I let An App (NikeRun+) train me for my Marathon : this is what happened!
I challenged myself to run a marathon this year. If you’re a true follower of amelietahiti, there’s no way you just found out about that, I’ve been annoying you with it for so long hahaha (hum, if you have.. like..where have you been?!)
But, if you just found my blog via a google search because you also want to train using Nike Run App, then welcome - you’re at the right place!
It had been SO long I wanted to run a marathon, not for the pleasure of running, but for the sake of training, seeing progress, and ticking off a big fitness goal. I guess, proving myself I could do this if I put the right amount of training and dedication.
The starting point of my training is: I am not a runner. I don’t like running. I find this sport boring and using on the knees. But, I’m not completely averse to running : I like the feeling after a run. I never ever get this feeling from any other sport, even yoga where I feel good and all but it’s different. After a run I feel accomplished. detoxified. free. like I can conquer the world! So for me running is more of an activity I do when I have too much on my mind to get rid of, or when I really need a cardio crush/sweat it out. My running routine is sporadical, and for this matter, I have never forced myself to go for a run - I go when I «feel like going for a run». To be totally transparent, I’ve had my baby phase of being a ‘runner’: in 2015 I think I went for a (short) run about every week for like 3-4 months. When I visit my parents, I usually go run with my dad a couple of times. And I have been running a couple times with my friends Hannah and Natalie here in Paris this summer 2018 - like an active catch up date.
If we’re talking about stats: 5 kilometres run is my average distance, I like things short & pretty intense. I HATE slow jogs. I once did a 19 kilometers run during summer 2018.. it was my longest run ever, I was going for an hour run but got lost in the forest and had no other choice than go home by foot (and I was late so had to keep running). See, I’m not starting from ground zero, but I never ever followed a running plan, trained for a race or ran consistently and I NEVER ever consider myself a long-run runner.
All those reasons are exactly why running a marathon seemed to be the PERFECT challenge for me : I needed to put double the amount of effort, not only for the run itself, but to have the discipline/motivation to run.
Now that you have the big picture (which, I believe, was necessary to set), let’s move on to the real topic of this blog post.
In my small runner’s life, I’ve always used the free app Nike Run to track my runs, my map, my pace, kilometres etc. I find it great & intuitive and it’s got a lot of guided runs too. I think it’s one of the most popular running app actually! but what you may not know, is the app also includes a free training program feature, called MyCoach. DING DING! I had to try that out!!
Before starting the plan I looked on the web to see if the app was serious or silly - I mean, I was about to train for a damn Marathon, not a 5K run in the park. I wanted to know what people thought about it, and, guys, I could NOT. FIND. ANYTHING !! Which is why, I am definitely telling you everything today and not letting you in the dark!!
MyCoach lets you input what you’re training for, the date of the event AND the number of runs you’re able to fit in your weekly schedule. MyCoach claims to be tailored just for you. Tracking your progress and creating workouts (runs) as weeks go by, adjusting to ‘what you need’. Hmmm.. seems Interesting hey?
Setting the plan
Setting up the plan just took a few seconds, the app asked for my latest (best) run performance (distance/time) as well as «how many km is a long run for you now?». If you have no idea what your best run is, you can approximate it, it doesn’t really matter this much at this point, as you will see later on.
The app then took a few seconds/minutes to create the program for the number of weeks I had set, as well as how many times a week I was able to run. If you mess up, you have the option to end the plan and restart one (at the bottom go to Plan Preferences > end my plan).
I told the app I could run 3times max per week. Running more was non-sense: I’m already pretty active in my life and also pretty busy. I planned working out (resistance training) a few times a week, already practicing dynamic yoga 2-3x and teaching yoga a couple of times a week too. My tip is : Don’t be too ambitious, stay realistic, and don’t lie about your stats. I’ve set my latests runs to running a 5k in about 27minutes and that I considered 10K to be a long run. Please note that, the only reason I’m giving you my times & pace in this blog post is to give you an idea of how the app adapted to my training. I had people ask me how fast/slow I ran on insta stories but I never answered because IT DOES NOT MATTER. Comparing yourself to others, & especially in running, has absolutely no benefit. I’m running for me, you’re running for you and everyone has their own pace and it’s perfect like that :D
Once the training schedule is set, you access an overview of the plan (for me 13 weeks) and are also able to view each run individually.
Training Plan Overview
Total numbers of week: 13
Total numbers of planned runs (incl. race day): 39
Total number of runs actually completed (incl. race day): 34
Total kilometers planned (excl. race day, incl. interval runs) : 333.4 km
Total kilometers I actually ran (excl. race day, incl. interval runs): 301.5 km
Total number of interval runs (planned) : 7
Total number of interval runs (completed) : 3
Total number of tempo runs (planned) : 1
Total number of tempo runs completed : 3-4
The difference between planned & real is because of either rest needed due to fatigue, or injury (at the end of my training) . Please note this only includes the running part .. i’ve done more training if you are interested to know more please check my Youtube Video about it!
I am not giving you the exact training plan on purpose, as the plan was made for me, following up with my progression.
The plan includes 5 different kinds of runs : recovery runs (said to allow to keep the rhythm without pushing yourself at all), tempo runs (keeping a constant sustained pace for a rather ‘short’ run), long runs, speed runs (which are interval runs) and Benchmark runs (short, 15minutes runs to track your progress and adapt the plan).
For each of those runs you have access to : the number of kilometres/miles you have to complete (or x times meters for speed runs) as well as the suggested pace (minutes per km or per mile). The only run you have no pace suggestion for is the actual race, which is quite frustrating in my opinion.
Progressive Milage (kilo-metrage!)
I was told, and it’s quite obvious, that no smart training plan for a marathon will tell you to hit 20 kilometers for your first long-run. That’d be a total kill. Honestly, I am SUPER satisfied with the progressive mileage recommended by the app. I really felt like it gave my body the right amount of time to get used to more kilometres, both physically and mentally. I first started the plan thinking 8k was LONG. I now consider that run rather short. To give you more details, my training plan started with a «kick off» run of outstanding.. 2 kilometers! I already got off the plan because I ran twice as much (4.2k) at a super chill pace (that day I was busy and the only way I could fit my run was running to a meeting instead of taking subway). The first long run of my plan was a 5, F.I.V.E, FIVE, CINCO, FÜNF kilometre run !!! Is this app serious ? I’m training for a marathon dude! But yes. the app was serious and pretty smart.
The next week, another recovery run of.. 2k! The fifth run was a 1.5k, and the last run was 4x400m.
On week 3 I finally had a 11KM run planned, and on week 4 a 14.5km. From there, most runs started to be longer : 17k in week 5, 23k (my FIRST half marathon !) on week 7, 26k on week 8, 22k on week 9, and 32,5k on week 10 !!!! (that’s for the long runs). I took week 11 and part of week 12 off due to injury, but from week 10 on, long runs drastically reduced.
This progressive increase really helped me built my cardio as well as the endurance in my legs, each time I felt like the lactic acid was pushed further in the run, and the cardio/physical aspect was almost no longer an issue (mentally it was harder).
Progressive Pace (adaptive feature)
Regarding the pace, I found the first 5-6 weeks of the plan to be rather under «performant» or «estimating», for the lack of a better word. My suggested pace was around 6’10 per km or a bit more (except for the interval runs) .
While I tried my best to comply to that pace for the runs, I almost always was either a bit faster or way faster. I kept repeating myself to take it slow and that I would progress, but running at the suggested pace was just too boring and I felt like I was not using my full potential. Well, I’m glad I did not stick to what was suggested all the times because from week 6-7 on, the pace adapted to my pace and was pretty accurate, at least I was much closer to the one given.
What I’ve noticed is for my first very long run (17K- week 5), the suggested pace was 6’20/km and I ran at 5’50/km. Well, the suggested pace of the next long run (23km - week 7) was 5’58 (since it increased the distance as well), I ran it at 5’47 and week 8 long run (26km) suggested me 5’47 as pace, which I ran at 5’42. So see, it really does adapts well to your pace as the week go by.
For example below is my Week 10 32km Long Run as shown at the start of the training plan vs week 9 .
How does the app adapts ? Is it accurate?
I have lots of secret tips to tell you about the app, how algorithm work, troubleshooting, dos and don’ts, but this blog post would be way too long, so I’m going to focus on MY experience with the app/training today, and in a future blog post I’ll give you my best tips for Nike Run Club App.
Did I progress, set new PR, did I feel ready for the race with Nike Run Club App ?
One of the main questions I had at the back of my mind with My Coach was: what is the overall purpose of my plan?
Many training plans for a half marathon or marathon are set on a pace goal or a time goal. The Paris Marathon (Electric Schneider) has even free training guides to run marathon in 4h30, 4h, 3h30, or just be a finisher. My app didn’t. My app never asked me what my goal was.
The end point is running the marathon (there isn’t any suggested pace for the race). When I asked Nike Team about the overall goal of the app, they said it is made to prepare the body best for the race and will adapt to the runners progress. Mmmh, yeaaa. Kind of fluffy, but kind of smart at the same time.
It was hence very difficult for me to figure out if I was training on the right ‘regime’. I’m someone rather goal and performance oriented, I love progress and pushing my limits and, although this was my first marathon and finishing the race was such an achievement already, I kind of wished to be able to finish it under 4h. I knew that this time wouldn’t be unrealistic, but also would require the right training and self-discipline.
So, did I progress ? Definitely !
My cardio endurance (heart) has improved so much. Cardio used to limit me before. Sometimes I had to stop a few times to catch my breath during a 10k run.. this feeling went away around a month in the training. I tracked my heart beat during runs and it is steady and controlled, even during longer runs (around 150BPM). I never ever felt fatigue from a run due to my cardio after week 4.
My muscle endurance (heart is a muscle too but i’m talking about my legs). My legs always have been a strength in short runs and a weakness in long runs. I used to get tightness super fast in the legs, having to stop to stretch a few times during the run (bad idea, but, sometimes you have to think what’s the best option!). My legs are prone to feel heavy fast. Well, this hugely improved. Each time I went for a long run, the lactic acid (what causes your legs to ‘burn out’) threshold was postponed by a few km. Note this also can be affected by what I ate prior to the run.
My pace. So, I wouldn’t say my pace has improved a ton, in the sense if I was measuring my sprinting pace or 5k now and at the start, i think it’d be about the same.
But what has improved is my ability to maintain a certain pace for a longer time. For illustration, I ran my first half marathon (week 7) in 2’01’28’’ (on a 23km run) (5:47/km pace), finishing kind of feeling like I would never run the marathon. On week 8, I ran the half marathon in 1’58’47’’ (on a 26km run) (5:42 pace), feeling great. On week 9, I ran the half marathon in 1’45’33’’ (on a 22k run) (5:02 pace), feeling awesome (that was a record day!). Improving my half marathon time by 16minutes in two weeks. This progress seem big but honeslty, I’m going to tell you a little secret here. On that day (week 9), before the race I looked in the mirror and said to myself: «you’re going to break a PB, this is the day to push it so let’s do it». The fact it came down to 22km after running 23k and 26k past weeks made me think it was time to give more juice. The run was incredibly smooth and did not felt difficulty at all. The following runs I dropped my pace quite consistently to 5:20 or around on my runs, so yes, I think I’ve improved overall. The problem is I got injured at week 10, right when I was really feeling progress, so I had to rest for 2 full weeks and only got 2 small runs before the race after, so, that kind of sucked.
Did I finish the marathon under 4 ? NO (4h11). Was it due to the training plan ? Yes & no.
NO because, it was my first marathon. I did not know how to run a marathon before, despite having read and watch all possible youtube videos on the topic. The body doesn’t know and, trust me, no matter how you train, on race day it’s the unknown and you can’t predict how your body will react to it, you can’t predict how your choices affect your race. I’m not going to change my marathon now but I definitely think the app trained me well because I kept a really good pace until km 25, but then had a few issues of side stich, burning feet, I stopped, I walked etc.
But also YES because I believe if I did more interval trainings, I would have been faster without additional effort. I found most interval trainings were pushed towards the end of the plan and bad luck for me that’s when I had to take weeks off due to injury.
Was the Nike Run training plan difficult ?
With this training I never felt like pushing past my limits as I had in the past with some workouts. I never felt like I was going to faint or puke. Apart from one interval run that put me to the test, it was relatively ‘easy’ once the hardest part (getting out to run) was done. Mentally that’s another story and I wanted to give up during long runs more than once.
Now, the main thing I did not like about training with this app is.. the lack of feedback. Suggested pace are only suggested, and see, if I didn’t run faster than what planned on some runs, maybe the app would have understood that it was a good pace for me, and I would also have believed that was what I was settling for.
I see a lot of people training for marathons with ‘complicated’ stats like running at 60% or MHB or V02 max or running at your half marathon pace, 10k pace, negative splits etc. and I sometimes felt ‘guilty’ or ‘wrong’ to not have this kind of plan. I did do interval runs with higher cardio and sustained a few «fast runs» like fast 6-8km. But, most days, I just ran with my feelings and ended up having very similar pace on recovery runs, long runs, and shorter runs. Some days were set to recovery but I had so much energy that I took them as ‘tempo runs’ and ran fast. Often I wondered if I pushed enough, not enough, too much? I know it kinds of defeats the purpose but hey.. I finished the marathon with good cardio and legs so, it got me somewhere.
The lack of feedback is tough, but at the same time I think it’s great not to get too caught up into stats, and enjoy the feeling of running & be more in-tuned with how you feel.
Training with an app and not an actual person takes a HUGE determination, and, no matter the support I had around me from friends and family, I felt alone - sometimes lost - with my running.
In the end, is Nike Run App good to train for Marathon?
I would answer yes, and anyone can use it (even beginners, i was!), but only if you have a lot of auto-discipline and only if you know your body well. Know your limits, potential, know your injuries, don’t run on pain, know when it’s time to push and when it’s time to rest because no app and no training plan will tell you that.
Would I train again with it ? I think so. I would however definitely include a little more interval runs to work on the pace and improving my time!
Wait..wait.. I know what you’re thinking, «but Amelie,.. did you not get injured?» Yes, I did.
I started the plan with a torn psoas (prior to running), and I finished week 10/13 with a tendinitis (bursitis) on the left ankle. You need to know that running this much (and that’s not even much compared to some plans!) isn’t healthy for the body. Running a marathon is not healthy and I’ll repeat it : i did it for myself, for challenge, pushing limits and I 100% knew & assumed all the possible consequences. However, I don’t think injury came with the plan, my physio specialised in running loled when he saw the shoes I was running and training with - which caused my ankle injury in his opinion. See, I got SO focused on nutrition, training, resting.. and I forgot to care for the most important part: the shoes! But, that’s a whole other topic!.. lesson learned!
I hope this blog post has helped you and has answered your questions about the training plan for my marathon! If you have more please ask in the comments below and I’ll do my best to get back to you!!
Thanks for reading and keep tuned for part 2 where I tell you all my insider tips about the Nike Plus Run app ;)
Lots of love,
This blog post is in no affiliation with Nike or NikeRunClub app, neither sponsored (i wish, hey nike if you’re here, hit me up ;)).