How They Train!

Stephen Cox - June 2012


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How many years have you been running?

  •  I have been running for 14 hours.  I participated in high school cross country and track at Bishop Kenny High School in Jacksonville, Florida and for one semester at Belmont Abbey College outside Charlotte, North Carolina. 

Lifetime personal records

  • 1600m: 4:39

  • 3200m: 10:09 (in a 5000m)

  • 5000m (track): 15:54

  • 10K (roads): 33:44

  • Half-marathon: 1:19:02

  • Marathon: 2:57:20

What are your training goals?

  • Most of my training circulates around the 5k and the 10k, with more aerobic work and longer races taking my focus during the Fall season and shorter and quicker stuff in the Spring.

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 about 45 to 55 miles a week.

What does your typical week of running look like?

  • Monday: Medium paced run of 7-8 miles + barefoot striders on the grass as cool down.     
  • Tuesday:  Tempo work or longer intervals (800m to mile repeats @ 5 or 10k race pace)       
  • Wednesday: Easy day. Run can vary from 45 minutes to 80 minutes depending on how my legs feel after intervals + 8-10 striders afterward
  • Thursday: Light speed work (what Gary Droze calls leg turnover). Twelve reps of 200s, 300s, or 400s on the track with a 100m recovery jog between each
  • Friday: Pre-race day. 3-7 miles depending on the importance of the next day’s race.
  • Saturday: Race! (Or an easy day during off weeks)  
  • Sunday: LSD (Long slow distance) of 10-13 miles

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

  • For 3-4 months over the summer I just run. I do very little tempo or hill work and even less speed. It is a pure aerobic phase building mileage up to 70-80 miles a week. Once the weather starts cooling off, I introduce more long tempo runs and hill workouts and drop my mileage down to 55-65 miles a week. During my racing season in the Spring, I run 40-50 miles a week.

Do you take recovery or down time?

  • Yes. Usually after the Spring racing season I take a week completely off or just run easy for 7-10 days; nothing more than 5 mile runs at an easy pace.

Do you peak for certain races?

  • Yes. During my summer training, I pick out the races I want to run in the coming 9-12 months. I usually circle a primary race and a few secondary races on my calendar and try to make my workouts build toward those races.

How much sleep do you usually get at night?

  • Helping manage a Starbucks makes for some whacky sleep patterns—At least 5 hours a night; very rarely more than 7-8 hours though.

What time of day do you normally run?

  • Usually in the afternoons with the Maclay cross-country and track teams, although I prefer getting my run done in the morning.

What injuries have hampered your training over the past year? 

  • I have always been very fortunate in this regard; no real injuries to report (knock on wood) just some bouts with plantar fasciitis and some hip & back tightness.

Do you take any dietary or medical supplements?

  • Just vitamins—C and a multivitamin daily.

What type of running shoes do you prefer?

  • Not at all a brand snob. Right now, I am on my third straight pair of Saucony Kinvara. I also train in Asics on occasion.

Do you race in a different type of running shoe?

  •  Yes.  I do intervals and race in Nike Lunar Racers.

Do you use weight training?

  • Yes.   2-3 times a week I am in the weight room for 30 minutes mostly doing core work. Push-ups, crunches, arm runners with 10-pound weights, lunges, calf raises. 

Do you stretch? 

  • Yes.   Dynamic stretches and drills before quality workouts. I also do a 10-minute static stretching routine 3-4 times a week after runs.

What are your favorite running routes?

  •   The out and back 7-miler starting at Fleischmann Road and going out to I-10 at the Miccosukee Greenway and anything at Tom Brown park out to Alford Greenway and back.

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

  • Running Times magazine,, and I keep my running log online at I also read Once A Runner and Again to Carthage by John L. Parker, Jr. once a year like clockwork.

How has your training changed over the years?

  • It hasn’t changed that much really. My mileage has increased, and I race less. I listen to my body more than ever. I have learned that there is not a meteor coming to hit the Earth if I push back my intervals a day or if I take a day off. If I need an extra day to recover, I take one.

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

  • I don’t think there is any one thing that produces results. The key is good consistent training week after week, month after month, and year after year.  I rededicated myself to my training full time in the Spring of 2007. That year I ran 18:28 at the Palace 5k which was 90 secs slower than my high school PR. Last year, after doing all of the above consistently for 5 straight years I brought my PR down to 15:54 in the 5k. Consistency is the only key that is guaranteed and sometimes you won’t see results when you think you will. Sometimes you peak for a race perfectly and you fall flat, and it won’t be until the next season or two where you re-find your form.

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

  • Be patient. I am never going to break any world records, but I am not done setting personal records. It took me a long time when I started back at it full tilt in 2007 to learn that patience is the name of the game. The Brian Sell’s, Desiree Davila’s and Molly Huddle’s of the world didn’t get there over night. They trained their butts off consistently and evenly for a decade and are still hungry to be the best. Be patient; if you are putting in the work no matter how “fast” or “slow” your goal times are, you will succeed and your PRs will fall.