As we move into 2018 I am, as I have been for several years, focussing on a major race in early April.  This year it will again be the Paris Marathon, the venue for my current marathon PB of 2:48.  It is also where I broke the 3 hour barrier for the first time and one of my favourite places.  I am as ever motivated by trying to get faster and achieve a personal best, but I am more focussed than ever on enjoying the experience.  I want training to be fun.  Mileage is important but it is not the be all and end all for me.  Yes the elites run well in excess of 100 miles a week and there is no doubt it is a vital part of training.  But keen amateurs like myself, with very different daily lifestyles and support networks need to plan training carefully to maximise potential and performance.

With this in mind I have five immediate training priorities.  It will not include any form of focus on accumulating a specific number of miles completed each week.

ONE LONG WEEKLY RUN – a Sunday is the day I have ear marked for my long run.  It is absolutely necessary if I am to succeed in the marathon to develop my endurance.  Nothing does this like the long weekly run.  Every Sunday will involve a run of 10 miles plus, often pushing up significantly beyond this distance.  Nothing conditions you for the marathon like training sessions pushing you past the 20 mile mark.  If I am to last the distance and maintain pace – it has to happen.  My PB included a total of 5 runs in excess of 20 miles during the 16 week build up.

WEEKLY TEMPO RUNNING – I always feel very pleased with myself after a tempo run.  The answer for this is because I tend to find it a genuinely brutal experience.  Running quickly for sustained periods is not easy and pushes you to the max.  Unlike race day the vast majority of these runs are done on tired legs with the accumulating fatigue of a training programme making it difficult to run as fast as you would like to with ease.  Unlike race day after a thorough taper, you need to dig deep into your reserves and summon up as much will power as possible to maximise the quality of these sessions.  My intended race pace is 3:53 per kilometre to get to the Avenue Foch comfortably under the 2 hour and 45 mark is not easy and will require practice.  Knowing I can do it in training will have a positive effect on my confidence levels heading to Paris.  The only time that I will break from the tempo run is when it is incorporated into the long run.  For example running the second half of a 20 mile run at race pace.  Perhaps the ultimate performance builder and one of the toughest parts of training.

TUESDAY INTERVALS – another hard session but for me, much easier, at least in terms of motivation than the tempo.  This is because the period of effort, although intense, is over far quicker.  I know that rest is just around the corner.  I am not a robot and have already admitted I find tempo runs hard to go all in.  But the challenge of intervals and the feeling you get after a session like this is amazing.  The other thing is it gets results!  With my marathon pace being just under 4 minute kilometres, I design interval sessions to go much quicker for shorter periods, developing speed, and in time making race pace seem like you are only gently putting your foot on the throttle.

Some of my favourite sessions include (all with different rest periods):

And this is where the compulsory running sessions stop.  Yes, there are likely to be others.  Maybe even three more runs but I am not going to force it if I am not feeling it.  Any other runs will be done at recovery pace with no set mileage.  The more experience I have gained, the less value I see in simply pounding out miles to satisfy my ego.  All of the runs mentioned above have a reason – and will be completed!

So on to the final two training priorities…

CORE AND MOBILITY – I know I feel and run better when I have good core strength and keep myself mobile.  I have a routine that takes 10 – 20 minutes and can be done pretty much anywhere.  And yet it is something I have consistently neglected over the past year.  Maintaining good core strength and completing a full body mobility routine will help me manage the aches and pains, and play a huge part in keeping me fit and healthy.  I am going to include some functional deadlifting in this to stabilise the core and lower back.  With only 30kgs on the bar, the majority of the rugby players I coach would laugh at me, and it is certainly not hugely fatiguing.  But it is incredibly effective.

Hit this link to see an example of my short but effective mobility routine.

What are your goals?  What is your focus?  What are the sessions needed to get you the finish line?  Give it some thought.  Write them down.  And commit!