Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Marathon Training

A reader asked me more details about my Marathon training program.
I try to give an exhaustive reply in this post.
Obviously I am not a qualified Athletic coach and relatively a "beginner" for running, so this can be my personal suggestion.
(for sake of truth ... I have an advanced coaching certification in Cycling... that was my previous sporting life)
Here we go, this is how I planned to Boston and Fukuoka.

Key Concepts:
- specificity of the training in terms of speed of training and simulation of the race situation
- "Big Workouts" principle: 2 (max 3) hard workouts every week, all other training are easy runs
- big emphasis on aerobic development, avoiding fast workouts that affect recovery and limit aerobic development
- duration: 16/18 weeks. It seems to me a ideal duration, obviously if you start already from a decent base. Less, and you have to cut short on some phases; more would involve stay motivated for really a long period.

Weekly Distance:
for Fukuoka, I targeted to run 7 days/week reaching an average of 100 km/week. That's make around 1 hours daily, it did fit my life/work needs.
That can fit a 30km long run, a 16/20 km mid-week "big workout", plus other 5 easy runs ranging from 8k to 15km.
I tried to reach this average as soon as possible in the program and keep it for most of the plan. Since it is not a big mileage, it can be mantained easily.

I did split the program into 4 phases:

1) Aerobic Build-up (duration 5/6 weeks)
it was all about running steady trying to get used to 7 days/week running and reach the target mileage with progression of +10km every week. I also managed to reach the 32km long run at steady pace, with other long runs of 25/28/30km.
But every week I included at least 1 workout of "CV intervals"/"fartlek", to build-up aerobic power. The workout was something like 7x3minutes @ 10k pace, with 2min recovery jog. Possible variations were also 6x1000m or similar. The target was to reach around 20/25 minutes of work at good speed, without feeling tired.
I also added some strides at the end of every 2/3 workouts.
I would have liked also to add some workout (may be 3 in total) for increasing the leg strengh: something such as hill intervals or performing the "CV Intervals" on hills.
I will do it next time...

2) Aerobic power (5 weeks)
the purpose of the phase was to increase the lactate thresold and also increase the severity of the long runs.
So I did 3 workouts/weekly:
- a session of "CV intervals", same as before, with 20/25 minutes of effort
- a Tempo Run, starting from 7km and increasing progressively to 14km. For the speed to keep, I referred to the tables in "Daniels' Running Formula", where the target pace of the tempo run is function of the duration of the workout. In many cases I missed the target pace because of the heat of the season, but the workout got progressively easier with the progression of the training and the improvement of the weather.
I also noticed a drop of the HR at similar "perceived effort": in my first similar workouts last winter, I was constantly in the 175-180bpm range. More recently, I managed to stay in the 170-175bpm range (going faster), this gave me the chance to extend the tempo run to 14km, a distance that before was even beyond my imagination. Longer tempo runs are really a great "key workout".
- a Long Run, with fast final. Something like: 1h30' at easy pace, than 3k (increased to 6/7km) at HM speed, cool down.

That phase was the most demanding. I was pretty much "tired" and felt very relieved to touch the bed every evening.
My rule was anyway to limit the "fast training" to maximum 25% of the weekly total (hence, around 20/25km), with the rest of easy pace.
For easy pace, I was running around 75% of HRmax for normal aerobic runs and around 70% of HMmax for recovery runs.

3) Race Preparation period

The purpose is to really simulate the effort of Marathon and progressively feel better and better to run at the target pace.
So I scaled down to 2 "Big Workouts" weekly, to perform better in the "Long Run", that become the critical weekly workout.
- Long Run: increase the distance progressively to 35/36km. The long run was at mixed pace: Easy pace and Marathin Pace. I started with something like 2x5km @ MP (recovery 1km easy), reaching 3x7km @MP 4 weeks out of the marathon date.
My hardest workout has been something like: 10km easy + 3x7km @MP (recovery 1km easy), cool down, total 35km. That was really tough, especially the last interval at MP...
3 weeks out, I did also a 30km "simulation run" as follows: in complete race gear (shoes, etc), I did 13km easy + 15km @MP + cool down.
For "easy" pace, I was around 75/77% of HRmax.
In the Long Runs, I always simulated the racing condition: course, drinking on the go, energy gels, in many runs I wore the lightweight trainers chosen for race day (NB RC600)

- Tempo Run / Long Interval / Marathon pace: another workout was either to stimulate the AT or to simulate MP. So either some Tempo Run of 10/12 km or long intervals (such as 3x4km) or intervals at MP.
In this phase, I felt very easy to complete every workout, the training was starting to pay-off. I did not want to "push the ball" even more because there was an interesting observation in Jack Daniels'book that in the last preparation phase, the workout must feel easy, "too easy" ...
I sensed that I was already in shape suited to reach my target, so I did not feel like risking an overburn for perhaps gaining 2 sec/km of extra pace.
If you count the KM of "fast running", it always comes up to maximum 25/30% of the total. 70/75% was reserved to Easy pace.

4) Tapering (2 weeks)
my tapering was only 2 weeks because it does not make sense to taper too much if the mileage is not that high. If you run 100k at peak and start to scale down the long run from 32km to 25km and the tempo run back to 8k from 14km, you already have a "natural" cut to 80km, that is enough tapering (20%..).
I cut down the long run first to 28k (2 hours) and last one to 1h30'.
The AT run was only perhaps 2/3 x 3km or something similar.
I run all the 7 days of the last week, to enjoy the pleasure of running slowly...

What I would do differently?
a) as mentioned before: some hill training in the first 2 phases.
b) more strides: I felt my running stride did lose some sharpness with all those "slower" miles. Next time I will promise myself to add 5/6 strides at least 4 times weekly.
c) a good Half Marathon 4/5 weeks out: I may have build-up more confidence to run slightly more aggressively in Fukuoka if I had done a good long race in the training phase. I did not have the opportunity and my longest race was a 10k 3 week out.

1 comment:

Sling Runner said...


Thank you so much for your time to write this. I really like your approach because it is logical and well-structured.

Also, fantastic HM PB ! Your rate of improvement is awesome.

thanks again
Sling Runner