Running in the 'Meda: Training for Bay to Breakers

Running in the 'Meda: Training for Bay to Breakers

Marty Beene

Today marks just over six weeks until one of my favorite races: Bay to Breakers, which is on May 17. Last year, I wrote a couple of blog posts about it, but was a bit too late to offer much advice for training for it. This year, I want to change that by starting now.

If you're a beginning runner, you still have time to get fit enough to complete this 12k (7.45 mile) race. You could start this Monday by working out three to four times per week, about 30 to 45 minutes each time.

Ideally, you would start by mostly walking (briskly, not doing the "teenager walk"), but adding in some jogging. A typical beginner running workout would be to walk for five minutes, jog for one minute, and repeat that several times. By the weekend, you could try to jog for one continuous mile as part of that workout. The next week, you could slightly increase the amount of jogging in your workouts during the week, then jog for two continuous miles on the weekend.

Each week, try to increase that longest continuous run by one mile. By the time B2B arrives, you might be able to run the entire distance without stopping.

If that plan seems overwhelming, you could also simply keep a healthy ratio of brisk walking in your routine, and just plan to walk for some portion of the actual race.

For runners at an "advanced beginner" level - perhaps those who already run, but not that far - you should easily be able to master the 12k distance if you start increasing your longest run of the week right away. Say you typically run three miles. Increasing your run to four miles, then five miles, then six miles over the next three weeks should be very doable. If you can comfortably complete a six-miler already, you will have no trouble running the entire race.

"Intermediate" or "advanced" runners are those who already run as far as seven or eight miles on a regular basis. These runners are likely intending to attempt to run a "fast" time, perhaps even a personal best for this distance. There are two key components for achieving this: speed endurance and leg speed.

The "speed endurance" I'm talking about here is for distance runners, not long sprinters (i.e., 400-meter specialists). The best way to improve in this area is by doing increasingly long tempo runs at goal pace or near-goal pace. By two weeks prior to the race, you should be able to do a four-mile tempo run pretty close to that goal pace.

But part of the B2B course is downhill and demands some very fast running to make up for the slower parts of the course (the Hayes Street hill and the uphill section along the Golden Gate Park panhandle). For this, I recommend adding a set of brisk strides at the end of every workout (very shortly after finishing the main workout). Doing these when you are relatively fatigued and focusing on maintaining your best possible running form will train you to maintain that form during miles five, six, and seven of the race. The strides should emphasize quick leg turnover, and should be about 50 to 75 meters long.

Are you running the B2B? What is your goal?

Marty Beene, a USA Track & Field certified coach, is owner of Be The Runner; he coaches adults from beginners to veterans individually and in groups, and registration for his Mountain Running Retreat in June is now live - visit his website for more information. Marty, who is shooting for a sub-52:00 time in B2B this year, can be reached at