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13 weeks to go until the Cayman Islands Marathon! Another solid week of training is in the books. I’ve had an overwhelming request for detail of my training schedule (okay, so three people asked) so I’ll post some specifics.
There are a lot of different training plans and philosophies out there. You can find them online, on running websites, from professional coaches and in books. They range in mileage, experience level, number of days running per week, etc. I have a lot of friends who have run a lot of marathons and one thing I think we would all agree on is that there’s no one “right” plan out there. Different things work for different people and ultimately we’re all an experiment of one.
I make my own training schedule based on what I’ve read, what I’ve seen others have success with and lessons learned from previous training cycles. Remember again that this is what works for ME. When I ran my first few marathons, I wasn’t running as many days a week or nearly as many miles. It’s what I’ve built up to over time. There are people who run similar times to mine who do more, and there are those who do less. It’s all about figuring out what works for you, which is why marathons can become so addicting! After each training cycle, there’s always thoughts of what you could tweak or change to do better.
What I do isn’t anything earth shattering. I typically do two hard runs a week, one long run and then rest is easy/recovery mileage that adds miles to the mileage bank. Every run has a purpose and contributes to what will happen on race day. So, here we go!
Monday (EASY RUN) – 8-10 easy miles, followed by 10 strides. Strides are basically 100m or so pick-ups/sprints that help improve running economy. The point is to run at a quick pace (almost full out but not quite), accelerating over the first 30m and then gliding through the final 70m while focusing on good form – shoulders back and arms pumping, gets your knees up, etc. Strides also help keep your legs feeling fresh by getting some good speed and turnover in them. Strides are NOT speedwork or interval training. They are short enough that you don’t a recovery day from them and your legs should feel better after you’re finished. I do my strides in the parking lot after my run. I’ll “stride” from one end to the other, which I’ve measure to be approximately 100m, and then I walk back to the start and begin again immediately. Some people like to jog back, some people like to do these over the last mile or two of their run. Like most things running related, there is no “right” way.
Tuesday (HARD RUN #1: INTERVALS) – 9-11 miles that’s structured as 2-3 miles warm up at an easy pace, 3-6 miles of intervals & recovery jogs and 2-3 miles of cool down at an easy pace. For marathon training purposes, intervals are typically done at 5k pace. The recovery jogs are done at a slow enough pace so you have time to recover, but don’t slack off. Some examples of interval workouts are:
a) 12 x 400m with 400m jog recoveries
b) 6 – 10 x 800m with 400m jog recoveries
c) 5-6 x 1000m with 400m jog recoveries
d) 4-5 x 1200m with 3 minute jog recoveries
e) 3-4 x 1600m with 4 minute jog recoveries
f) 200m (200m recovery), 400m (400m recovery), 800m (400m recovery), 1000m (400m recovery) and then reverse back down (this type of workout is commonly referred to as a “ladder” since you go up in distance and then back down)
Wednesday (RECOVERY DAY DOUBLE) – 6 to 8 miles at recovery pace in the a.m. Then 6 to 8 miles at recovery pace either at lunch or after work. The purpose of recovery runs is to RECOVER. Check your ego at the door and keep the pace slow. My recovery runs are a good two minutes per mile slower than marathon pace. I think the rule of thumb is 90 seconds but running recovery runs slower than that isn’t going to make you slow. Running them too fast, however, can leave you feeling too tired for your next hard run.
Thursday (HARD RUN #2: TEMPO RUN) – Similar to Tuesday’s run, this run is structured as: warm up, hard run, cool down. I like to combine my tempo runs with a medium-long run so they are typically 12-15 miles in total with 4-8 miles of hard effort. The term “tempo run” can mean a lot of things. When I say it, I’m referring to a pace approximately 20 seconds per mile faster than marathon pace, or somewhere between 10k pace and half-marathon pace. A couple examples of tempo runs are:
a) 4 miles warm up, 5 miles tempo, 4 miles cool down
b) 3 miles warm up, 3 x 2 miles tempo (or 2 x 3 miles tempo, or 2 x 4 miles tempo) with 400m recovery jogs between sets, 3 miles cool down
c) 2-3 miles warm up, 6-8 x 1 mile tempo with 1 min recoveries, 2-3 miles cool down
Friday (RECOVERY RUN) – 6-8 miles at recovery pace.
Saturday (LONG RUN) – Ah, the long run. I love long runs...especially when they’re done! I usually run 18-23 miles for my long runs. Remember to keep the pace about 1 minute per mile SLOWER than what your marathon pace will be. If you hammer out your long runs too fast, you’ll eventually end up either injured, completely drained, or both. As runners, it’s hard to wrap our head around this but after months of putting in appropriate mileage and hard runs we WILL be prepared and ready to run 26.2 miles at race pace. Especially after a proper taper (more about tapering in a post closer to race week).
Sunday (EASY RUN) – 8-10 miles at an easy pace. A quick word about easy runs - easy runs are not junk mileage. These runs have just as much of a purpose as long runs and hard runs. Easy runs help build your aerobic base, which over time, will always make you a better runner. There’s a reason elite athletes run 120-140 miles per week.
So, that’s what I do, in a nutshell. Since I make my own plan, I’m always switching things up depending on life and what my body is telling me. For example, I braved the ocean and participated in 2 of the 3 Stroke & Stride races during August. Since those were Wednesday nights, it would have been too much to do a tempo run the next morning, so I did an easy run instead and moved the tempo run to Friday. Don’t be afraid to move things around if it works better for you. I also don’t run 7 days a week, every week. During the spring and beginning of summer when I wasn’t training for anything I took at least one rest day a week. Now I’ll take one every few weeks or so when my body tells me it needs it.
Here’s this week’s food for thought from the fantastic Facebook page “I <3 to run”: “No matter how slow you go, you’re still lapping everybody on the couch”.
Until next week, see you on the streets!