Heaven forbid that you might not always take RW's expert coaching advice as gospel. But there's something reassuring about other runners' first-hand experiences, too, is there not?
So... here's a first instalment of some of the most practical training tips from the Runner's World Training forum - posted by runners just like you. There's advice for everyone: slow runners, speedsters, newbies, seasoned marathoners and more. (However, if you're a complete beginner, try our 50 Best Beginners Tips – From the Forum first.)
The name of each tip-giver - each of whom we salute - prefaces each one, and you can click through to the whole thread to find out more. If you want to bring any of the conversations back to life, add another message to the thread, and see what people say.
Build fitness effectively: slow down!
Barnsleyrunner - I found that after three years of long runs, races and lots of speedwork I was getting fed up with doing a session 'because it was on the schedule', or because everyone else was doing it. Having two disappointing marathons made me think about base-building, and it's opened up a whole new lease of life for me. Now I know why I am doing each run, and as an inquisitive type, this gives me more pleasure and motivation. See full thread
... and build mileage effectively: slow down, too
Hilly - When I first upped my mileage during marathon training I went from eight-minute miling to 10-minute miling and my legs just would not go faster. But once I'd adapted to the extra miles it got easier, until one day I went out expecting the normal struggle and found that I just flew along. Take heart! It gets better as you adapt. See full thread
Train better with friends: try 'shuttle' running
Lizzy B -If someone who is naturally faster than you wants to come along for your slower sessions, don't feel you have to go at their pace. When I run with someone faster than me, we do the run as a 'shuttle' - every time we get to a junction or corner they run back to me and 'shuttle' between me and the junction. Everyone's happy. See full thread
Run better: join a club
MartinH – If you want to improve your running, joining a club is the best thing you can do. Most clubs have members with a range of experiences, so don't worry that you'll be too slow: look in the results of the last race you did, and you'll see your local club will have several runners ahead of you, and a number behind you. See full thread
Hit goals: keep a log
Minkin – The one thing that can has helped me in achieving my goals has been monitoring my training and progress in a running log – it's very, very useful. See full thread
Race stronger: use your mind
Simon Lewis – I've realised that racing is more than just the sum of hard training miles. It's as much to do with the picture and images in my mind. Breaking 50 minutes for 10K was such a thrill that having done it once, I'm convinced I can run even quicker now.
Now, when I start to feel pain, instead of thinking, 'it's hurting', I think, 'I was expecting this; it means I'm running at a good pace now'. All the time I have a picture of a smooth flowing action in my running, and I imagine that's how other people would describe the way I look when I run. See full thread
Resist injury: run off-road
Wurzel – Trail running can help your speed: the strengthening of various muscles by running on an uneven surface should make you faster. Most of the good runners I know run off-road whenever possible. See full thread
Run smoother: focus on style
Prom - I try to keep my actions 'smooth and tidy'. I try to have an economical, fluid running style, not pumping legs and arms too hard and concentrating on keeping it all smooth, especially coming downhill. I even repeat 'smooth and tidy' over and over in my head!! See full thread
Fit more in: try an 'eight-day week'
Runner Been – Why stick to a seven-day week? I train on an eight-day schedule - training for seven days and resting for one. It does mean that your long run doesn't always fall at the weekend, but you never get bored and you don't end up with a day that you always dread. See full thread
Fit more in #2: try training twice a day
Erratic – The only way I've found to fit all the stuff in I want to do is to train twice a day - 60 to 90 minutes before work and then shorter, more intense stuff in the lunch hour. It's a matter of finding a routine that works, and being willing to swap things around. See full thread
Get fitter safely: increase distance then speed
Ironwolf – Don't try to do too much too soon – don't increase the distance of your long runs and your speedwork at the same time. Running rubbish miles just because it's on the schedule is pointless. Take a day or two off, and learn to listen to your body. See full thread
Make marathons easier: add race-pace training
Ginger Tom – In marathon training, you should do a substantial chunk of your long run at your predicted marathon pace, to get used to that pace. You could do 10 miles easy, then eight miles at marathon pace and a two-mile cool-down. Then build up the time spent at marathon pace. See full thread
Finish long runs stronger: join a 10K race
Dustin – Depending when the race kicks off, you could do 10-15 miles beforehand. Then at least you'll be doing the 'last' 6 miles of your training run with the crowds, which will keep you going. If you decide to do the extra miles after the 10K race, make sure you run much slower than your 10K race pace. See full thread
Judge pace easily: count your steps
Lynne W - I use a quick check to make sure I'm maintaining an easy pace: if I can manage four steps to the in-breath and four steps for the out-breath then I'm okay. See full thread
Do speedwork in disguise: try a tempo-pace pyramid
Karaoke Pacer – I've always done my tempo sessions as Hal Higdon describes them: building up gradually to faster than your intended race pace (eg: 10K pace for half-marathon training), holding it there for a few minutes and then gradually slowing back down again. I enjoy these sessions: you've got a warm-up, a bit of speed and a cool-down all in one. I treat them as sort of medium-level training. Not as hard as intervals, but harder than short steady race-pace runs. See full thread
Keep speedwork simple: run at race-pace
WildWill – To improve half-marathons and 10-milers, I run one-mile intervals. For 10K, I run 1K intervals, and for anything shorter I do 400m. Likewise, the speed is governed by the race distance I am targeting. For example, for 10 miles, aiming for 60 minutes, I do mile reps at my target pace, ie: six-minute miling, with 2-2.5 minutes rest. See full thread
Keep speedwork simple #2: do Yasso 800s
Yasso 800s are simple speedwork for marathon training. You run four to six 800m efforts, each in a minutes:seconds equivalent to the hours:minutes target you have for the marathon. After each effort, take an equal-time recovery. So, a three-hour 45-minute marathoner would aim to run 4-6x800m in three minutes 45 seconds each, with a 3:45 jog recovery between each.
Jane M – You aren't supposed to run Yasso 800s as hard as you can. Instead, you should be able to complete the number you set out to do at the start. It is okay to take longer recovery periods in order to do the 800s at the pace you have set out to do. I rarely vary more than 5-10 seconds from my target time for my Yasso 800s. See full thread
...but if you can add variety...
Achilles – Any 800m speed session will be useful for marathon training. There's nothing that special about Yasso's (except that the recoveries are unusually long!)
However, it's definitely not the only speed session you should be doing, since the real key to marathon running is sustaining pace over a considerable distance. Intervals of a mile (4-6 reps), 1.5 miles (3-4 reps) and 2 miles (2-3 reps) are also important, as are tempo runs, both at target race pace and half-marathon pace. The latter improves your lactate threshold, which is of great importance. See full thread
Keep speedwork simple #3: recovery properly between efforts
Achilles – Your jog recoveries between efforts should be genuine recoveries, and if you're finding them hard, you haven't got the balance right. It's perfectly permissible to walk recoveries or even rest completely - whatever you do, the aim is to refresh yourself (fully or adequately, depending on your objectives).
The simplest tip for the recovery segment is to make sure your heart rate gets down to 130bpm before going again - don't worry about how far or how slow you have to go to make that happen.
I wouldn't advise using a treadmill's own 'interval' programme though, because it's likely to make you do recoveries that last only as long as your efforts, and that may not be long enough. The number of efforts you do (and the pace you do them at) is more relevant than the overall length of the session, which is another reason to alternate manually rather than letting the treadmill do it for you. See full thread
Get faster: do mile reps
Keswick1uk – This weekly session has helped me... but it hurts! One-mile warm up jog, then 4 x one-mile reps with five-minute recovery jogs in between. Try to keep each rep the same speed, so it gets harder as the session gets further in, and do a one-mile cool-down. I use a flat trail that has accurately marked miles. With this session I have also learned pace judgment. In race situations having some idea of how your body feels at different speeds is very useful. See full thread
Make hills less frightening: take walk breaks
Velociraptor – You needn't run the hills at first. If it takes the pressure off, and if they're decent-sized hills, walk up them the first time or two, then introduce some running. You know you've got the measure of a hill when you can run all the way up and put on a spurt of speed when you're close to the top.
Hill running involves taking shorter steps as you climb. Going uphill is biomechanically easier and safer than descending, but it doesn't half give your hams and cardio-respiratory system a good workout!
Within 6-8 weeks you'll be looking down from the top of a hill and thinking "I can't believe I used to have to walk that one". See full thread
Run hills better: seek them deliberately
Dustin – I only do hill-specific training two or three times a month. A good session is to include hills on your long run. Then, each time you come across any hills or steady inclines, run up them at a faster pace, taking a recovery jog/walk when the road levels out again. See full thread
Make hills easier: shorten your steps
Chaos – I find that focussing on picking my feet up off the ground helps, and definitely shorten your steps. You could even increase your cadence, but definitely don't let it drop. See full thread
Make hills easier #2: run equal effort
Achilles – Tips for running on hills: run with equal effort, not equal pace; drive with your arms; concentrate on lifting your knees, and keep your head up by looking at a point 20-30 yards ahead of you. See full thread
Master hilly races: combine a steady run with hillwork
Belfast Phil – To train for hilly races, I don't do just hill sessions where I run up a hill and walk down to recover. I find a hilly running route which has one exceptionally big hill in the middle, then do my run, stop at the biggest hill and do a shorter hill session on it, at quite a fast pace. But don't push so far out of comfort zone as to be in the discomfort zone - you'll still have to run home at the end of the session! See full thread
Race hills brilliantly: easy up, fast down
Nigel Coe - I never overtake anyone going uphill, but on the descent I come into my own. I try to keep relaxed, focus on the road several paces ahead, and let my feet take care of themselves. And I remember what an Austrian ski instructor once said to me: 'feel through your feeties'! For uphills, one thing that helps me a little is to imagine there is a big magnet at the top pulling me upwards. See full thread
Get focussed hill results: short for power, long for real life
Allan Fotheringham – You can take different approaches to hills. Do them as fast as you can for a power-building session, or steadily for strength endurance, which makes a great workout if you do two to five reps. They give you speed and strength. See full thread
Keep hills reps simple: plan them like speedwork
Nick J – You can transpose a standard track session, say 6x1K at 5K pace with 2-3 minutes jog recoveries in between, onto the hills. Something like running 800m uphill at 5K effort, and then jogging down to recover. It's a hard session, but you'll see the benefits. See full thread
Find a rhythm: use a heart rate monitor
Streaky Bacon - I use a heart rate monitor to help me hit the right pace for each run, whether it's a fast one, a long one or a recovery run. Before I got it I couldn't get into the right rhythm, but now it's a piece of cake. It's helped convince me that I'm getting fitter too, as I can look back in my training log and see how my maximum heart rate for any particular run has decreased as the weeks have gone past. See full thread
Reduce your heart rate: relax your body
Chaos - I've found that I can get my heart rate down a few beats just by focussing on relaxing and eliminating unnecessary body movements. To see if you are over-rotating your upper body, try running with your arms straight out in front of you with your hands clasped together for a few paces: you'll soon see if you are swaying too much. See full thread