Today’s WOD: A Half-Marathon

By Hilary Achauer

In CrossFit, Running

July 13, 2011

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To Anders Varner, a half-marathon as “just another workout.” Hilary Achauer reports.

It came out of his mouth before he thought about what he was saying: “I bet I could run a half marathon using only CrossFit as my training. No running.”

Anders Varner, co-owner of CrossFit PB in San Diego, Calif., was talking to Patrick, a member who regularly runs marathons and triathlons. Anders was describing how the CrossFit philosophy of weightlifting and short, explosive exercises is much better training than going out and logging 10 miles a day, and he got a little carried away. He wasn’t prepared for what Patrick said next.

“You’re on. The Carlsbad Half Marathon, Jan. 23. We’ll do it together.”

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21 Comments on “Today’s WOD: A Half-Marathon”


wrote …

I did my first marathon last year with no training except CrossFit. My longest run prior to the race was 3 miles. Anders is a stud - my pace was way slower, but CF definitely helped me get through.


wrote …

I did my this same thing this past March, but I had been swimming and biking as well. I came out fast too, felt great, and then realized I was only approaching mile 6 and wasn't even halfway there yet!? I finished in 1:53, which isn't a blazing pace but considering I relied on CF for preparation, I thought it was a pretty cool testament to the amazingness that is CF! I had the same flu-like stuff going on for a few days after as well, yuck, but all-in-all it was a great experience =)


wrote …

I've run the Boston Half Marathon twice with nothing aside from the regular WODs at CrossFit Boston. That included running 400m and 800m intervals as part of regular WODs. Nothing longer. Both half marathons were easy, I finished in about 2 hours each time. Both times I ran the final 3 miles faster than the starting 3. No soreness the next day either time. This is way better than when I used to train hard for half-marathons 10 years ago by training 40+ miles a week.


wrote …

I did the same thing this past March for the LA Marathon. I did nothing but my usual crossfit training. I had never ran more than 9 miles prior to the marathon. But my conditioning from crossfit helped me finish the marathon (in the worst weather the LA Marathon has ever seen!). Crossfit will prepare you for anything!


wrote …

I have been running half marathons for some time. My personal best times started when I only used CrossFit as my mode of training. Long gone are the long runs that are just a waste of time and hard on the joints!


wrote …

I have been running half marathons for some time. My personal best times started when I only used CrossFit as my mode of training. Long gone are the long runs that are just a waste of time and hard on the joints!


Jesse Gray wrote …

Why should a 2 hour workout or a 13.1 mile run be an outlier in the context of Crossfit? If Crossfit is truly about "BROAD time and modal domains" shouldn't we venture outside the >30 min. time frame more than just the occasional hero WOD?
I also find fault with anyone saying a 20RM squat is equivalent or greater to the final miles of a serious endurance event. 20 to 30 minutes of constant excruciating pain, running on bleeding, blistered feet, extremem chaffing on every moving body part and constantly cramping muscles is far beyond the short lived misery of a 20RM squat.


wrote …

In response to comment number 7:

You are correct; CrossFit is about increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains. The key words here being - increased work capacity. If you can increase your work capacity in these areas (2 hour workouts and 13.1 mile runs) by training short and intense while still maintaining power, speed, accuracy, strength, agility, balance and coordination, then why wouldn't you embrace it?
You sound to me like someone who is bitter about all of the time you wasted trying to get "fit" by going long and slow.

Bad luck dude.


wrote …

I did that. no running, just CrossFit. Ran a half marathon in 1,44h. :)


wrote …

I trained a client using CrossFit principles, cut her total prep for a half from 45 mi/wk to 9 mi/wk (mostly intervals). Her best time for a 1/2 was 1:47 prior to training, after 5 mo of CF based training and intervals, her last 1/2 was 1:26 and change. As an exercise physiologist, there still has to be some running, but hard and short relative to the event run. Another client that does tris and is prepping for a full marathon later this year runs only 8 mi for her long runs, but they are hard runs and intervals. There is no such thing as a recovery run, long slow distance is for dinosaurs unless your an ultra, then you at least need to get used to time on the trail.


wrote …

If you never experience any fitness challenge beyond a one hour time domain then you are limiting yourself, plain and simple. Long and slow can be a function of every day life, even if it does not produce large output. I wouldn't spend a lot of time training in that range due to the oxidative effect on the body but you need to experience it every now and then. As an Marine, I have seen many a people crushed by long, slow marches under a load. Thumbing your nose at the running community for their lack of fitness variance then never expanding the time domains of your workout beyond an hour is a wee bit hypocritical.


Way to go, to you all - I said this a few months ago, when I tore my bicep - my wife said let's train for a half marathon since I couldn't do pull-ups anymore. I agreed. So I got back into the garage and started doing things like modified murph, michael, squats, CF WOD stuff. I still tell people - I think I could do this - it's the confidence that CF gives you.

Great work to all that have done the HalfMara WOD! Mine time is up in OCT... fearful, hell yes. Hopeful, especially after reading this article and the comments.


wrote …

I wonder what Brian MacKenzie from CrossFit endurance would say about this article? Yes, I agree CrossFit main site programming (or your affiliate to be fair) prepare your body and mind for the unexpected. However, there is something to be said for specializing or adding a bias to your regimen if you are trying to compete at a single sport. With that said, great job on the half. I have been on again, off again fighting with people I work with on this topic; CrossFit can prepare you for any challenge.



wrote …

Great article.

After several marathons and an ultra I got sick of running and found CrossFit this past fall. I started pulling workouts off the main site and going to CrossFit Southie. I dropped my weekly miles from about 60-80 to 10-15. At Boston this spring, I finally broke 3 hours, taking about 6 minutes of my PR. I negative split the race for the first time. One of my fastest miles included heartbreak hill.


wrote …

I was in a similar boat and decided to run a half marathon for the first time in my life. Using a Crossfit as the base 3-4 days a week for my fitness and running one short and one long distance run a week, I was able to break 2 hours on my. It just happened that the CF main site training had a bit of interval work in it during the first part of the year...including some brutal wind sprints a week before the half. I did struggle the last three miles due to the mental aspects, and I tried to "fuel" for the first time in a race (oops) with sugar based crap, but I was able to continue because I was ready for any pain and anguish as a result of matter what was happening in my mind, I could still breathe and no muscle groups were approaching failure.

The most interesting aspect of the run, besides breaking two hours, was my recovery. It was noticeably short and my friends even noticed that I was back within 24-48 problems.


wrote …

I did the same thing last November signing up on a whim last minute with my longest run before that of 7 miles 6 months before the race. Finished just over 1:50 as well. Also, Tim in #11 is dead on. Every once in a while just doing these outside the norm activities can be empowering and should be encouraged to broaden the horizons of what is possible just like we encourage our members to do all the time. That's how we roll at CrossFit Nittany at least :)


wrote …

I agree with comment 7. Whilst the exercises are varied within the WODs, the actual WOD length is highly constant and unvaried. Comment 8 appears a little harsh - every good thing, even crossfit, needs to be open to discussion and criticism, or else it may lose its foundations - original, challenging thoughts on the currently held wisdoms of the day! I would imagine that the basis of broad time and modal domains would and should include longer and shorter workouts.


replied to comment from Mark Myhal

Are there any ultra-marathoners out there who have run a 100 miler/s please chime in? I have no problem believing the CrossFit training is sufficient for "shorter" distances. That said, having run numerous ultras over the years, I will sincerely appreciate hearing of the experience from a few folks who have done 100 miles or more by using CFE. Thanks.


wrote …

The human body should be able to do both syles of training simultaneously. There is Something that long ass runs give U that short intense workouts don't. If you don't believe that then Your fooling yourself. Running is and has always been competitive by nature; hense, we've (human race)evolved to be great long distance runners, because we ran, "competitively"! I appreciate the courage of people experimenting and putting themselves through the challenge of running long distances with a crossfit base only, but let's face it, we are born to run, and from a biological point of view, we all, with in reason of course, at least should be able to run fairly well, in an average capacity, if we're in fairly good shape; we have the genetics for it. So the question is, will crossfit prepare one to be "competitive" at running? I use to work "heavy" construction, and did it for 20 years when I decided to run a half marathon on a challenge put forth to me by a relative. I weighed 205lbs. at 5'8", never did any training at all for 20years other than construction work. I ran it in two hours on a brutely cold and very windy day. Is this a testiment to using construction work as training protocol for running, HELL no! I was an overweight recovered smoker, who yes, did have some physical carryover from the construction work, and I would have invited just about anyone to keep up with me in some of the conditions I worked in; I grew up in the north country, living and working most of the time in lumber camps with my father, so I know what brutal work is, TRUST me! But, the point is, even though I understand pain and intensity, and that type of work, from child hood on, made strong and pretty good anarobically, it would never prepare me to be a competitive runner. My ability to run a half in two hours is mediocre at best, and is a testiment to my being a human being who is able to run on two feet, slowly at least, and able to sweat, nothing more.


wrote …

Also, I would like to say: Crossfit seems to me as more of a philosophy that leads itself to be interpreted into many different protocols, with the goal of always working towards the definition of fitness set forth by G. Glassman. I believe that if one wants to be competent in the metabolic domain of long distant running, then they need to spend time in that domain, just like training on the other end of the metabolic continuum for strength. What Crossfit has changed from the traditional way of trainning, is people's mind set toward fitness and health in general, to be more wholistic and inclusive in our pursuit of fitness and health, and a realization that fitness is a constant and continuous ripple through the whole continuum of work capacity. To focus in only one part or region of the metabolic spectrum leads to a "mutation" in work capacity and thus, fitness in general. The WODS (mostly metcons)seem to be a "glue" that binds the two ends of the metabolic spectrum together, and influences each other, thus transfering and expanding improved capacity to both directions, without negating each other out. The qap between extreme endurence training (ie. long distant running) and power training (power lifting) is too extreme in not only the metabolic pathways, but modality as well, to allow for adequate transferability. Yet, it's seems when they are mixed into the furnace(high intensity) of "WOD training" they temper each other and produce a slightly new and improved element. There still needs to be material to put into the furnace however, whether it's skill aquisition or training in both ends metabolic spectrum.


wrote …

I have ran 2 full marathons (Columbus 2013 and 2014). I kind of trained with running for 2013 despite signing up 5 weeks prior to. 2014, I only did 2 long training runs but had been doing crossfit regularly. I beat the previous year by 20 minutes and felt great throughout the run. Next time I won't do any training but crossfit!

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