• Mark Villani


It’s July 29th, 2019. 

I’m 38 weeks out from the Hamburg Marathon. 

That’s 265 days, 6,360 hours. 381,000 minutes, and approximately 22,896,000 seconds. 

It’s my first day of training. 

My lungs are on fire, my legs are heavy and my muscles —  at least what’s left of them — feel bruised and tied up into little knots. 

Ok... so it’s been a while to say the least. 

Enough foam for ya? How the Czech's pour beer
What a night.. I think I remember taking this photo? ;)

My last race was a good three and a half months ago. Who knew you could lose this much fitness in 100 days?

Europe was a blast though.. After my race in Germany, I managed to travel to another six countries in three weeks, all while trying the fine delicacies of each nation. 

Maybe I shouldn’t have crushed all those beers in Prague? It seems like the only Czech words I learned there were “Pilsner Urquell” 

Now I know why they drink more beer annually than any other country in the world..

Perhaps I should’ve limited the endless pasta, pizza and gelato in Torino? Oh please.. it’s Italy, how can you not? 

"Ice cream as it once was"

Denmark was nice.. so were the countless Frikadellers I had... (special thanks to the Birkelund Hollmann family who are apparently huge fans of the Calgary flames!)

Are you finished? No, I'm Danish! #DadJokes

Western Conference Champs #NeverForget :'(

The hamburgers in Hamburg (so cliche right?) were oddly mediocre, a solid 6.2 out of 10 — no rookie scores here, I take my food ratings seriously. 

I'm not mad Hamburg.. I'm just.. disappointed!

At least I didn’t have “too much” chocolate or cheese fondue in Zürich...  

**the lie detector determined that was also in fact untrue...**

I was so "fondue" of Switzerland.. ;)

OK - so I’m a firm believer that everything in life should be enjoyed in moderation. I enjoy an ice cold beer, I enjoy carbs and chocolate is definitely my weakness, but I’ll have to find the right balance if I want to be a fast runner. 

I’ve set my goal. If you read my last blog post you know I’m all about qualifying for the Boston Marathon. 

So let’s get started. 

Here’s my training plan with my new coach Travis Schiller-Brown 

Travis & Ashley-Schiller Brown from Personal Peak

Travis is a very talented endurance athlete, exercise psychologist, and coach living right here in Calgary, Alberta. 

He’s developed a plan for me with a focus on stamina, speed, strength and most importantly... the prevention of injuries.  


My routine is divided into a few different regimens, starting with slow recovery runs. 

For the first time in my life I’ll be monitoring my heart rate while I run. I never really understood what all those numbers means until now. 

#1) Recovery

Travis wants me to put a strong emphasis on what he calls “recovery runs” — basically running super slow over long periods of time to get the miles in, dial in the physiological training effects to build stamina and a more controlled heart rate. 

For my recovery runs I go anywhere from about 45 minutes all the way up to two hours at a heart rate of around 125 to 138 beats per minute. 

That’s my “Zone 1” heart rate or “forever” zone where I can pretty much run for as long as I desire. For reference, you can see on this chart that it only gets much harder from there as I go faster and put in more effort. 

Bridges, rivers, buildings.. I know.. I'm so artsy..
Day 1 of my training overlooking the city from Crescent Heights

#2) Intervals

Second, there’s a focus on interval runs two times every single week, usually on Tuesdays or Thursdays. 

For these runs, I ramp up my heart rate as high as possible in short bursts or maintain it at a higher rate for a certain period of time. 

For example, these first two weeks have been mainly aerobic threshold runs or simple tests to gage my heart rate. 

My "intervals" face

I did a threshold heart rate 2x10 minute run — basically all out for 10 minutes, a short rest and then do it all over again! Yikes! That hurt..

After the tests we settled on my anaerobic threshold sitting around 164 beats per minute - that means I can sustain that pace (about 3:50-4:04 minutes/km) for roughly an hour. 

My tempo/marathon pace is pegged at around 156-161 beats per minute (anywhere from a 4:04-4:22 minute/km pace)

Interestingly enough, that pace would see me finishing the average marathon in 3:04:15 which is very encouraging considering my best time is 3:09:47. 

With speed like this, maybe I'll even get some sponsors?? Yo Gatorade... take it or leave it.. here's my application video ;)

#3) Strength 

What I lack in cardio and stamina, I gain in strength ... well sort of.

I’ve always had a bit more muscle mass - a stronger chest, core and quad muscles for someone my size, but that’s not ideal for running. 

We need to balance things out with a strong focus on hip and glute strength, lower back and hamstrings. 

Travis is putting me through a lot of band work, using tension and lighter dumbbell weights to balance me out. 

Stability, balance and core workouts are super important as well. A strong runner needs to be quick and agile, but also centred and in line with every stride - say turns for a gate analysis blog coming up! 

Still not as coordinated as the girl doing yoga in the background.. but I'm getting stronger!

Finally, we’re doing plyometrics to focus on quick twitch muscles. Squat jumps, tuck jumps and distance jumps supplemented with lunges, glute bridges and kettlebell swings. 

#4) Injury Prevention (Pre-hab)

It’s number four on the list, but it should be number one! 

Injury prevention is so important not only to make sure my muscles are well adjusted to the heavy workload, but also so that I can continue running for the duration of the next 38 weeks. 

A strong focus here is on rolling out the glutes, hamstrings and quads. We’re doing a lot of stretches focusing in on the hips and spine rotations to keep everything moving. 

A moving body is an injury free body, at least that’s my mindset! 


So there you have it! Here is my first two months of training summed up in this blog! It’s been a struggle to get back into the swing of it, but I’m slowly finding my stride!

 Stay tuned for more updates as I get you up to speed on how my training went for the rest of 2020, including a fun trip I took for my 25th birthday!

RUNNING STATS (August & September, 2019)

Week 1 distance - 42.7 miles (68.719km)

Week 2 distance - 29.7 miles (47.798km)

Week 3 distance - 43.2 miles (69.524km)

Week 4 distance - 46.41 miles (74.69km)

Week 5 distance - 41.17 miles (66.257km)

Week 6 distance - 44.22 miles (71.165km)

Week 7 distance - 43.1 miles (69.363km)

Week 8 distance - 46.23 miles (74.4km)

Week 9 distance - 37.93 miles (61.042km)

Total distance  - 374.66 miles  (602.957 km)

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