Adding Strength to a Comeback Marathon Plan

By Andrew Vincent

In the fall of 2014, I ran my fourth marathon and achieved a couple of goals that had been on my marathon bucket list, including getting my toe across the finish under the 3-hour mark.

Then a few months later, my wife and I became first-time parents. And suddenly I was strolling instead of running.

At first, I didn’t miss running, but after a couple of marathon seasons passed, I was itching to get back to those Sunday long runs. Perhaps rashly, I signed up for the 2017 Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon.

The only problem: I don’t have as much time as I did two years ago! As a new parent, and a new business owner, suddenly it’s not as easy to fit in all those miles.

Chatting about my goals with my running coach, David Harding of DEKK Coaching and the Ottawa Running Club, he put it this way:

“The main difference between you getting back to running a 3-hour marathon and running a more recreational paced marathon is the amount of time you have available to put into the training.”

Not totally what I wanted to hear. Still I wondered if I could train smarter, and unlike two years ago, I had other goals beyond a personal best time: like improving my posture, and staying strong enough to pick up a growing toddler.

Strength training definitely fit into Coach Dave’s plan. As he put it: “At some point, to make additional performance gains, you need to add strength training. Your speed is determined partially by how much force you can apply to propel yourself forward, increasing the length of each stride.”

So we headed to the gym, where Dave put me through a series of six exercises to test my functional mobility on a scale of 1-3 and figure out where I could improve.

As it turned out that I was not bad at some things and terrible at others: like core and glute strength. I actually fell over trying to do a “single-leg glute bridge” as my core wasn’t strong enough to hold me stable.  

In addition to my marathon training plan, Dave built a strength plan to focus on those areas, which would directly benefit my running form, while also adding exercises to improve posture. There were two great things about this plan. First, it was only two times a week. Second, I could do most of it at home.

In fact, I could do calf raises while cooking dinner.

I’m still trying to figure out how to get all my runs in, but having a strength training plan is helping me stay motivated. Doing a few sets of plank, or hamstring roll-outs on an exercise ball, is easy to fit in.

And I’m already feeling more spring in my step. Bring on May 28th!

Andrew Vincent is a writer, runner, and co-owner of Spruce Creative. He is training for the 2017 Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon.

David Harding is a certified personal trainer and the owner of DEKK Coaching, a personal coaching service dedicated to helping athletes achieve their goals in triathlon and other endurance events. He is also the Marathon Coach of the Ottawa Running Club. A successful age-group triathlete and distance runner, David is training for the 2017 Boston Marathon.