Runners’ Obsessions Part 3 (cont.): Training for the 1984 Olympic marathon trials

Lizanne Bussieres (from Montreal but not running as part of the Canadian team), Silvia Ruegger, me, Anne Marie Malone and Jacqueline Gareau at the World 10K Road Race Championship, 1983.

Lizanne Bussieres (from Montreal but not running as part of the Canadian team), Silvia Ruegger, me, Anne Marie Malone and Jacqueline Gareau at the World 10K Road Race Championship, 1983.

My immediate recovery from the Toronto Marathon was pretty good. I had no injury issues and was back to hard training in a couple of weeks. I do remember that I felt tired and performed at a slightly sub-par level in cross country races during October and November.

I had trained so hard during 1983, yet my weekly mileage (including frequent racing) was typically between 45 and 60. I puzzled over how I could change my training to be prepared for a marathon without compromising the high-quality fast running that was responsible for my improvement to world-class level in 1983. From everything I read, the top female marathoners covered 80 to 120 miles per week (or more!) in training. How could I do this, when 50 miles a week usually left me completely exhausted?

I discussed this quandary with George.  He believed that distance-appropriate speedwork was the critical factor for success at any distance. I wanted to keep racing internationally in cross country (with the goal of competing at the World Cross Country Championships again in March, 1984)—and that meant doing the anaerobic training required for a rough 5K. I also wanted to compete in the World 10K Road Race Championships for Women in December as well as some other top American road races in the spring of 1984. Both George and I were convinced that if I reduced my speedwork and hard tempo sessions, I wouldn’t run as fast over the shorter distances.

George was an excellent coach for athletes competing at any distance from the sprints up to the 10,000m, but he had little experience or interest in the marathon. I didn’t think he understood that adding 40 miles or so of distance running to what I was already doing seemed impossible to me, given the fatigue that my speed workouts produced. What neither of us were taking into account was that world-class marathoners who were training those 100+ miles a week didn’t do the kind of speed workouts I was intent on continuing.

I worked out a program for myself. The only compromise I would make to my speed training would be to reduce it from three workouts to two workouts a week during non-racing weeks. I would continue to do my two all-out 4- or 5-mile “tempo” runs every week in addition to my two track workouts. With the marathon in mind, I would do a hilly 15-miler on Saturdays instead of a track workout, and I would cover 20 miles at close to 6-minute mile pace on Sundays.

This gave me a weekly training program that followed this basic pattern:

Monday 8 miles easy. Weights one hour.
Tuesday 4 miles at close to 10K race pace. 5–6 mile warmup at moderate-to-fast pace. Track workout.
Wednesday 8 miles easy. Weights one hour.
Thursday 5 miles at close to 10K race pace. Optional.
Friday Easy warmup. Track workout. Weights one hour or swimming 40 minutes.
Saturday 15-mile hilly route at close to marathon race pace.
Sunday Long run working up to 20+ miles at just over 6:00/mile.

I seldom followed this plan exactly. I competed frequently on weekends, and throughout the winter there was bad weather to contend with. But during the winter and spring of 1983–84, I worked as closely as I could to this punishing schedule. I did most track workouts with other people in my track club, and often had company on my Sunday runs. Sometimes several teammates would take turns running with me on Sundays. Anne Marie Malone and I often did the long runs together–we were very compatible over long distances, though I had an edge on Anne Marie when she trained on the track with us.

A bad photo of Anne Marie Malone, Silvia Ruegger and George Gluppe in San Diego.

A bad photo of Anne Marie Malone, Silvia Ruegger and George Gluppe in San Diego.

In early December, Anne Marie, Silvia Ruegger,  and I travelled to San Diego (with George as our team coach). Joined by Jacqueline Gareau, we competed for Canada in the World 10K Road Race Championships. I finished 4th in a time of 32:57, behind Wendy Sly and Betty Springs (tied for first at 32:23) and Lesley Welch at 32:41. Silvia placed 7th in 33:06 and Anne Marie placed 13th in 33:38.

finish line of 1983 Road Race Championships in San Diego

Finishing the 10K at the World Road Race Championship in San Diego. Clipping from Athletics magazine.

Anne Marie, Silvia, and I were teammates on that occasion, but we all had the same goal for 1984—to be selected to run the Olympic Marathon in Los Angeles. It wasn’t possible for all three of us to make it. Jacqueline Gareau, by far Canada’s superior female marathoner up to 1983, had been preselected and was guaranteed one of the three spots on the team.

Jacqueline had been deprived of immediate recognition for her 1980 Boston Marathon victory by the infamous cheater, Rosie Ruiz. She was in her own league in Canadian women’s marathoning, setting a Canadian record of 2:30:58 in Tokyo in 1980. She also ran a great marathon in the Helsinki World Championships in 1983—so who could fault the organizers for preselecting her? How could they guess that three new marathon stars might emerge in 1984? All three of us were faster than Jacqueline. I was faster than both Anne Marie and Silvia over 10K—neither of them ever beat me in a road race at that distance—but they were both strong, determined distance runners, capable of training very hard and tough as nails mentally.

To get a closer look at how hard I was training, I’ve included a week of my training log from shortly before the World Cross Country Championships.

1984 Training Log

March 12, 1984

AM: Ran 58½ min—about 8½ miles. Still very tired from yesterday—ran slowly.

PM: Weights. Did 4 complete sets free weights, 3 sets bounding and short sprints. Hard workout—still tired.

Got Achilles treatment, did exercises.

March 13, 1984

AM: Ran 6 miles at moderate pace—couldn’t run fast because of snowstorm. Stiff from yesterday but felt OK.

PM: York workout. 5½ miles outside—couldn’t run too fast because of snow.


  • 5 min run 1550m
  • 2 sets bounding
  • 5 min run 6.5 laps outside lane
  • 3 sets 15 situps, pushups, hyperextensions, side leg raises
  • 6 x 60m—good speed
  • 4 x 600m. I lap walk between. 1:48, 1:48, 1:46, 1:47. Very tired—hard.
  • Easy warmdown—tough workout! 10 miles.

March 14, 1984

AM: Did a 1 hour run—didn’t feel nearly as depleted as usual on Wednesdays! (because of Chinese pig-out last night?) Slow in paces because of snow. 8 miles. Left knee a little stiff, also some pain & stiffness in right knee outside tendon.

PM: Weights. 4 complete sets Universal and mat exercises. Also did 2 sets heavy bench press (George spotting). Pretty easy workout. Also did Achilles exercises and treatment.

March 15, 1984

AM: Did 14 mile route near old home with Anne Marie. Excellent run—did last 4 miles in 25:34. Total time 1:28:45 even though lost time waiting for lights. Hills killed legs—tied up badly in last 15 min. Knee not bad. Recovered well after run.

PM: Did 21 min on stationary bike—2 min easy/2 min hard intervals. Didn’t push too hard—legs very tired. Knee hurt after—bike not good for it.

March 16, 1984

AM: Did York workout. 6 miles outside—moderate pace. Pushed quite hard but was horrible out—cold rain.


  • 4 x 50m strides
  • 4 x 1000m with 90 sec. break. 3:18, 3:11, 3:06, 3:07.
  • 6 x 60m sprints
  • 6 x 400m with 1 min break. 69, 71, 70, 70, 71, 69.
  • Easy warmdown. 11 miles. Felt exhausted after this workout. Knee not bad. Did Achilles exercises and treatment.

March 17, 1984

AM: Ran 5 miles easy near house. Pace very slow—had no zip at all. Knee better!

March 18, 1984

Did 2hr 10min run in Sunnybrook area. Part with Andrew Mitchell, part with George Jennings, part by myself. Run hard psychologically, good physically—I was strong at the end. 20 miles.

This week: 82½ miles, 2 weight workouts, ½ bike workout

It wasn’t as though I was backing off the races to be able to train this way, as the list below demonstrates.

February/March Races:

  • February 4: Canadian team cross country trials in Victoria 1st 16:27 4,940m.
  • February 11: Gasparilla 15K, Tampa. 3rd 49:56.
  • March 3: Continental Homes 10K (Phoenix) 1st 32:14
  • March 25: World Cross Country Championships, Meadowlands, New Jersey 33rd 16:50 (Lynn Williams, 19 seconds ahead of me, placed 18th.)

As my training log demonstrates, though, I was physically right on the edge. I was constantly noting my knee, hip, and Achilles tendon pains. I was frequently exhausted. I often caught colds that lasted for over a week, as I tried to train and race right through them.

Only six days after the World Cross Country Championships loomed another significant race. This was the famed Round the Bay 30K in Hamilton, billed as the oldest race in North America, with its first edition run in 1894. I had never even raced as far as a half marathon, but this 30K, close to home, seemed an ideal “prep” race for the marathon trials coming up six weeks later in Ottawa. Anne Marie and I were both racing: now we would find out if she could beat me over a long distance despite my superior speed.

She trashed me. Anne Marie won the race in 1:46:15, setting a course record that stood for decades, and leaving me in her dust at 1:48:56. Kate Wiley was third in 1:49:28.

After the race, I was sore and discouraged. I thought briefly about trying to make the standard in the 3,000m after all. But it was really too late to switch direction like that, and I had put so much effort into training for a marathon. George reassured me that I would run much better with proper rest. It was true that I’d never been so tired going into a race. I’d known from the very first mile of the 30K that I was running on an empty tank. And my feet had hurt badly again, from about 17K on, even though I was wearing a larger pair of shoes.

Soon the post-race euphoria kicked in and I started to feel much more optimistic. Another reason for my euphoria had to do with meeting my co-marathoner from Toronto, Paul Tinari, after the 30K. He was very happy, having run well ahead of Anne Marie (and me) for his best 30K ever. His 1:39 time boded well for his upcoming Boston Marathon. I remember we sat on a curb in the early spring sunshine after the race, talking of running and everything else for a long time. I was oblivious now to my pain or the crowds of exhausted runners milling around us.

(Paul went back to Kingston, where he was doing a masters degree in engineering, but that day marked the beginning of our relationship. We started going out when he returned to Toronto in July.)

Only eight days after Round the Bay, Anne Marie and I raced again, this time in the US 10K Road Championships in Albany, New York. I was third in 32:58, with Anne Marie 6th in 33:36 and Sue Lee (who would try for a 3,000m spot on the Olympic team) 9th in 33:43.

That race restored my confidence somewhat. Now it was time for the final push to the Olympic trials marathon.

To be continued…

About nancytinarirunswrites

I used to be known as a competitive runner, but now I have a new life as a professional writer and editor. I'm even more obsessive about reading, writing, and editing than I was about running. Running has had a huge influence on my life, though, and runner's high does fuel creativity. Maybe that's why this blog evolved into being 95% about running, but through blogging I'm also learning about writing and online communication. I'm fascinated by how the Internet has changed work, learning, and relationships. I love to connect in new and random ways!
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1 Response to Runners’ Obsessions Part 3 (cont.): Training for the 1984 Olympic marathon trials

  1. Pingback: Runners’ obsessions part three (cont.): an Olympic-sized disappointment | NancyRuns&Writes

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