Carlo, a Naples (Italy) native and a London-based professional construction engineer has been running for a couple of years. From time to time he has been taken part predominantly in 1/2 marathons. Carlo was looking for a big motivational goal for 2013. After considering various options, Carlo opted for a big city marathon and entered the New York City Marathon in November 3rd, 2013. This race was always on Carlo’s mind, finally he managed to secure an entry and was looking forward to fulfil his dream by running the famous course through the five boroughs of New York City.

Getting started

It was in early May when Carlo contacted Coach Urban. Carlo was already in training and read a book on ‘Marathon Training’, which was pitched at beginners and advanced runners. “I started to read this book about marathon training, though it is very frustrating applying it in practice. There are no clear instructions for the exercises, just pictures, which makes it difficult for me to reproduce the correct movement. I have a busy work life and the training plan proposed in the book is too rigid and does not fit. Finally, I want to train with my mate Paolo too, who is running a bit slower than me at the moment and we want to enjoy training for the marathon. While the book has a nice layout and pretty pictures it does not align well with what I try to achieve.“, says Carlo.

Initially, Coach Urban met up with Carlo to get a better understanding about his background, his running and what motivates him to take part in the marathon. After an hour Carlo completed an athlete profile and questionnaire, which provides a better view on Carlo’s current level of fitness and provides an insight in which areas he needs further development. As a next step, Carlo met with Urban at Battersea Park for a training session to see Carlo in action. “I get quite frequent requests from runners in London looking for coaching. My view is that a running coach need to assess the runner’s technique and identify areas of strength and development. In Carlo’s case I could see that he had a lot of strength – core strength, leg strength and arm strength, very important for the marathon. However, in area he could improve was to work on his pacing and leg turnover. For that reason, I integrated a speed session in Carlo’s marathon training plan.

Integrated Marathon Plan

Once the fundamentals have been established Coach Urban drafted a monthly training plan, taking Carlo’s busy work life into account and optimising his time he has available for training. In addition, Carlo wanted to make sure that he can sustain the training and was looking for guidance on nutrition. Coach Urban provided guidance on suitable foods for endurance athletes. Quite often, it can be challenging to have regular meals within a busy day at work, while trying to run a hard workout in the evening. This guidance helped Carlo to approach the tough marathon workouts with better energy levels.

During the last couple of years I have overlooked the marathon training of many athletes. I have to say often the plan is too focussed around mileage and lacks the specificity. In my plan I try to integrate general, developmental and event specific exercises in the training plan. I am a believer that an integrated plan leads to a better performance, unlike traditional plans which go through sequential blocks.“, says Coach Urban. A general strength programme (designed for runners), helps Carlo to apply his strength more specific and more applied to the muscular demands of the running action.

Monitor Carlo’s Progress

In order to keep Carlo on track Coach Urban and Carlo met up on a regular basis, usually twice a months. “In the beginning Carlo was keen to met frequently, though I was aware that this would be difficult, considering work, holidays and other disruptions. I want to make sure time is well spend when I meet with my athletes. Every time we meet we did a specific session, which allowed me to assess the current level of fitness and provide feedback based on observations during the session.“, says Coach Urban. After the regular session there are often many questions and many decisions to make. For example, change of plan, opportunity to take part in a race, illness and even injury. A training plan is like a compass, which guides the athletes towards the goal, however change is constant and there is a need to adjust the training plan and identify ways to get the athlete back on track.

Carlo and Coach Urban

At the end of a well executed track session at Battersea Park

Carlo managed to complete the training, though unavoidable had to miss a couple of sessions during his marathon training. However, due to his leg strength Carlo was very comfortable when it comes to the long runs, training runs beyond 25k. “It was a more a matter to slow down Carlo, as he wanted to do back to back long runs!“, says Coach Urban. In the run up to the marathon, Carlo’s performance on the track have been a bit up and down, though it was clear that he had the fitness, adjusting to speed work and executing a hard session after a busy work day is tough. Nonetheless, with the weeks progressing Carlo’s workout got more consistent and better too.

When it comes to the New York City Marathon, I think I can add a lot of value for any athlete preparing for it. I have done the race 5x myself. My best time was 2:52 and in my 1st New York City Marathon I have taken off 46 minutes of my marathon PB. Not many can demonstrate such an improvement. New York City is technically a quite demanding course and need to be approached with respect. Running the first 1/2 too fast could mean you end up walking when facing the undulations in Central Park towards the end.“, says Coach Urban. On this occasion Coach Urban could provide Carlo with a lot of insight of how to tackle the race and how to plan around the event logistics.

On the day, Carlo managed to run well and finished in a solid 3:37. Carlo paced the race reasonable well and had a positive split of 5 minutes. He was well prepared for the marathon and his performance on the day suggests that he has potential to improve further in the next marathon. More important, Carlo took the opportunity to run the marathon and raise awareness for the Duchenne Parent Project, raising vital funds for affected kids and parents of this rare disease. “I am always impressed when runners are going the extra mile and do something beyond the ordinary. Seeing Carlo not only supporting me with funds for Shoe4Africa, but also running for theDuchenne Parent Project is great to see. It is pretty much part of my coaching philosophy that every athlete should have a purpose and if that purpose is a good cause then this great. When there is a great team behind the cause and we act selfish-less then we are often at our very best. Being part of Carlo’s journey of running the Marathon and seeing him running with great passion for a good cause makes me very proud as a coach.”

New York City Marathon

Carlo crossing the finishing line in Central Park