cross Broad Street Run. Expect to practice this pace more frequently in the last six weeks. This should feel harder than your usual easy run pace, but sustainable. It may start out feeling like a 6 or 7 out of 10 effort, but will progress to a solid 8 by the end of a typical BSR Pace session.

Strength training

Preparing for a 10-mile race requires more than just running. The stronger you are, the easier running is on your body. The strength sessions in this program are designed for runners who are new to strength training. These sessions require no equipment, and the goal is to keep them short, but effective. I know runners just want to run. But strength-train anyway. There are three guidelines to follow during these sessions:

  1. Use only your pain-free, controllable range of motion. Never move into a painful space. No exceptions.
  2. Don’t hold your breath. Be aware of this as you train. If you catch yourself holding your breath, try repeating the move a little slower or reducing your range of motion, noticing where you feel obligated to hold your breath. Then try again, this time breathing through that sticking point.
  3. Be consistent. This session is not very long — on average, it should take 10-20 minutes — and you may be inclined to skip it. That would be a mistake.

John Goldthorp is certified coach by the Road Runners Club of America and the founder of Fix Your Run, a specialized coaching business that helps runners become faster and less prone to injury. He currently works with clients at Optimal Sport 1315 in Center City and leads weekly group speed training sessions at PhillySurgeRunning.com.