My Blue-collar Marathon Training Program

“My fitness program was never a fitness program. It was a campaign, a revolution, a conversion. I was determined to find myself, and in the process found my body and the soul that went with it.” – George Sheehan

My Blue-collar Marathon Training Program, an article based on my memoir Twenty-four Years to Boston, recently appeared in Runner’s World. In the article I describe how my blue-collar heritage as a shipyard welder was the basis for my approach to training for a marathon. The conditioning required to climb hundreds of feet up and down ladders onboard ship, crawl through confined areas and endure unthinkable heat for long periods of time prepared me for life as an endurance athlete.

My life has changed considerably since my early years working in the shipyard, but my approach to training for endurance races remains the same. As a lifelong runner, I’ve learned there is more to marathon training than weekly mileage goals, intervals and tempo runs, and that conditioning alone doesn’t guarantee crossing the finish line. Nevertheless, there is no getting around the fact that you must put in the time and do the work.

Today I cycle more often, hike, practice yoga, and I enjoy the feeling of a soaking sweat from arduous labor. I’ve made the hills my friend, run fartleks for speed, and conclude my training program with a three-hour run instead of the sacrosanct 20-mile run in most marathon training programs. I now run for time, like a two, three or four-hour run, rather than distance. My carb loading always includes a Guinness or two. Let’s just say it fits my nonconformist nature.

When I qualified for the 2005 Boston Marathon, I chose to run the Steamtown Marathon in Scranton for its fast course. Against conventional strategy, I ran the first 20 miles as fast as I could, and then suffered excruciating calf cramps the last few miles. As I came over the crest of a steep hill in the final mile I had a clear view of precious seconds ticking off the clock, my quest to qualify for Boston slipping away.

When at last I crossed the finish line, I heard my daughter yell, “Hey Dad, guess what? You’re going to Boston!” I had finished in 3:31:25, three minutes faster than my first marathon 24 years earlier.

To read the full article in Runner’s World go to My Blue-collar Marathon Training Program.


About Jim Brennan

Jim is a Philadelphia-based writer, author, poet and editor for the Schuylkill Valley Journal.
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4 Responses to My Blue-collar Marathon Training Program

  1. I have recently started do certain runs based on time, rather than distance, as well – it’s definitely a change in mentality! I firmly believe that there’s no one training plan that fits everyone, so it’s about experimenting and finding out what does and doesn’t work for each individual runner, and what they need the most. I’m also becoming increasingly aware of the all important psychological aspects of running – not just racing, but training as well. We need to work on our mental endurance as much – if not more so – than the physical endurance before really long races.


  2. msmidt says:

    Nice recap here and a great longer story in RW. Thanks for sharing, Jim.


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