In Danielle’s words – The Running Whys, cycling edition


Danielle, third from right, was part of a group that cycled the length of P.E.I. this summer. It was the latest in her long-distance adventures that have included the full and half marathons in the P.E.I. Marathon.

“After a few hugs and pictures we were off to our final destination of North Cape where we celebrated our accomplishment over supper at the Wind and Reef restaurant as our “Coach” Claudette presented us with our official Tip to Tip certificates. It was a wonderful feeling to have crossed one more seemingly impossible thing off our bucket list and I could not have asked for a better group of ladies to do it with. I realized after completing a full marathon last year that anything is possible if you believe in yourself and you put your training time in.”

My cousin Danielle gets her passion for long-distance events honestly. Growing up, we would hear of the training her father Danny would go through to prepare for his long races of the day. So when we heard Danielle was preparing for  major races – for example, a half marathon and full marathon on the Island – it was no surprise. Kind of a passing of the torch. We watched with interest – through her updates on social media – her steps in training with her partners and it was great to see her cross the finish line for one of those major bucket list events. She is extremely dedicated and this year, she tackled something a bit different, but just as gruelling.

Her story is below.




by Danielle McDonald

In the spring of 2010, a few friends and I decided we wanted to learn to run 5k and hoped to do our first run that fall. We ran together a few times a week and in June, we had completed our first 5k race.  That was just enough for us to wonder how much further we could go, so we continued training and ran our first half marathon in a time of 2 hours 30 minutes at the P.E.I. marathon in October of that year. Continue reading

Liking the new approach to the long run

Both good and bad to report as the third week of a four-week base training plan finished up. Now, it is the last bit of ‘preparation’  and the homestretch of the first stage of getting ready for the P.E.I. Marathon.

The good was my developing admiration for the Pfitzer approach to dealing with long runs. That is breaking them into two segments; the first at 20 per cent above goal pace and the second at 10 per cent above goal pace. Sunday’s LSD was 16k and with various scheduling options, I got out for a nice afternoon run, with temperatures in the mid teens C, not bad humidity and a slight wind that was at my back for the first half and facing me in the second half.

The goal for the run equated to 8K @6:41 pace to start , followed by 8K @6:07 to finish. As has been the case, I have been struggling to hit the targets. Slow is good for these lengthy runs, the run doctors say. Over stressing on the long runs can lead to problems and fatigue through the week on other runs and eventually, injuries or other factors will kick in to curtail training efforts.

The result Sunday was an opening half in 6:29 per k and the second half in 5:48 per k, for a nice negative split. There is quite a hill (the girls and I call it Will Hill) in the final 500 metres of this course, and last week I walked a small part of the way. This time, I made it all the way, which was a nice way to end.

The bad was just four runs for 41K – 9K and one outing short of the weekly goal. I was going to run Thursday and Friday evenings but each night, once I crossed the 9:30 p.m. threshold, I was too tired. I really have to deal with this soon, especially in the second week of the actual plan, when Kms take a decided increase.

Another bad note was eating – see note on weight below.

Week 3, 41 k, four runs, including 16k-long run

Week 4, goal 50 k, run 5 times, get in 18k-long run.

Weight – 188 last week; 189 this week (too many of those tasty Tims’ cinnamon rolls this week as well as Pizza two nights for supper)

Shooting for 3:59:59

Moncton run 061

As I mentioned earlier today, there are always a lot of questions regarding goal times for big races and those standards, I have found, become deep secrets for many runners. It is quite understandable why this is the case.

PHOTO above: That’s me, yellow shirt, left, crossing the finish line at the Legs for Literacy Marathon last year with my daughters (pink and blue jackets). The chip time in my first marathon was 4:13:13. (April Cunningham photo)

First, there are a host of external concerns that are totally out of control – weather, wind, temperatures, a slightly long course, hills you did not count on seeing when you registered and others aspects that can add to your anticipated goal.

Second, and probably just as telling, is the impact of training. Did you get out enough times per week? Have you racked up enough distance in your preparation? Are you running easy courses (i.e. no hills) in training? Will you go out too fast in the first kilometre and not run the smart race? Was your goal time in training too ambitious? Did you eat properly? How is your weight? Were you sick or injured recently? Did you sleep enough?

As you can see, it is quite easy for doubts to creep in before the horn sounds.

So there are a number of reasons why many, including me, are reluctant to ‘broadcast’ anticipated times prior to the big event. Finishing healthy is a good response to goal queries, with a smile of course. And then there are the accountability questions no one really wants after a long run if you come up short, in what is a recreational setting. Generally  though, I have been too conservative in my quiet goal setting, thinking there is no way I’d do better than X:XX:XX, only to surprise myself with a great result. The best example of this was the Fredericton half in 2012, when I hit 1:42:53 on the flat and fast course on a nice and cool morning when I was not too certain my training regiment was up to par after a long winter.It was a PB by almost 5 mins.

But last year, when I went to run in Moncton, after a subsequently tough 1:52:53 half marathon clocking in the humidity and hills of Saint John, I really did not have a firm marathon goal. I was thinking anywhere from 3:50-4:30. Would I even finish? Had I not hit the wall because a number of poor training factors on my part – I might have cracked 4 hours. But lessons, many of them, got registered.

I followed a familiar script in goal setting for that race though. That is, have a lot of mini targets and then, you can adjust based on the external conditions and how you feel. That day, I thought about the absolute best possible result, based on pre-race perceptions. Then the very worst. Then three goals inside of those windows. I did this in my first race about three years ago and most every one since. I just did not say them out loud.

So why all the talk about the final time here in the third week of training for the P.E.I. Marathon, an event that does not kick off until October?

Because, as the Pfitzer training logs say, every training run needs a target based on a final goal pace. Your critical long slow runs clock in 10-20 per cent slower than your anticipated marathon pace. Recovery runs are 15 per cent slower than goal pace. Tempo runs are right at half marathon pace or even 15k pace. Hills are, well, subjects of profanity.

So even before you get going in your first training run, you need that firm target.

Therefore, given last year’s race, my decent base of work in the first quarter of this year, and a manageable 22 weeks of training to get things right, I think I can break four hours. It won’t be easy. First, the goal is about 5.5 per cent faster than my last marathon. That is 13 minutes, 14 seconds faster. It will take a big improvement in a  number of areas and training in that summer heat. But I am ready for that. It will also take regular hills and tempo runs. Ready for that – I hope. And just to make sure, I am training for a 3:55 marathon. That puts me at about a goal pace of  5:35 per kilometre. 4 hours is 5:41.

So there it is. Fingers crossed.

P.E.I. Marathon


I have put in lots of running already this year, although a recent trip to Florida and a week-long bout of the flu earlier this month have derailed the running totals the past four weeks. But I hope to knock off a major item on my to do list this year by running the 2013 P.E.I. Marathon.

The event takes place October 20 and is one my brother Kent has tackled numerous times, including 2012, when he successfully cracked the four-hour barrier. Last year, I completed my first marathon, an equally exhilarating and exhausting run at the 2012 Legs for Literacy.

I did that in relative silence but this time, I wanted to provide weekly updates, more as a log for myself. If you want to follow along, great. Looking forward to the process.

– Kevin