Training Programs

Please follow or use these ideas at your own risk, and as always, we suggest consulting with your physician before starting any training programs. The Colfax Marathon and Kaiser Permanente have not tried, tested, or endorsed all the programs and articles on these training pages.

A message from your Race Director, Creigh Kelley

Welcome to our Training Pages! As a long time coach and distance athlete, I have picked two local training programs and one that is nationally embraced. These aren’t the only programs available. They are, however, ones I can point to that are rock solid. Training is highly subjective. It is more of an art than a science. The Colfax Marathon Partnership. Inc. invites you to consider these as possible resources.

Good luck with your journey to the weekend of May 18-19, 2019!

Goal: Run the Kaiser Permanente Colfax Marathon or Half Marathon May 19th!

This season, we’re providing three training options to consider as you head into your training for the 2019 marathon and two options for the half marathon on May 19th. You can read below about all three programs. The central difference is that Creigh’s program doesn’t come with him actually being your coach. Think of it as a “blueprint” you can modify to fit your personal schedule, and if you have a personal coach or trainer, they can adjust it when you might get a small injury or a cold (two things we studiously try to avoid). A further disclaimer, if you are over the age of 60, you will need to consider a bit more recovery time after hard workouts.

Jeff Galloway’s Training Program

Jeff’s career as a coach spans 4 decades. His background as a world-class distance athlete (USA Olympian ’72) adds to his credibility.

His straightforward approach provides the clarity a person needs to get started or to move forward from where they now are. His web site on training along with the many books he has published, give you a total spectrum of knowledge.

He has a local program coordinator in the metro Denver area and in Durango, Colorado should a group approach be a preference. He also provides online coaching as well. Both of these options come with a modest price tag.

For those of you looking for a reliable outline at no charge, the tabs on his web site fulfill that requirement.

David Manthey’s Training Program

David’s program, Runners Edge of the Rockies has been iconic in the metro Denver area. Legions of runners have produced volumes of success stories.

Like our other two recommended coaches, he practices what he preaches and is devoted to each person that chooses to sign on with his group. His approach is straightforward and fun. Because his program is so well received, we selected Runner’s Edge to be the Official Pace Team.

His web site is very easy to navigate and he is accessible!

When we asked him to describe his fee-based program, he said “Runner’s Edge of the Rockies has over 350 active members. We run year-round and provide coaching and training support for endurance athletes of all experience and ability. Our members include sub-3 hour Boston Qualifiers and novice runners (and walkers) looking to complete their first race while getting in shape. Members receive a multi-level daily training plan customized to their target race, coached group workouts, 20% VIP discount at Runners Roost stores, race registration discounts with select events, tech shirt, etc. We provide a supportive, knowledgeable, non-intimidating, organized and FUN environment that will put the EDGE in your training!”

This might sound like marketing hype, but we know David and know it’s from the heart! If you are looking for a more formal, group approach to reduce the confusion and worry, this is a perfect choice!

You can contact David at

Creigh Kelley’s 16 Week Marathon Training Program

This program was designed for Creigh, used, and updated and modified over the past 30 years. Creigh does not publically present himself as a distance coach, but his program is tried and true and has been used successfully when he coached hundreds of local first time and experienced marathoners at this altitude.

He is providing his program as a model to follow. His credentials include Head Coach for the Leukemia Society (LLS now) Team ‘N Training in the Rocky Mountain Region, national advisor to the National Manager of Team ‘N Training, and was selected “Coach or Team Manager” for over 8 USA National Distance Teams for the past three decades.

He is an advocate for both Jeff Galloway and for David Manthey (out national and local recommended training programs) and selected them because of their respective proven success.

It doesn’t speak to cross-training since it’s modeled after classical distance training that evolved from Arthur Lydiard and is still practiced today by thousands of East African athletes, both men and women. Before you think it won’t work for you because you already follow a program or you’re not worried about a finishing time or any of a myriad of pushbacks, consider that the success rate of this program was very high especially with first-timers.

To get started, have the following preconditions met:

  • Your basic weekly mileage is at least 30 miles
  • You are functionally in good shape and are at what you consider a decent training weight
  • You have consulted with your preferred health care advisor and they’ve given you a “thumbs up”
  • You have a fairly recent (past 45 days) half marathon or 10K race time to establish a hoped for race day goal (we use a simple, time-tested formula to produce that goal time. If it is a 10K, multiply it by 4.66. The number will give you in minutes what the projected marathon goal on May 15th might be. If it’s a half marathon, take that time and multiply it by 2.15. To provide a simple example, if you ran a 10K at a mile high in 50 minutes, your anticipated marathon time would be 3:53. If a half marathon, roughly 1:48:30). If you haven’t actually raced one of those distances, set up a time trial on a flat somewhat unrestricted trail or roadway with a few friends to help pull you along.
  • Your basic longest run each week is at least 7-8 miles (it could be more)
  • Moderate stretching after each workout is done
  • Back off from any hard work out if you are sick or injured. Always seek professional advice when either occurs

Weeks 1-4

  • During the first 4 weeks, you must gradually build up your mileage. By the end of the 4 weeks you should be at 45 miles.
  • Increase your longest run by 10% each week. An 8 becomes a 9, a 9 becomes a 10. You want to be at 10 miles at the end of 4 weeks. Long runs should be done at the same time as the race. You’re training your body to become accustomed to a 6am start
  • Never run hard two days in a row. Run your longest run on a flat surface and try to avoid hills. The focus is on volume and not speed.
  • This is a building phase to get stronger without worrying about time. You’re building the first part of the platform that will allow you to get stronger gradually.
  • Be patient. If you’re feeling really tired after your longest run, take a day off or possibly two. You must recover sufficiently to keep the program moving forward.
  • Plan liquid replacement into your long run at approximately 2 mile intervals. You know it will be water and Gatorade Endurance formula so train with it from the beginning. You are mimicking what you’ll do in the marathon. This requires planning and assistance (I am not a fan of carrying liquids with you. It is added weight and every pound lighter means you will simply be faster. Take this off your waist or back and pre-set your liquids in labeled bottles on the course the night before or prior to your run. Yes, it’s a bit more work but you’re training for a marathon and not a 5K). Remember, Clif Gel will be on the course at 6 miles and at 20 miles. If you use it in training, it will make sense to eventually use it at the 6 mile point on your long run.
  • Run your long runs with someone of equal or better The more training partners you can acquire the better your result will be. This will apply to any hard work out that comes up in the following weeks.

Weeks 5-8

  • Increase your long run each week by 10% until it is at least 17 miles at the end of the 8th
  • Pace now matters so makes sure your long run training pace is at least 10% slower than your goal marathon pace (using the initial example, if you plan to run 3:53, you must slow your long run pace down. Instead of 8:53/ mile you’ll be doing 9:45/ mile pace). Simply multiply your goal marathon time by 1.1 and you’ll be able to figure out the mile pace. This will be your adjusted long run pace through 18 miles
  • Get used to “negative splitting”. That means the second half of your long run should be slightly faster than the first half. This is as practical as it is psychological. In a race, nothing improves your attitude more than passing people in the waning miles (a perfect example was in the IAAF World Championships in the Women’s Marathon at the end of August. Serena Burla of the US was far back in the trailing pack of women through more than the half way point. Slowly she picked up the pace and recaptured the leaders several miles later. She was in contention with women far better than her on paper and was a top ten finisher. No one thought she would be able to do it. It was textbook negative splitting).
  • New in this 4 week period will be the addition of a hill workout or a hilly average distance run (I prefer hill repeats. They’re structured and specific. A training partner or partners are a huge plus). Pick a ¼ mile hill nearby. It needs to be steep enough that you’ll be leaning forward slightly and having to get up on the balls of your feet and use your arms to help propel you forward. Warm up by running comfortably to that site. Once there, plan to run up the hill at a pace that is slightly anaerobic (this means hard where you’re breathing as if you are running a hard 400 meters on a track except you’re going much slower since it’s uphill). At the top of the hill you do not stop. Instead you jog easily to the bottom. Reaching the bottom you repeat the hill. You will do a total of 6 uphills and then run easily 1 mile as a warm down. You will find this work out a test of your resolve to complete every repeat. By the 4th week it will not be difficult
  • The next new addition is a tempo run. This means you run at marathon race pace but for much shorter distances. In the example above that means 8:53/ mile. It requires warming up for 1 mile and then breaking into race pace followed by a 1 mile warm down. Tempo runs are tricky because as you begin to feel better later on in the month, you’ll want to go faster. Resist this natural temptation for this month of training. Begin with a workout totaling 6 miles with the 4 miles at race pace. Add a mile each week. The 4th week will be a total of 9 miles
  • A convenient way to get in tempo runs is at a local race. You still have to do the warmup and warm down mile even if your friends do not. A good rule of thumb is to never race more than 5% of your total weekly mileage. That is, if you’re running 50 miles/ week, that entitles you to a 5K and no more
  • Your mileage will increase as a function of the long run
  • A typical week MIGHT look like: 5 easy miles on Monday, hill repeats on Tuesday (5 miles total), easy longer run on Wednesday of 8 miles, easy 4 miles on Thursday, tempo run of 8 miles on Friday (you match marathon race pace), easy 4 miles on Saturday, long run of 13-17 miles on Sunday
  • This 2nd 4 week training period will be a much heavier load. Rest is critical. That means your “easy” days are totally aerobic (at conversation pace)

Weeks 9-12

  • Your long run will increase to at least 22 miles (there are several schools of thought about how long a long run should be and I have reconsidered my belief that one needs to be at least the marathon distance. I still feel strongly it should reach 21-22 miles prior to the final 4 weeks) Here’s what the sequence might look like:
    • Week 9 – 15 miles
    • Week 10 – 19 miles
    • Week 11 – 15 miles
    • Week 12 – 21 miles
  • 15 mile runs are recovery long runs as strange as that might seem. Maintain the slower per mile pace on all runs and begin to “change gears” in the last 1/3 of each long run. Your goal is to hit as close to marathon race pace in the final 3 miles each time
  • Total mileage should never exceed 70-75 miles
  • The hill repeats must be included and an additional repeat must be added so that you’re up to 10 repeats
  • Any races you incorporate can be your speed workouts but remember you cannot excuse the long run. It takes precedent over any racing
  • Look for advice elsewhere on diet. Learn to eat precisely the same breakfast, lunch and dinner the day prior to each long run. On the morning of the long run, experiment with what you’re body “likes”. It may be nothing eaten and just liquids or it might be dry toast and Gatorade Endurance formula or it might be a banana. This will teach you what works and doesn’t work. By race morning (remember you start at 6am) your body will “know” what’s been ingested and will never cause problems!
  • If you’re in a cycle where you’re going to change old training shoes for new ones, now is the time to do it. A better solution is to buy two pairs of identical training shoes at the beginning and then you’ll extend the life of both throughout the 16 weeks. If you plan to wear a different pair of shoes on race morning (not recommended!), then run a couple of your long runs in the shoes you plan to race in
  • Don’t forget to preposition your liquids every other mile on the long run. Optimally the long run will be on an out and back, low traffic road or trail where you’ll only have to preposition a few bottles (reminder: pick up your bottles after your long run)

Weeks 13-16

  • If during the course of your training, your 10K or half marathon time has improved, you can improve your goal marathon time using the original formula
  • This final 4 week cycle is a tapering period, especially the final 2 weeks
  • The last hill workout is Week 13
  • Racing should be eliminated in the final 12 days
  • During this period your mileage will drop. In the first two weeks it must drop by 20%, in the 3rd week by 30% and in the final week by 50%. The final 3 long runs (the final long run is the marathon!) should be 15 miles, 13 miles and 10 miles
  • Tempo runs can continue with a 6 miler in week 13, a 5 miler in Week 14 and a 4 miler in Week 15. There is no need for a tempo in the final week. Any training in the final week will not help your marathon but it can hurt it
  • Study the weather. Denver can be unpredictable in May. If it’s looking to be inclement, adjust your gear accordingly. If you know the temperature will be below 45 at the start but rise rapidly with the sun, dress for the sun and not for the start. Avoid tights if possible but you can always toss gloves a long sleeved shirt or lightweight nylon jacket (you’ll never see it again!) and a lightweight running hat always makes sense
  • Recognize that you might take on a bit of new weight so try to moderate your diet but don’t miss normal meals
  • Make sure you’re sufficiently hydrated, particularly in the final 48 hours

The day before, night of and morning of the marathon

  • Try to hit the expo to pick up your bib number and materials on Friday. If you have to do it Saturday, get it done immediately when the expo opens. Enjoy the expo but don’t spend hours on your feet. This is an important day of rest
  • Do not eat anything differently than you have the day prior or the morning of your marathon. You need to be a resident of the “land of no surprises”
  • If you have difficulty sleeping the night before, don’t worry about it. Your body will be very rested from the massive reduction in training. If you do get some sleep, consider it a bonus!
  • Plan to be dropped off at the start at least by 5am. Jog over to bag check and drop off your bag immediately. Remember, you can wear disposable layers prior to the start and even in the first mile or two. You WILL get warmer within the first 5 minutes of the race so dress as if it’s 15 degrees warmer!
  • Enter the corral about 10 minutes prior to the start. Prior to that jog around for and do some light striders to elevate your pulse rate. Nothing extreme is needed. You just want to be breathing a little harder and getting relaxed to get your body used to the cold or heat (yes, it could be as high as 55 at the start) but you have trained for 16 weeks to stand on the starting line and you’re going to behave like every other long run day. This time it will be the real deal!
  • If you’re in a corral with a Runner’s Edge Pace Team leader, try to get as close to that person as possible. They’ll help you to avoid going out way too fast. Staying on pace is critical and you won’t hit the first mile for a while. If you have a gps watch it will help you to hold back (you won’t want to but the numbers won’t deceive you!)

26.2 Miles!

  • Respect the distance. Remember the rules outlined in the earlier long run information. Take time to adjust to the terrain (naturally you’ll have studied the course and driven or run several of the tougher sections so you’re never surprised)
  • Trust your body and stay on pace. Don’t try to go harder than what was planned in the first 15 miles. After you finish going through the Glens in Lakewood, you can take advantage of the gentle downhill miles, through Sports Authority Field at Mile high and the flat bike paths through Mile 22. There is a tough hill followed by a very gentle last 3+ miles. After the tough, sharp uphill around Mile 23 you want to elevate your pace and start passing people even though you’re tired. This is why you’ve trained so hard for the past 4 months. This is when it pays off!
  • Finally, if you don’t have a coach or a trainer to keep you on schedule and help you during some difficult training patches, consider getting one. The cost- benefit ratio is huge!