Posted by: David Stewart | November 18, 2009

How much can change in 6 months?

Conventional wisdom says you can count on improving your running for about seven years. Beyond that, you probably can’t count on improving. It’s more likely that your times will degrade as you age.

I have been running marathons since 1998, 15 races completed so far (and one I DNF’ed, which I don’t talk about). This means I have been running for 11 years, so am I out of luck?

After the first marathon, I had a goal to finish a race in under 4 hours. It took me 8 years of running to get there. The next logical goal seemed to be qualifying for the Boston Marathon. For men of my age, this requires finishing in 3 hours and 30 minutes, about an 8 minute per mile average pace for 26.2 miles.

My first attempt to train for and race a “BQ” was in June 2007. The result of this training was a “Did Not Finish” on the race and a serious injury that took 6 months to recover from. Talk about an epic fail!

After recovery from the injury, I improved my times to 3:47 and 3:44. Could I hope to improve to 3:30, since I have been running for longer than that seven year magic number?

I started working with a coach (Mark Kendall, of SpeedSHOT Racing) in May of this year. Instead of wondering if I could improve, I’m amazed at how much has changed:

  • I’m drinking a lot more fluids – hydration is super important in running, and I thought I was drinking enough, but apparently I wasn’t. I now drink three times as much fluid as I used to, and it keeps me from fading in the later miles of a run.
  • In addition to core strengthening exercises, Mark has me working on upper body strength. I’m doing pushups regularly now, maybe for the first time in my life. It really improves my running form.
  • I’m eating more than I have been, to try and build some muscle mass.
  • My running posture is totally different now. This alone accounts for a significant improvement in speed. (I’m also standing a lot straighter than I used to).
  • In only six months, my aerobic threshold has improved by over a minute per mile.  This is apparently the point where the body starts burning sugars instead of fats. Below this pace, you have a lot more fuel to burn and can run a lot longer.

So there is actually quite a lot which has changed for me, even though conventional wisdom would suggest that it’s impossible!



  1. “I’m eating more than I have been, to try and build some muscle mass.”

    What!? No way!

  2. More seriously though, I think you’ve done a fantastic job moving towards this goal this year. I’m proud of you, Daddy.

  3. Hey, thanks for the kind words!

    Odd thing about the eating … I have tried not to go crazy, but scheduled in more times to eat a little. I had gained a few pounds over my usual 170 lbs, so I thought it was OK. But just this week I weighed again and I’m back down to 170 again. Oy! 🙂

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