I think my usual methods of training for a marathon are quite normal. They are not ground breaking. They are not new. They are tried and tested methods that I have picked up from reading books, talking to others, listening to experts, going on coaching courses and experimenting with what works for me. How your body responds is very individual and is something I think we are always learning about. As I get older I am definitely still improving my knowledge, but I also think I am better at reflecting on what I have done in my race preparation. I am proud of what I have achieved in the marathon and the half marathon, but I know I can do things better and still get faster.
So this article is about four keys things that I think I can do better in this marathon cycle to help me get faster. If it is not mentioned here, it does not mean it is not important – this is not a complete list of what encompasses my training.
This is somewhat of a constant area of development. I am convinced my knowledge and technique have improved significantly since 2016. I haven’t had a marathon PB since then, but in 2018 I twice ran 1:16 and a few seconds in the half marathon. I have also gone below 3 hours in the marathon in all my races since technique became a greater area of focus. I really like Brian Smith’s ebook “Running Technique” and would encourage you to check it out. I am trying to achieve a consistent “Preparation Phase” as he calls it, with an upright torso, leading thigh in front of the body with the ankle underneath the leading knee, and a flexed position at the hip, knee and ankle. This is the position just before you hit the ground or what he refers to as “Contact.” From here you can begin the hip extension process before you contact the ground to help propel you forward. Strong glutes and hamstrings are vital to generate this movement – a movement I practice in technique sessions but also something I am working hard in the gym to achieve.
RUNNING SPEED AND RUNNING STRENGTH
Mileage is important and the long runs are vital. I know I need to get these done. But a key focus is making race pace very comfortable. The NN Running have Tweeted about the need to “make your race pace feel comfortable.” This means regular tempo work at distance so that you know you can do it. This is something I have not done enough of. So this is the “Running Strength” element. A weekly session with prolonged race pace tempo building up to at least 10 miles of continuous tempo. In my experience no easy feet with the cumulative fatigue of marathon training. The other session that I will use for running strength is 2-3 mile race pace rep sessions, interspersed with 1K recovery sections. I hope to build up to 4 x 3mile race pace intervals.
In the early stages of the programme I will also do “Running Speed” Sessions with sessions including reps of 400m to flat out 5Ks where I will be running significantly faster than my target 3:53/km pace. If you can run fast, it makes marathon pace seem quite easy – or that is the plan. Basically, I do not want my marathon pace to be anywhere need the top of my range.
Get fast and get strong to make race pace easy. I want to go into the Yorkshire Marathon knowing I can do it!
GYM – STRENGTH MAINTENANCE
If you have followed my Instagram (jimmy_loves_running) you will know that I am a big believer that weight training, and specifically low rep high weight strength training are a key part of elite training programmes. After the London Marathon in April I did a heavy block of strength training while my mileage was relatively low in May and June. I made some significant gains without a huge amount of bulking up. Now I have become stronger I want to keep it, but I know I can’t perform lifting sessions of that nature three times a week and it not impact my running. It would leave me sore and tired. But research suggest that two sessions a week lifting around 60% of your 1RM is enough to maintain most of the progress you have made, without leaving you sore and impacting your running. So two sessions a week it is with 3 sets of 4 reps per exercise. Squats, straight leg deadlifts, core work and a bit of upper body (one push, one pull and one shoulder exercise) will form the basis of these workouts putting my muscles through a full range of motion. It will also help combat the muscular atrophy (break down) that comes from hours and hours of endurance training.
I eat pretty well most of the time. I don’t drink a huge amount of alcohol and I track my calories. I am susceptible to the odd ice cream (far more than normal in the summer holidays) and can treat myself to a take away. But the simple facts are that weight counts when it comes to being efficient over long distances. That said I am not a typical long distance runner build and I am not obsessed about my weight. I am more concerned about having a good body composition than my actual weight.
However, what I am eating, timing of my main meals and what I snack on have become far more of a focus. A couple of weeks in and I don’t feel like I am denying myself much. I like the food I eat but I am giving more consideration to what is on the plate (macros) and how often I snack to prevent the urge to binge. I am definitely not starving myself! Here is a link to a great article that made me consider things more closely – “How to Get Lean, Simplified.”
Will all of this work? I hope so. Some hard training weeks lie ahead. Then the big one with the Yorkshire Marathon 2019 in October.