What You Need to Know About Setting Huge Personal Records After Age 40 (A Behind-The-Scenes Coaching Call)

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In order to achieve a personal best in the marathon, you need to put in the time and effort, maintain your focus, and find the process enjoyable. Raising the bar further is necessary if you want to shave more than 15 minutes off your PR and still finish the marathon in under three hours.


In this podcast’s case, I’ve had the pleasure of working with our guest for over four years. Master’s runner Thomas Shanabruch came to me as a talented athlete who wanted to challenge himself further without jeopardizing his health.

Although Tom has been running for much of his life, he spent his childhood participating in “all the sports” before heading off to college. After finishing college, he began jogging more frequently and quickly became hooked on the amazing sensation he had immediately following a workout.

Tom didn’t start racing until nearly a decade later. He decided to sign up for the local half marathon after learning that the street he lived on would be blocked for the event. A fire was started despite (or perhaps because of) the agony of losing the race to a kid on the last hill. Tom improved his time to a remarkable 1:23 the next year because to his increased dedication to training.

It was in Tom’s hometown of Chicago that he ran his first marathon in 2010. After getting off to a good start and looking like he would finish in under three hours, he hit the classic “wall” about mile 20 and had to drop out of the race. It wasn’t until 2014, after he’d put in a bit more training time, that he was able to run fast enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

Never again will I have to…”

Though after his first two marathons he swore he “never had to do this again,” Tom eventually gave in to the allure of Boston. He finished the Boston Marathon despite the notoriously difficult course, and went on to set a record for fastest marathon time under three hours.

Tom was always fast, but eventually his times in races stopped improving. His reaching 40 made him realize he needed to step up his efforts to keep jogging. Because of his devotion to the game, maintaining his physical fitness was crucial to him. Initially, Tom hired me as his coach because he needed a personal record (PR) race plan for the 2018 New York City Marathon.

Get out of your safety zone

To reach the next level in your running, you must be open to new challenges. Tom’s new plan called for more running miles and exercises than he’d ever done previously, as well as regular weight training. The benefits were substantial: a personal record by more than six minutes and a race in which I felt consistently powerful throughout.

It will become clear throughout the podcast that Tom has made much more progress in his speed since moving to New York City. There’s a small part of me that’s angry and pleased to boast that he’s beaten my personal record in the marathon.

Tom, what does he believe makes him so successful?

  • Tom ran more miles each week than he ever had previously, giving him a massive aerobic base.
  • Tom was able to handle more work since he had been consistently engaging in strength training programs.

Tom and I talk about the many circumstances that have led to his recent spate of PRs.

  • Carefully planning your exercises and resting time
  • The value of challenging oneself to achieve the impossible
  • To push oneself beyond one’s normal routine, whether in a 5k race or the weight room.
  • A method for consistently including strength training in one’s schedule
  • The significance of attitude, or how seriously to take the training without making it too much of a chore.

Where does Tom go from here? To round off the world’s big marathons, he plans to run Boston and Berlin in 2022. Everyone may take inspiration from Tom’s enthusiasm for running and racing and his dedication to become better, even if they aren’t as quick as he is.

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