I’ve owed you a review of my Runner’s World Challenge program for some time now, but I was waiting until I had shaken off some of my post-race/storm funk and I had some time.
I may never have “some time,” and it’s storming again in NYC…so…
I suggested paying me to travel the world and run races, but Bart Yasso already has that job, so they offered for me to try out their Challenge program to review. It seemed like a decent compromise, so I agreed.
Their challenge program provides you with: a training plan, access to Training Peaks training log software, access to private RW Challenge training forums moderated by their editors/experts, a Runner’s World book of your choice, emails from Bart Yasso and a t-shirt.
Race weekend, you get a shakeout run with your RW buddies and a strategy session the day before. The day of the race, you get access to their RW Challenge tent before the race and an after-party post-race.
(Note: you can also purchase their interactive training plans a la carte.)
I was going for #sub4orbust, so I went for their break-4:00 training plan.
I’d heard mixed reviews. I’d heard of someone who used the plan and broke 4, and someone who didn’t. I figured I had nothing to lose, so I went for it.
Here’s an example of the first week’s workouts.
The plan generally consisted of 5 days of running, and peaked at 48 miles per week.
The first half of the plan relied on hill workouts for the challenging workouts; the back half of the plan relied on Yassos (obviously), tempos and
track workouts of death interval workouts.
I’d never run 5 days per week before, but then again, I’d never tried to break 4:00 before, either. I wanted to challenge myself with more days of running to get my body as used to running and pushing itself as possible.
Did I make every workout? Nope. I’d say I made somewhere between 80-85% of them. I don’t regret anything about my training. I got really busy, still got in most of my workouts and somehow managed to have a little bit of a social life. (I think? Those 16 weeks are kind of a blur.)
Training Peaks Training Log
There’s a lot you can do with the training log, but the user interface isn’t the most intuitive.
I liked the thorough workout instructions, and all of these data fields available to enter lots of data to analyze later…but to be honest, it almost ended up being too much.
I’ve used DailyMile for a few years now, and I’m just really used to their user interface, and I realistically wasn’t going to track my miles in two places, so I ended up abandoning TrainingPeaks fairly early on.
Although it does seem like there were some cool reports I could have accessed, I didn’t need them.
There was a PDF version of the plan that I ended up printing out and pinning up at my desk. Since I have plenty of time at my desk, I got constant reminders of the plan.
There’s some forums that are great…and some that are not so much. I’ve dabbled in the regular RW Forums, so I was really curious about these fancy private ones.
I learned all of the secrets to running, and I’m going to leave my job now to become an elite runner.
But the RW Challenge forums were the great parts of the regular forums—feedback from other normal runners—with the addition of advice from experts like Bart Yasso and all of these other people who get paid to talk and write about running all day. (Hey guys, why are your offices in Emmaus? NY is pretty cool, too…)
I let loose some of my taper crazies and other general paranoia…and the people in there got it. Luckily, I had no injuries to deal with, but I did ask a few questions about switching around some days on my training plan and hitting goal times and got good answers.
The day before the race, we had a shakeout run with my BFF Bart and some more of the RW staff. It was a large group (there were 300 Challengeres!), so I didn’t get any one-on-one time to chat with any of them while running, so I chatted with my buddies and checked out those monuments I took for granted those seven years I lived in our nation’s capital.
Later that afternoon, there was a strategy session. It would have been nice to have this session right after the shakeout run (especially since I was staying in Arlington and therefore had to go back out to Arlington to come back to DC to go back out to Arlington), but I think Bart had another run to do after our run.
Bart; EIC David Willey; Senior Editor and our primary RW contact Jen Van Allen; Editor-at-Large Amby Burfoot; and Race Director Rick Nealis spoke at this session.
They gave lots of great running info, but I was fascinated by the random details Rick Nealis shared:
The security bill for the race is $1 million.
They use 26 bomb-sniffing dogs.
Coast Guard checks the bridges for explosives.
The Marines working the race are Second Lieutenants.
There were 23,000 runners, and they released 1,000 runners a minute across the finish line, for 23 minutes.
Bart (not pictured above) and Rick Nealis obviously have known each other for a long time, and listening to their banter was sort of hilarious.
They went over the best places for spectators (Lincoln Memorial, miles 11, 16 and 25) and reminded us to start out slow.
“Running slow the first few miles,” Amby said, “decreases carbs being burned, and increases fat being burned,” so that you don’t burn through all of your carbs right away and bonk.
Jen Van Allen, probably my new favorite person, is every bit as sarcastic as myself. She talked about mantras, and told us to have backup mantras for when you don’t believe what you’re telling yourself. Sometimes my mantras work for me, sometimes I just think I’m completely full of shit; it’s hard to tell what will work, but you better have back-up mantras for when you don’t buy what you’re selling yourself at mile 23.
Another cool fact: 500 Marines in Afghanistan did a “forward operating” marathon from their bases in Iraq and Afghanistan and from aircraft carriers.
We also got basically all of their books at this session, which was awesome. I’m currently reading Bart’s book. The dude has done some cool stuff in his life!
Race morning, I got to their tent near the start line. I didn’t have much time, but I grabbed a bagel, banana and water.
Thank you, running, for supporting my bagel habit.
I hit the private Port-a-Potty and thanked my lucky stars for it, and the lack of line.
I talked to a first-time marathoner in the tent, and attempted to assuage some of his fears. I met quite a few first-time marathoners that weekend, and knowing I’d already been down that road relaxed me a bit more.
Post-marathon, they had a party set up for the Challengers.
It was great to have a set, indoor meeting place to reunite with my parents and not have to try to find each other amidst the 23,000 other marathoners trying to do the same thing. It was held at the Artisphere in Rosslyn, across the street from one of my old offices.
The Disney post-race party was AMAZING, and I was expecting similar from this post-race party—drinks and hot food. I couldn’t walk another 100 feet to the food table, so I sent my mom (the best mom ever) to the table to suss out the situation. I think it was just a continental buffet, but I was pretty nauseous at the time, so I didn’t really care that there wasn’t much more food. My Gatorade Endurance (ew) was good enough at the time.
What was pretty awesome about this party: getting to chat with some of the editors and the post-race massage. It hurt like all hell, but it was pretty awesome to have someone working on my muscles that quickly after the race.
Would I do this again?
This program is not cheap. (I was provided it free of charge for reviewing purposes.) For MCM, it costs $349, which includes the $92 race entry. Taking out the race entry, let’s call the cost $257. (Thank you Siri.) For all that you get, I think that is a pretty fair price. Last year, I paid my running coach around $40/month for 4 months, and I know most online running coaches cost at least that. The Disney pre/post-race tent costs $110. When you break it down like this, the cost is fair and competitive with each of the individual components.
I think a program like this would be great for a first-time marathoner or someone who doesn’t race often and is making an experience out of their weekend/training.
Their in-person Challenge programs in Big Sur and Disney are currently sold out, but you can train for any half or full through their Challenge program.
Have you ever done/would you ever do something like this? Have you ever done a pre/post-race Race Retreat?
Oh, um, and this is happening.