Training Couch to the Marathon: Your Questions Answered, Round III, Reid Coolsaet

Couch to the Marathon: Your Questions Answered, Round III, Reid Coolsaet


An odd thing happened to us last week at EachCoach, the running page of the National Post. A celebrated American runner had promised to answer our reader’s questions but, when faced with the deluge, he pulled a DNF and left us in a bind. Enter the Canadian marathon heroes. Rather than see the questions go unanswered, we turned to our country’s greatest runners: Reid Coolsaet, Krista Duchene, Lanni Marchant, Rob Watson and Dylan Wykes. In fine form, and not afraid of hard work, each of the champion’s gave their response, and all this week, we’ll feature their expertise. Yesterday, Lanni Marchant, the fastest all-time female marathon runner in Canadian history, took the questions. Today, Reid Coolsaet, Olympian and second all-time fastest Canadian, takes over. Love you Reid, here’s wishing you a speedy recovery, my friend.

Jill asks: I am training for the Toronto marathon In October. This will be my first full marathon and I hope to run at a pace of 4:45-5:00  min/km. I have always included some heavy strength training (squats, deadlifts, etc)for races of lesser distances but find it very difficult to incorporate it into marathon training because of the need for enough recovery. My question:  does heavy strength training have a place in marathon training?

Reid responds: Strength training has a place in marathon training. It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly everyone’s definition of “heavy.” However, if strength training is going to take away from your recovery then cut back on the amount of weight and/or the frequency of sessions until you find it isn’t taking away from your main training, running.

Shannon asks: I’ve been battling a chronic high ankle sprain for almost a year now. I’ve tried physio, laser therapy and acupuncture and it’s still not healing. I’m so anxious to get back to running but I feel like tact might never happen. Any suggestions?


Reid responds: Seek out another medical opinion, perhaps some imaging and be patient. In the meantime stay fit with pool running or any exercise which doesn’t cause pain.

Claire asks: I have a question about recovery, because I’ve tried many different methods and not sure what works: What are some ways you recommend to recover from a long hard run? Do you suggest ice baths, leg elevation, stretching, massage, or just “taking it easy” for the rest of the day?

Reid responds: I’ve always incorporated many recovery methods. Start off with a proper cool-down after hard sessions. Eating protein and carbs right after a long hard run might be the most important piece of recovery. Massage, ice baths (or leg wraps), active isolated stretching, compression gear should all help a little bit too.

Yaron asks: I am running new York this year. I have been running for 8 years but never raced outside the GTA. What tips do you have for an “away” race and specifically for New York.

Reid responds: Book a hotel early for NYC and familiarize yourself with getting to the start line. There are 50,000 people trying to get to the start line, it will be hectic.  Seek out restaurants where you will be comfortable with the food and find a supermarket to have the things you’re used to. For NYC it would be wise to be used to hilly terrain towards the end of your long runs, Martin Goodman Trail will not suffice.

Raymond asks: Ran 32K after a week-long cruise today, avg 6:02 pace. Won’t qualify for Boston at this pace but at least I completed the distance though with negative thoughts creeping in at around 24K.  My question to REDACTED would be how he fights off the negative thoughts that get louder as the body tires.

Reid responds: First off, it’s good you know that everyone gets negative thoughts when they’re tiring. When that happens using a simple, positive, motto can get you back on the right track. “Keep It Moving” is one that I’ve used in the past to say in my head to override the negative thoughts. Some people find that picking short term goals along the way helps the distance seem more manageable.

Tony asks: Training for Scotia, an October marathon in Toronto, and I am a little ahead of schedule for the fall races… since February I have been training continuously.  Ran a few 30k, halfs and a full since March. As I focus on Scotia how do you prevent peaking in your taining too soon? I am almost ready now.

Reid responds: Taking a day off now and then and holding back on speed work until you’re closer to the race can push your peak back a little. After I ran a few marathons I got a better idea of when I need to train medium-hard and when to start implementing marathon specific sessions. If you feel as though you’re “holding on” now then start your marathon training a little later next build-up. But you might pleasantly surprise yourself because it’s better to be ready early than too late.

Charlotte asks: Do you remember your first race (what race) and what you were feeling as you finished?  My race finishes have been all over the place, just curious! 

Reid responds: My first race was a XC race in grade 6 and I finished second to a good friend. I was surprised that I was ahead of that many people and I’ve been hooked ever since.

Chris asks: I know your lower legs take a pounding in the lightweight racing shoes.  How do you prevent late race cramps?

Reid responds: I prevent late race cramps by practising in my race shoes (NB1400) so my muscles are used to the mechanics of that shoe. I also make sure I’m getting in plenty of electrolytes (as well as carbs) in my drinks.

Simon asks:  I am preparing for my first full marathon later this year (I have done 10ks, halfs). How best can I train to keep my pace same or even increase at the end for the duration of a marathon. What is the best training to increase running strength for throughout a long run? Also, are there any key pre-run stretches to do, to avoid injury and to run better?

Reid responds: I really like doing one or two specific long sessions where I increase my pace throughout the run. For me that is a 5km warm-up, 29km progression where I start slower than race pace and finish faster than race pace, and then a 3-5km cool down.  Doing a long run once a week in training will help help your speed in the later stages of a marathon. I use Active Isolated Stretching (Flexibility) to help avoid injuries.

Fernando asks: My question is around recovery, as an older runner (39 I think) has his recovery plan changed over the last decade? If so, how? For the recreational runner in his early 40’s logging 60 or so miles per week over a 5 or 6 day a week schedule-any key pieces of recovery advice for me?

Reid responds: I find that I have to run slower on some of my runs in between my hard sessions to make sure I’m recovered for the next one. I also do more recovery techniques in a week than when I was in my 20’s.

Brian asks: I have run 6 prior marathons. My best time is 3:20. I shooting for 3:15. What would you suggest my longest pre-marathon training be by distance?  Thank you for your consideration and inspiration.

Reid responds: I like to do at least one full distance run in my build-ups, sometimes even as long as 45km. Not everyone needs that but I would say that it’s helpful to run longer in time than anticipated finish time at least once in your build-up if you’re serious. So maybe that is a 3:25 run, where you won’t cover 42.2km.



  1. Thanks Ben for asking my question (to anyone)! It fascinates me when I get the whole story of runners. I’m a life is best viewed in 360 degrees kind of girl (from all view points).

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