5 pragmatic training tips for running a better and faster marathon

Right now the hottest it is getting in London is 2 degrees.  And it is blowing a wind that cuts through your bones like an icy knife of death.  Running is still possible, and in the sun it is still lovely, but right now I want to extract maximum value from my training!  Here are some tips to really make the best use of the time you put in.

1. Run as many 20 mile + runs as you can

Yes, this is the one you were hoping I wouldn’t suggest.  Seriously, you want to try and run as many of these as you can.  Personally, I’m sticking by the old rule of “your longest 5 runs should add up to 100 miles”.  This means I will be doing five 20 milers.  In fact if you look at my Van Damme-inspired No Retreat No Surrender Training Plan you will see that by race day I will have run:

  • 5 x 20 milers (including racing one 20 miler)
  • 3 x 17-18 milers
  • 4 x 16 milers (including 2 with majority race pace)
  • 2 x 14 milers (including 1 at majority race pace)
  • 9 x 12-13.1 milers (including racing a half marathon)

You won't be so much "out of breath", but so deeply exhausted to the very core of your very being that all you want to do is crawl into a corner and die.


“That seems a little over the top?” – I hear you think.  Maybe.  But I’m training to run for over 3 hours here.  This isn’t a local 10km jaunt.  And the hardest part of running a marathon is the last 6 miles.  In fact, they often say it is a race of two halves: 20 miles and 6.2 miles.  So what better way to prepare for the way you are going to feel after 20 miles than to run for 20 miles?  And you’ll find it is a very different tired to the one you feel doing 10km.  You won’t be so much “out of breath”, but so deeply exhausted to the very core of your very being that all you want to do is crawl into a corner and die.  And you need to train to get used to that!

 

 

 

2. Use your 20-milers as “race rehearsals”

Eat what you are going to eat the night before the marathon. Sleep like you are going to sleep the night before the marathon.  Eat what you are planning to eat in the morning of the marathon.  Wear what you were planning to wear on marathon day.  Eat the exact gels you plan to eat in the exact order and timings that you planned to eat them.  And if something goes horribly wrong like:

  • “This new Nike top makes my nipples bleed like some kind of Lady Gaga stage show!”
  • “These new Asics leggings chafe like sandpaper…”
  • “These energy gels make me spontaneously vomit!”
  • “Eating baked beans before a marathon is not cool for me or the people around me!”
then it happened in rehearsal. And if you have a learning curve, it won’t happen in the race. You’ll have dodged a bullet.

 

3. Mix it up!

If there is one aspect of training Sir Mix-alot really understands, it is the need to mix it up.

If you have the capacity to do three 30-60 minute runs during the week, don’t do 3 x 45 minute runs at exactly the same pace.  It is far better to do:

  • One 30-minute “eyeballs out” tempo run
  • One super slow 45 minute recovery run
  • One 400m interval session followed by a warmdown jog
This kind of training workout will:
whereas running the same way for 3 sessions in a row will just improve your fitness a little.  But you can get more than that from your training.

 

4. Run lactate threshold runs

If you are 10-12 weeks away from your marathon then I can’t say this enough: Run some lactate threshold runs.  I want everyone to do this routine over the next 5 weeks:

  • Take your half marathon race personal best per-mile pace (mine is 6:46)
  • Take your 10km race personal best per-mile pace (mine is 6:29)
  • Get an average of the two (mine is 6:38)
  • Week 1 – Run 8 miles in total with 4 miles at this pace
  • Week 2 – Run 8 miles in total with 5 miles at this pace
  • Week 3 – Run 8 miles in total with 5 miles at slightly quicker than this pace
  • Week 4 – Run 9 miles in total with 5 miles at slightly quicker than this pace
  • Week 5 – Run 10 miles in total with 6 miles at slightly quicker than this pace

Yes it will hurt. In fact you can tell when you have dropped the pace because it will stop hurting. But there is a good side: you will turn into a running monster. You will be strong as an ox, and you will in all probability run a much quicker marathon.

What's that coming over the hill? It's a monster! It's the new you!

 

5. If you feel good – run until your eyeballs pop out!

If you think “I’m pummelling this poxy training session, and nailing all my target times?” : that’s great! Now why not run it a bit harder?  If you are feeling awesome, feel free to “abandon the script” and run until your eyeballs almost pop out.  What doesn’t kill you….

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