How They Train!

Sarah Docter-Williams - October 2010


  • 46

How many years have you been running?

  • 40

Lifetime personal records

  • 1 Mile – 4:48
  • 5K – 17:09
  • 10K – 36:06
  • 1/2 Marathon – 1.20:05

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?

  • If training to race I would run 25-30 miles /week  and swim 3,000 yards 3x/week.  My runs and swims are always 90 % effort. I do not do long slow distance ever and effort should be hard enough to get HR up to 80% max at some point in workout. I minimize miles but maximize the intensity. On swim days I maximize aerobic conditioning while minimizing stress and breakdown in legs. I always take 1 day off /week. I have tried other cross training and have found that unlike swimming it does not allow the aerobic conditioning while allowing legs to recover for next hard running session, especially as we get older. Even cycling on off days does not allow legs to recover.

What running events (sprints to ultra-distance) do you train for or what are your training goals?

  • 5-10 K, Currently just for fitness. Prior goals were to remain competitive in womens running locally ( and to beat some men in town!!)

What does your typical week of running look like?

  • Monday – Swim 3000 yards to let legs recover from long run. Minimize kicking. Warm up close to 1000  followed by strong aerobic set for 2000 yards focusing on repeat swims( 100 yards to 400 yards) with little rest.  Workout may be 4×200 free on tight interval, 6×100 Im and 4×50 kick 50 free. Include IM strokes of breast, back and free to stretch out all muscle  groups. Minimize fins, pull bouy and paddles for entire set as workout is better.
  • Tuesday – Gary Droze’s interval workout at the track to include 3 miles of repeats (400 to 2000 meters) with close to 100% effort
  • Wednesday – Swim 3000 yards once again with good 1000 warm up to loosen up followed by 2000 yard set with minimal rest on tight interval for aerobic workout. Minimize kicking and “toys” such as fins, paddles and pull bouy. 2000 yard set may be 5×400 (400 free-2×200 IM- 4x 50 kick/50 free-  2×200 free – 4×100 IM)
  • Thursday – 7-8 mile fartlek Run on trail or road to include 2 mile warm up followed by 10-8-6-4-2 hard with 2 minutes rest or 6×4 minutes hard 2 minutes rest including hills, etc. If  racing Saturday back off on this to a 3-4 mile Fartlek with short speed work, i.e., 6x 1 minute.
  • Friday – Swim 3000 as above and or take day off if racing Saturday.
  • Saturday – Take day off and or race if Friday taken off.
  • Sunday – Long Forrest Meadows Run with group which is typically 12 miles and increases in intensity to 90 % (at least for me!) last half.

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

  • When I was training to race it varied little. I maintained this program for close to 10 years without injury or breakdown.

Do you take recovery or down time? 

  • My recovery days were my rest day 1x/week, and swim days were always helpful in allowing leg recovery.

Do you peak for certain races?

  • I did not and found my fastest runs always came at the end of a string of 4-6 weekend races in a row.

How much sleep do you usually get at night?

  • I try for 8 hours — it’s tough with kids to get this.

What time of the day do you normally run?

  • Always in AM. Legs too tired at end of day and hate running in the heat.

What injuries have hampered your training over the past year? 

  • Rarely injured. I am a Physical Therapist which has been very helpful.

Do you take any dietary or medical supplements?

  • I always take a calcium for bone health and have made my daughters take Calcium since they were 10 due to stress fractures and bone loss in women. I try to eat a good mix of foods including “fats”!! and protein. I eat whatever I want and don’t avoid any particular foods…even junk food!! I try to avoid over eating.

What type of running shoes do you prefer?

  • Saucony!! Wide toe box prevents neuromas and stress fractures in metetarsals. Narrow heel prevents plantar faciitis. I always get shoes at least one size too big  to prevent pressure on front of toes which also can cause stress fractures. I never lace shoes tightly as this can also stress your metatarsal bones. Sauconys do not last long as they also have a lot of cushion. I change shoes out every three months on 25 miles/week running. I wear an over the counter orthotic which is soft vs hard. I do not believe in rigid orthotics as they limit natural midfoot mobility.


  • Do you race in a different type of running shoe?  If so, what is it?

    • I have always raced in my training shoes. Local races are definitely not worth the potential injury you can suffer from flats just to drop a few seconds. I also always race in my orthotics.

    Do you use weight training?

    • Key muscle groups for running in the weight room are hip abductors, extensors, flexors and adductors (hip machines). Hamstrings are very important as are gluts and calves. I am very careful in the weight room. I recommend very low weights and high reps. I personally avoid squats, quad extension seated and the calf machines. They weight the muscle group too much and are dangerous to me. I do hip abduction machine for my IT bands, hip extension (glut machine) and lunges for the gluts and piriformis, calf raises without weight, and hamstring curls.

    Do you stretch? 

    • I try to perform yoga type stretches 2-3x/week in PMs.

    What are your favorite running routes?

    • Forrest Meadows Trails

    If you have been running for many years, how has your training changed over the years?

    • My intensity has naturally dropped somewhat and I take longer to recover. I have also reduced the mileage slightly.

    What examples can you give of specific training methods (for example, long slow distance, hill repeats, track intervals, trail running, etc.) that have produced results?

    • Long runs hard 1x/week definitely dropped my ½ marathon times in my early 40’s. I feel you must do speed work on track 1x/week to run a fast 5-10 K. You cannot duplicate this on the road.

    What were the results?

    • Ran a 1 hr, 20 minute ½ marathon at 40 after running consistent long runs on weekends. Racing is also the best training in the world to me. If you can race on Saturday and let your body recover during the week and repeat this several weeks in a row you will get faster. The key is letting legs recover the next week (i.e., swimming!!)


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

  • Higher intensity with fewer long, slow miles! Saves the wear and tear on joints and maximizes aerobic fitness.