It could be an epic final season -- and calendar year -- ahead for Brayden Marshall, the high school senior from Winfield High School in West Virginia. The Big Ice Track Club co-founder is coming off a junior campaign where he won his second straight West Virginia Class 2A state cross country title, qualified for Champs Sports Nationals and then went on to set PRs in every outdoor distance he competed in this past spring, including performances of 4:13.82 in the 1,600m and 8:56.62 in the 3,200m. He went on to claim the distance double outdoors in the 1,600m and 3,200m. Now all that's left is his senior season, which Marshall hopes to capitalize on. He's tracking four weeks of preseason training for MileSplit in August and September. We hope you enjoy. You can follow Brayden on Instagram @braydencmarshall.
Everyone, there are a few things I want to talk about before disclosing some of my training to you.
First, know that no one training plan is going to work for everyone. Just because it works for me doesn't necessarily mean it's going to work for you. The wonderful thing about running is there's multiple ways to accomplish the same thing, so try different training methods until you find one that works for you.
That's what I've done over the past several years. I've optimized my training to a point where I'm very confident in it, though I'm sure in the coming years there are things I'll have to change to improve myself further. Thats what I love about running. You're constantly progressing in terms of fitness and strength, as well as your knowledge of the sport.
Second, I'd like to let everyone know that this is not where I started my training. What I'm doing now is the culmination of over six years of hard work and dedication to the sport. I have slowly increased my mileage and intensity each year to be where I am now. I largely attribute my success to this progression because it has allowed me to train healthily and consistently while avoiding injury and burnout for most of my high school career.
With all that said, let's get into week two of my training blog.
Monday August 14: 9 Miles
We started off the week with a good workout since our team has our first meet on Saturday. Everyone seemed a little sleepy this morning, indicated by the lack of small talk before practice began. The energy picked up, though, as we went through our typical warm-up and people began to wake up a little bit more.
We start all of our practices with a short warm-up of around half a mile followed by team dynamics. This really gets us loosened up and brings our heart rates up to get us ready for a good run while also promoting good form.
Once we finished warming up, we began our workout. Today we practiced at Ridenour Lake, which is surrounded on one side by nice gravel and bike trails with some good incline and on the other by huge grass dams that make for brutal hill repeats. We were spared from those today, though, as we were doing a fartlek with hills mixed in between. We had 10x 30 seconds on, with 90 seconds off. Doing bursts like this is great for strength building as well as speed development and having intervals of quick and slow running helps train different areas of the body -- more than usual -- since you do not settle into one specific training zone over the run. The workout was not as easy as it appeared on paper, though, because doing these bursts on hills, different surfaces (gravel, grass, trail, asphalt) kept us on our toes the entire time and made sure we were spent by the end of it. Regardless, I felt pretty smooth throughout the workout and added on an extra two reps to the end for a total of 12. I really wanted to get a hard workout in early in the week so I could get recovered prior to our race, so I was looking for reasons to add on (I was in the middle of a lap and told myself I couldn't end the workout until I got back to the start).
After the workout we cooled down and one of my teammates took me back on the trails to see the largest rock I have ever seen in my life (thoughtfully named "Big Rock") and even though he promised me they were flat, they were not. Needless to say, I was worn out by the time I got home from practice, but the pictures we got in the rocks around Big Rock were worth it.
9 miles - 4 mile workout avg - 6:27
5 mile warm-up/cooldown avg - 7:40
Tuesday, August 15: 9 miles
Recovery + Strides
Today's practice was a recovery run from our high school. We had to move practice to noon because of team pictures. We also absolutely lucked out on the weather. Even though it was considerably warmer than our typical morning practice, cloud cover and a cool breeze kept the temperature bearable and the run went smoothly.
Another casualty of having to move practice was my brother and I got there 30 minutes late due to an eye appointment. Because of this, I split my run into six miles before pictures and three miles after pictures. The first six went very well, but the last three felt twice as long and the strides felt like running through quicksand after the hard workout yesterday. When I finished, I was hot, tired and in desperate need of ice cream so we went to meet a few teammates at our local ice cream shop, the Winfield Dairy Freeze.
My frozen treat of choice was the banana split, which strayed from my usual banana milk-shake, but I was feeling ambitious. My choice was correct, though, because that banana split hit the spot and rejuvenated me. Once we got home, it wasn't long before my brother Trace and I headed back to Winfield for some softball practice with our sister. I helped coach practice, then went to play a round of disc golf with some of the boys. I consider myself a fairly serious disc golfer some days, but today was not one of those. After a long day of running, ice cream and softball, the focus was not there and the round turned into just a fun practice round. Needless to say, after all of that, I was worn out and ready for bed.
9 miles - 7:06 average
Wednesday August 16: 13 Miles
Today was the weekly double. I had team practice in the morning and a five mile double in the evening. I make sure to fuel myself properly before all of my morning runs, even when I don't feel hungry (very rare) or am short on time. I like to switch up what I eat occasionally, but typically it is some combination of Eggo waffles, peanut butter, bananas or oatmeal.
Our workout at practice was a 1.5 mile warm-up, five hill sprints on the "Cobb Knob" -- as our legendary coach Shawn Anderson calls it -- and that's a workout consisting of 8x20 seconds on, 100 seconds off. After a full day yesterday and workout Monday, I was expecting the run this morning to be a grind, but it ended up feeling great! True, the first few warm-up miles were brutal and I felt my quads burn on every incline, but the hill sprints really loosened me up and helped freshen my legs up. By the end of the workout, I honestly felt better than in the beginning. I went home and got some core work in before doing some work on Big Ice YouTube videos (you should go watch the Milk Mile vlog btw) and getting ready for my double this evening.
My double was just a 5 mile run on the treadmill. I love being able to just lock into a pace and not have to worry about mentally slowing myself down. A big struggle in my training to date has been slowing my intentional easy runs down, so doing these doubles on the treadmill really helps me keep the pace where I want it without any mental work. That being said, the pace for tonight's run was a "blazing" 8:00 pace lol, so luckily I was able to find a very entertaining YouTube video to put on while I grinded my run out. My legs were super tired at the beginning, which is to be expected after the workout this morning, but as the run went on they felt progressively better and by the end I felt great.
Sadly, today was our last morning practice of the summer, but a silver lining is that I'll get almost 24 hours of recovery before my next run tomorrow. Switching from 8 AM runs to 4 PM runs is a big difference in WV, especially when it comes to temperature and humidity. We luckily only have another month of really hot temperatures before that nice cool fall weather blesses us with its presence.
8 miles - 7:09 avg
5 miles - 8:00 avg
"I consider myself a fairly serious disc golfer some days, but today was not one of those. After a long day of running, ice cream and softball, the focus was not there and the round turned into just a fun practice round. Needless to say, after all of that, I was worn out and ready for bed."
Thursday, August 17: 7 miles
Now is the point in the week where my drop from 70 miles to 65 is noticeable. I purposefully front-loaded the mileage this week in order to get some good workouts in while giving myself room to get some shorter recovery runs in before our first meet this Saturday.
I spent the morning volunteering at the high school, delivering textbooks, paper, poster boards to teachers and was rewarded with a Chick-fil-A biscuit for my efforts (worth it). I was voted the Student Body President for this upcoming school year, so I wanted to start the year off by helping out since I will be missing several days near the beginning of school for college visits and races. After we finished up work, I headed back home for some grub and relaxation before practice.
We got to practice a bit early, so we played a little disc golf -- putting and driving -- and I swear I drilled one like 400 feet, but there's no video so you'll have to trust me. My workout consisted of an easy seven mile run just to get the legs back under me after the workout double yesterday. Again, my legs felt terrible before the run, but by the end felt great. After practice my brother and I grabbed some McDonald's milkshakes because we had a buy-one-get-one-free coupon (they were delectable). Later that evening my mom's college roommate came in to visit so we hung out with her for a while before heading to bed.
7 miles - 7:09 avg
"I consider myself a little bit of a dog whisperer when it comes to running past them, but I did have to turn around a half mile early because one did NOT want me to go past him. That's ok though, I didn't have the energy to fight with this fella just to have to go past him coming back like 10 minutes later. I just repeated a stretch once I got out of Dogland to get to my 15."
Friday, August 18: 5 miles
Today was the eve before Big Ice Track Club's birthday, so I was preparing a lot of stuff in terms of posts, give-aways and other events (by the way, the Big Ice give-away is still live if you're reading this before Aug. 26).
But other than that, I mowed the grass and chill-axed before practice.
We had our first pre-meet practice of the year and everyone was super excited. Nothing too intense in terms of a workout. Most of the team did a 20-minute run and strides, but I had five miles so I went a little longer. I remember these practices being absolutely miserable for me my freshman and sophomore year because I would be so nervous I felt sick.
The thought of my race tomorrow kept me high strung and nervous. I guarantee this has a significant impact on my performance, as the meets I have entered in the past with little-to-no pressure or stress always have always ended up being my best. The biggest thing that has changed for me in the past years has been the way I view racing. The instant I began seeing it as an opportunity to have fun and enjoy myself, I began to improve drastically and my love for the sport grew significantly. It's these small changes that have happened over time that have led me to where I am today.
Once we were finished with practice, people were eager to get home and either rest up or hit the road to get up to the race early. My family decided to drive up tonight so we wouldn't have to wake up at 5 a.m. and drive two hours on the day of the race. We waited to get dinner until we got up to the hotel since we had eaten a late lunch. Our restaurant of choice was the one, the only, OLIVE GARDEN. Pasta is a staple in most distance runner households as the pre-race meal of choice and ours is no exception. My go-to Olive Garden meal is the Tour of Italy; you get a little bit of everything and it's the biggest thing on the menu (don't quote me on that) so it's the obvious choice.
Typically, I make sure to eat all I can get down without making myself sick the night before as I've found that makes race day nutrition much easier. Once we finished dinner I did my typical pre-meet routine of foam rolling and massage gunning before heading to bed.
5 miles - 7:15 avg
Saturday, August 19: 7 Miles
The first race of the season is always chaotic and mine was even more so than most. I have the incredible opportunity to run alongside my freshman brother Trace for my final year of high school and I could not be more excited. Getting to watch him go throughout his race prep for his first high school race was exciting and hilarious for me; I watched this pent-up ball of aggression and nervousness slowly loosen up as our teammates cracked jokes and carried on during our team warm-up. I am so grateful for both of my amazing siblings and being able to race with my brother my final year of high school with our little sister cheering us on is a huge blessing.
I barely remember the morning now, but we started off the day pretty early with a 6:30 a.m. wake-up call. I donned my pre-race attire and headed down toward the hotel breakfast for my modest meal of peanut butter pancakes and a banana. I usually go for Eggo Waffles if I'm at home, but pancakes are my favorite of the two, so I jumped at this opportunity. After breakfast with my brother and a few teammates, we headed over to the course and arrived around 8 a.m. Our race didn't start until 9:40, but having the opportunity to chill for a minute and chat with the team before getting warmed-up always helps keep me calm before a race.
After our warm-up run, some dynamic warm-up drills and strides, we packed our 18-man team 2-by-2 into the starting line of 247 runners. This course was on a high school campus that connected over to a golf course, but the start line was very narrow and dangerously short. It wasn't 100 meters before a 90 degree left turn, which made getting out blistering quick at the start of the race crucial. My legs, tired from a 65 mile week, were NOT big fans of this.
This feeling went away quickly, though, as we were on nice flat grassy stretch soon enough that made running a 4:50 mile pace feel easy. The first mile had some rolling hills, which were also slanted so I'm impressed my ankles held up against them; I made sure to push the pace every time I reached the peak of an incline to keep myself on track for a good time. In West Virginia, especially when you're on the back end of the course with no spectators and nothing but yourself versus the hills, it is easy to fall asleep and slow down without realizing it.
But I passed through the mile mark in 4:47 and was pleased to hear that number, as it was right where I wanted to be in my head. I continued to push the pace for the rest of the race until I heard someone scream out "14:30!" with a little less than 200 meters left in the race. At this moment I gave it all I had to get under that 15 minute mark, and I was relieved to see 14:56 on the clock as I crossed the finish line. This was a huge race for not only myself, but our entire team as we had tons of great performances across the board. The person I was most proud of though, was my younger brother who ran a 16:25, only 5 seconds off my freshman PR in his first ever high school race. We were all super pleased with how the race went, especially for one in mid August, and walking away with the individual and team title was a huge confidence boost for the whole team.
After the race we got to chow down on some homemade Pepperoni Rolls, courtesy of The Station, a restaurant in Saint Mary's, WV. This WV staple is delectable, and if you've never had a Pepperoni Roll you MUST try one immediately.
5K - 14:56
Warm-up - 7:47
Cool down - 8:45 avg.
Sunday August 20: 15 miles
After the race yesterday, today's long run was just about getting the miles in and time on the feet. Even with everything I did yesterday, I felt great and the pace felt really good the entire time. I ran on a little country road that connects to my neighborhood but goes way out -- as far as 11 or 12 miles, in fact.
I had to take a few breaks to walk past dogs, something I'm used to doing. I consider myself a little bit of a dog whisperer when it comes to running past them, but I did have to turn around a half mile early because one did NOT want me to go past him. That's ok though, I didn't have the energy to fight with this fella just to have to go past him coming back like 10 minutes later. I just repeated a stretch once I got out of Dogland to get to my 15.
After my run I got some core in and chilled with my family by the pool for the rest of the day. On days like this, I'm reminded of the difference a positive mindset gives you. I was worn out when I woke up, it took everything I had to roll out of bed and run, but I knew I'd feel good once I started running and that it'd be fine. Like clockwork, once I got a mile in I felt great and was able to get in aaaa great long run. I made sure to take some Cliff Blocks with me because having some gummies to snack on every couple miles always help the mental state.
15 miles - 6:46 avg
This is the first of several training blogs written by various athletes as the 2023 cross country season begins to ramp up. Check out our training blog series page for more content.