My Coach’s Training Plan And Heart Rate Strategy Got Me To The Boston Marathon

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boston marathon, coaching, thunder road marathon, run, motivation, heart rate

My race rewards include things like this great sweat shirt. Fits like a glove and more useful than a medal.

When it comes to training you have to do the work, but a good coach can make all the difference to your race achievements. I remember preparing for my Boston Marathon qualifier in 2008, the Charlotte Thunder Road marathon. A marathon is a long way if you are running, and a slight difference in your average pace can make all the difference to your finishing time. My goal for Thunder Road was anything under 4:15:59, the published Boston Marathon qualifying time for my age group (65-69). My coach, Chris Hauth, guided my training up until the December qualifier, and then he gave me a detailed race itinerary that seemed to be largely based on carefully monitoring my heart rate, which I was instructed to gradually increase as the race progressed according to a highly specific schedule. At first it was ‘easy out’ for a few miles to bring it up to 118±5 beats per minute (bpm). Then steadily take it up to the top of this range (123), and then gradually faster as I warmed up to reach 135-140 bpm (if I remember correctly), to hold it steady in that range for a further 10 miles. Then Chris emphasized that I would notice that at about 15 miles into the race my heart rate would drop by as much as 10 bpm, whilst my perceived effort would remain constant. “Don’t be fooled by this.” Chris remarked, “Make sure that you bring your pulse rate back to your target range of 135-140 bpm by increasing your effort level.” The ranges Chris selected were not random numbers pulled out of his head. They were derived from his analysis of careful laboratory work at the K-Lab at Duke University based on Chris’s test protocol, in which the relationship between my heart rate, lactate threshold and perceived effort levels were established.

I thought he must be joking. How could he know that my heart rate would drop in that way at that particular time with the same perceived effort level, but he sure was right. Lo and behold, at about 15 miles or so my heart rate dropped by about 10 bpm, and with some extra effort I brought it right back up to my target range of 135-140 bpm, picking up my pace in the process. I finished that marathon in 4:07:59, with eight minutes to spare, which guaranteed me a slot in the Boston Marathon, 2009. What a blast Boston turned out to be. Wouldn’t have missed it for the world, but I might have if it wasn’t for Chris Hauth’s heart rate-based race strategy.

Thanks again, Chris.

-k Your Medical Mind


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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.