5 PIECES OF MARATHON TRAINING ADVICE
As a relative veteran of 10 marathons I can confidently say I have learnt, and without any doubt I am still learning, important lessons on how to get the best out of myself. So what are the five things that I think I have done well in this training block that are putting me in a good place for race day?
- Distance – I have done lots of running. Sounds simple doesn’t it but getting out day after day, week after week, and month after month is a vital part of the process. It takes time to build marathon specific fitness. But the absolutely key thing in terms of distance is the number of long runs in excess of 20 miles that I have completed. I have done three 20 mile runs, one at 21 miles, and finally maxing out at 22 miles. I have also completed at least ten runs from 15 to 19 miles. I have built the endurance. I know I can run for well over 2 hours in training and be pretty comfortable. In all of these runs I have felt like I could easily keep going – a nice feeling when you know you have to go the full 26.2 on race day. As an extra ingredient, all except for the 22 mile run have included long periods of race pace running, mainly in the second half of the run. This has helped me experience what is needed and built confidence that I can do it. If I can do it on tired legs in training – I am as well prepared as I could be to do it on race day. We will find out!
- Speed – After my injury hit attempt at a sub 1:15 half marathon last October, I realised that the training, particularly the speed has put me in a good position to tackle this marathon. I have learned to love the fast sessions, the intervals, the speed, the tempo – and it means that my race pace is now very comfortable. I am capable of running much faster, albeit it for shorter periods, which makes the idea of sustaining my goal racing speed far less daunting. Last year I reached 30k in the London Marathon (2017) at exactly that speed, but knew it was not going to last. I can very confidently say I am in far better shape this time round and can’t wait to test my body. My speed has felt so good in training I have even toyed with the idea of whether I should target a faster time. I have tamed this urge for now with the sub 2:45 being the target. Once that is ticked off, I will set new goals.
- Strength and CORE – major changes here. In the past, perhaps as hangover from my rugby playing days I have enjoyed hitting the gym and lifting. Many marathon coaches advise strength training and so I have persisted with the heavy lifting. However, I seem to have a body type that finds it easy to bulk up and build muscle. Last year in particular I thought I was carrying “none useful upper body muscle” from a marathon perspective. So I have changed my routine and trimmed down. When returning from injury I did do some deadlifting in the gym to build leg strength and help me overcome the injury. But since the turn of the year all of my conditioning has been bodyweight and plyometric based. Squats, lunges, press ups, and back extensions are example exercises. I still feel strong, but I have not got the same sort of bulk. I think a key reason why I am finding it easier to drag myself out for longer runs. Include in that a far more dedicated core routine of planks, side planks, long lever ab exercises and glute bridges and I feel much more stable and able to maintain posture for longer. I can’t quantify the benefit of this yet, but my training runs have felt great, and I personally feel this has played a very important part. Strong without the bulk 🙂
- Mobility – I have followed a pretty much daily routine of mobilising the body. As a result the genuine tightness, the struggling to walk freely first thing in the morning, the ability to go out an run without discomfort has largely been kept at bay. I do tend to stretch a lot, but two focus areas have been keeping my hip flexors nice and mobile, as well as lots of upper thoracic mobility to keep things moving nicely up top. My arm swing is far more efficient as a result and the Garmin tells me I am bouncing less. Great news for a running geek like myself! To sum things up I think it has been a move away from static style stretches to mobility (stretching with movement) that has really made a difference to how I feel.
- Running with Friends – if times are your focus the common theory is you can target two fast marathons a year. Opinions vary and there are some people who amazingly wrack up the marathons in very impressive times. But for me it is four months of preparation and one months recovery as a basic cycle. That means lots of hours out on the road. I have made a real effort to connect more with friends this time round. Steve and I are travelling to Paris together to take on the challenge. We are looking forward to a great weekend. But I have also been able to run more again with Paddy “The Ozzy Rocket” Harrington and Stuart “The Red Fox” McMahon. Great banter every time. It makes running a social time as well as one for hard training miles and tough sessions.