I joined the Reston Runners in 1998. During my early years in the club, from time to time, Al and I would run together. Never at a loss for words, Al would talk about WAVA tables, running economy and programs destined to make a runner run the worst possible mug marathon.He would talk about the great runners and how they achieved success running fewer miles. Al believed that a runner in training should not run what he called junk miles but should make each mile have a purpose.
Most times, my eyes would simply glaze over and I would continue my daydream. In explaining his theories, Al was very scientific but I was under the mistaken belief, like most runners, that if I just logged more and more miles, I would definitely improve and finally reach my goal of qualifying for the Boston marathon. It was not to be. I trained with other coaches and programs without success and actually incurred a stress fracture that required a cast for 8 weeks. Finally in the Spring of 2005, I approached Al and asked that he coach me. My goal was Boston and I had nothing to lose. Al told me I was capable of running a 3:55 if I would stick with the science of his program.
Once again Al explained WAVA tables and how to calculate my age-related times. Grumbling at the calculations that needed to be done to determine my ideal pace, I initially balked and resisted. But then I listened. Al was adamant that I learn how to figure out what pace was best for long term running. He was determined to instill the confidence I needed to carry me past the "wall" during the marathon by including long slow runs of 30 miles in my program. By rotating between short, fast weeks where mileage was low and energy high and hard long weeks, where we would run 70 miles, Al taught us how to teach our bodies to perform. I learned how to race smart by studying the course and determining where and when I needed to ease off or crank it up. Our mantra was negative splits and our guide was the WAVA tables. Under Al's tutelage, I prepared a running calendar and made sure I did the workouts.
It worked. I PR'd in every race I ran last summer, often placing in my age group. I finished the Steamtown marathon under 4 hours and achieved my goal of qualifying for Boston. Al was right - I could and did run a 3:55, well actually, 3:54. So Al - I apologize for not believing you during those early years. I am a devoted Al fan now and will always attribute my running success to your coaching.
If you are like I was then, with nothing to lose and a goal to achieve - try Al's program. It's well worth it. Boston was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had and if that's your goal - I hope you make it. If you are trying to improve in the shorter distances - you'll accomplish that as well. Good Luck and run safely.