How They Train!

Emma Spencer - January 2016


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Did you compete in high school cross country or track?

  • I took part in both cross country and track when I was in high school, Usworth School, United Kingdom. I primarily ran the 1500m in track and participated in the long jump. I was a terrible hurdler!

Did you compete in college cross country or track?

  • I did not run at all during college or for many years following college.

How many years have you been running?

  • Seriously started running again in 2010, so five years.

Lifetime personal records

  • 5K – 20:34 (2013), Beat the heat 5K, MA
  • 10K – 45:09 (2015),Springtime 10K, FL
  • 13.1 – 1:37:31 (2015), Cape Cod Half Marathon, MA
  • 26.2 – 3:40:36 (2015), Albany Marathon, GA
  • 50m – 8:53:19   (2015),  TUDC, FL

What running events do you train for or what are your training goals?

  • I’m a distance runner, I feel more comfortable going longer compared to shorter and faster, so I often spend most of my time training for marathons or the occasional ultra. This year was focused on multiple marathons (x4), a 50K and the main event, the TUDC 50 miler.  I also threw in a couple of triathlons including a half ironman this year for cross training. 

Consider your training over the past 6 months to one year.  How many miles a week do you typically run when not injured and consistently running?

  • I average around 45-50 most weeks and top out at 60-65 during peak training. 

What does your typical week of running look like?

  • Monday:  3-4 mile walk + cross training (swim or cycling) 
  • Tuesday:   Maclay track workout, speedwork: 5-7 miles
  • Wednesday:  Cross train (swim (30-60 minutes) and cycle (2 hours max)
  • Thursday:  Tempo run – 10-12 miles
  • Friday:  3-4 mile walk + cross training (swim or cycling)
  • Saturday:  Medium long run (75% of Sunday’s distance) or long cycle (4 hours+)
  • Sunday: Slow long run – depends on the race but max out at 22-31 miles + yoga  

How does your training vary over the course of a year?

  • Often there is usually only one or two main races a year for me, I will complete a 16 week training plan until the race and then keep a base, running shorter races until I start another training cycle. This year however, was one big constant training cycle.

Do you take recovery or down time?

  • This year I have not taken any time off, however, I will be taking a full two weeks off over the Christmas break for the first time in 2 years!

Do you peak for certain races?

  • Yes usually.  This year, no.

How much sleep do you usually get at night?

  • 6 hours max but I like to take a nap on the weekends.

What time of day do you normally run?

  • I run mostly in the early morning, or sometimes at lunch.  I hate running in the evening and only do it if I have to.

What injuries have hampered your training over the past year? 

  • This year I have been dealing with a right hip flexor issue but with some massage therapy and yoga I have managed to run through it without taking any time off, but it did impact some of my times as speed-work exacerbated the issue, I therefore had to pick carefully the races I chose to race and those I just chose to run.

Do you take any dietary or medical supplements?

  • No.

What type of running shoes do you prefer?

  • I was a big fan of Newton’s gravity until they changed the darned things. Now I run in either Brooks pure flow or Brooks pure connect.

Do you race in a different type of running shoe?

  • No.

Do you use weight training?

  • I will sometimes use weights but not as often as I should, once every 2 weeks if I remember.

Do you stretch? 

  • I go to yoga once a week and like to use my foam roller every night.

What are your favorite running routes?

  • I’ve only been in Tallahassee a year and I am astonished by the number of trails there are and I love them all, but my favorite running route is starting from the Lafayette Heritage Trail to Tom Brown Park, you never know what wildlife you will see.

What running resources do you like that would benefit someone else?

  • Book: Daniels Running Formula, great book for finding what paces to run at based on previous race times.

    Book: 10 Minute Toughness (Jason Selk), a great book to train the brain to tough it out. 95% of long distance running is mental, and this book provides tricks to trick your brain into getting you through the tough times.

    Book: The Runner’s World Cookbook – great for healthy runner treats and meals based on the nutrient composition you need pre, during and post workouts.

How has your training changed over the years?

  • I have learned to actually eat on a long run and marathon, before I would simply run without and wonder why I felt weak and tired.  I have also learned to be more disciplined, I like to have a plan I follow, but can adapt when needed.

What examples can you give of specific training methods, and what were the results?

  • Adding marathon race paced miles to the long run made a huge difference in being able to run at a faster pace for longer; the results were my marathon PR this year at Albany marathon.

What advice do you have for beginning or experienced runners to help them with their training?

  • The advice I would give to the beginner would be to start off slow and increase mileage at a sensible rate and don’t get discouraged if it feels tough, keep at it and it starts to become second nature.  For the more experienced runner, my advice is run to the beat of your own drum, do not get attached to what everyone else is doing around you, find your own way of training, try new things and find what works for you specifically, it’s all about trial and error and everyone is different.