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Steve Wagner, Published February 19 2012

Running: Find what works for you

After a session at the indoor track last week, another runner approached me.

“You must be a marathoner,” she said. “I’ve got a question for you.”

My workout that day wasn’t specific to the marathon: 10 repetitions of 20-second surges, with a one-minute recover jog between each, all sandwiched between some warm-up and cool-down miles.

But I was more than happy to answer the young woman’s questions about training for her first half-marathon.

Like many runners, she wanted to know what types of workouts she should be doing and what works for others. The tough thing about giving advice or sharing training plans is that everyone responds differently to specific workouts or types of training.

So I asked lots of questions: What’s your goal? How long have you been running? What type of plan are you following now?

The woman was quite insightful into her own pace and mileage, but uncertain whether she is doing the right thing. By no means would I suggest what I do is right for another runner, so I always buffer my answers by explaining that I do what I do because it works for me.

One of the biggest secrets to running well is finding what works for you.

There are dozens of proven training programs, written by well-known runners and coaches, but there’s no one best plan for everyone.

It takes a lot of experimenting, some risks and applying smart principles to reach your running potential.

It’s a matter of finding the ingredients and applying the recipe that works for you.

My first several marathons were based on a training plan taken from a book. As I read more, I began tweaking the training based on what I learned and read. Then a coach developed a training program – based on my history, goals and his knowledge of scientific training principles – that reflected all my experiments along the way.

The coach’s core principles were similar to what I picked up during my previous training, but he provided my training focus and each workout, a combination of easy, hard and long runs, gained purpose.

And that was the lasting impression I hoped to leave with the runner who wanted to know how to train for her half-marathon: Experiment, but run with a purpose.


Bemidji (Minn.) Pioneer Editor Steve Wagner writes a running blog, which can be found online at runningspud.areavoices.com. He can be reached via email at swagner@bemidjipioneer.com.