#59 – Using Strength and Speed Training to PR the Boston Marathon | Michelle Baker, DPT

Coach D and Coach Trent welcome runner, rock climber, wakesurfer, and physical therapist Michelle Baker, DPT to discuss her training for the Boston Marathon. Michelle PR’d her previous marathon time for by 23 minutes, ending with a race time of 3:34:51. She credits her success to a combination of regular strength training, interval/speed work, and nutrition experience gained from her previous marathons.


Michelle is an all-around athlete, having played sports from a young age. After a layoff from sports in college, she discovered endurance training while in PT school and began running 5k and 10k races. She quickly became hooked and ran her first half marathon, then full-marathons, punctuated by occasional trail runs as well. Michelle describes her first marathons as brutally hard, as she learned how to develop a strong mindset and properly fuel her body for the hours-long race. Nevertheless, she stuck with them and slowly began getting better.


Recently, she began working with Coach D to improve her times. Together they came up with a plan to incorporate strength training 2x per week, with an emphasis on developing the hips and trunk or “core” strength. This meant plenty of squats, deadlifts, and overhead presses. Coach D also encouraged her to run speed days 2-3x per week, where she focused on power; sometimes this included hill runs, since the Boston Marathon includes several notorious hills (one such know as “Heartbreak Hill”). On long-distance days she progressively increased her mileage, however she never ran more than ~18 miles prior to the race. She followed a model known as “cumulative fatigue” in which she tracked her weekly mileage — a proxy for fatigue — aiming to progressively increase that number while limiting the total mileage in a single day. As she puts it, “it’s like running the last 18 miles of a marathon.”


Her times at the Boston speak for themselves, but most importantly, Michelle is healthy, uninjured, and feels great. Her time qualifies her for the 2020 Boston Marathon, which she is already looking forward to. You can follow Michelle’s training on Instagram @akmtnmotherrunner.


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