You’ve been training for months. Now its time to start targeting your training specifically towards the marathon distance by applying 3 key elements.
You won’t become a fast marathon runner only by doing long slow runs.
Now it’s time to start practicing running in your anticipated marathon pace. That is a key part of the marathon specific training phase, which starts 3-4 months out of race day.
From basic to marathon specific training
When training for a spring marathon, you start with the basic training phase during fall and winter, where the main objective is to build a solid fitness level, endurance and get into a stable training routine.
With 3-4 months until race day, its time to enter into the marathon specific training phase, which will fine-tune your marathon fitness and get you fit for race day.
This article describes the 3 key elements to your marathon specific training plan.
#1 More mileage
Miles and miles, and then some. That’s what you’ve been doing for months now. Mileage is your base, and now its time to add on even more miles.
Getting ready to run a marathon is first and foremost about getting your body used to running for a long time. That requires great endurance, which is obtained by running long distances.
In the marathon specific training phase you must increase your mileage training even more.
You should aim for running at least 30 miles on average per week during the last 2-3 months before the race. This will improve your ability to run for a longer time.
If 2 out of 3 weekly trainings during your basic training have been tempo or intervals, you may substitute one of these with mileage training.
And now comes the question that is on the mind of every first-time marathoner:
How far should I run on a single training run before a marathon?
Opinions are divided on this matter and unfortunately there is no clear evidence. However, for many it is not only a clear physical but also psychological advantage to having had ticked off one or two runs of 25-30K.
If you have the time for it, it’s a good idea to add short recovery runs of 30 – 45 minutes. If you train more than 3 times a week, some of your training must be recovery runs.
Advantages of recovery runs:
√ You increase total mileage
√ Your recovery is improved and you gain more from your high-intensity training.
√ Your legs will recover for next training session.
√ You may shed a few pounds to gain an advantage on race day
#2 Run in your marathon pace
Apart from running more miles, you should also start running in your marathon pace, which is the pace you want to run your marathon in. If you don’t, you’ll never become the fast marathon runner you want to be, remember?
Begin to incorporate longer sequences in or close to your marathon pace.
You could start with 2 x 20 minutes marathon pace as part of your weekly long run. Gradually you can run longer marathon pace sequences, while at the same time increasing the length of your runs.
# Run faster
While focusing on volume training, you need to work a bit on your speed too.
Don’t do all-out sprints or even close to, but longer intervals in your marathon, half marathon or 10K pace.
Out of 3 weekly training sessions one could be tempo training or intervals in or close to your half marathon speed or 10K speed.
An example of a training session could be 4-5 x 2000m or 10 x 1000m in half marathon speed with walk or light jogging in between. You could also run 3 x 2000m or 5 x 1000m in 10K speed.
Or you could run a 10K tempo session or 2 x 5000m in your marathon pace.
The length of your intervals will depend on how fast you run and the amount of repetitions. For some, a tempo session one week followed by a faster interval session the next week is a good option that leaves enough time for volume-based training.
Example of a marathon specific training week
We’ve put together an example of how a week with marathon specific training could like like.
Good to go by
Here are a few rules of thumb for your continued marathon training:
- If your goal is to run a fast marathon, your intervals should be accordingly fast. If your goal is to simply get through, you will do fine with rather slow intervals.
- Keep in mind that fast and high-intensity training will increase the risk of injuries. Volumen-based training should still be your primary focus.
- Base your training on your individual level. If you have had only a short basic training phase, focus more on miles than speed. If your fitness level is good, it makes sense to focus on your speed too.
- Don’t forget to run a few test races in between. Use them to test if you’re progressing as you should or use them for testing your race outfit, your energy intake, your drinking technique, and all the other details, that you don’t want to worry about at the marathon.