Surprise, surprise, the first one is REST. There is no doubt about it, you are going to put your body through a lot over the coming weeks. And, to help your body cope with this added workload, rest is going to be as important a part of your training schedule as is the running. Listen to your body and take heed of any warning signs. If you feel tired, even before you run a step, find yourself thinking up excuses not to run or start suffering a series of minor injuries, you probably need more time off. Taking enough rest allows physical and mental recovery and gives your body the time to adapt to your workload. Remember, on rest days, that’s exactly what you should be doing.
Training for a marathon requires your body to work harder than it ever has done. To see improvement without breaking down, you’ll need some RECOVERY RUNS. These should be nice and easy pace and you should feel relaxed. You should be breathing easily and able to hold a conversation throughout the run. This will mean running at about 65% of your Working Heart Rate (WHR) – and should be no more than 45 minutes duration. This allows your body to adapt to the training workload and therefore improve. It also helps with the removal of waste products that accumulate in your muscles after harder efforts.
After the long endurance runs THRESHOLD RUNS are probably your most valuable workouts. You will find them slightly uncomfortable and they’ll require concentration, but they are well worth the effort. They are run at a controlled brisk pace, about 85% of your WHR and you’ll only be able to say a couple of words!! Threshold runs improve your lactate threshold levels – that’s the speed above which your body struggles to cope with the lactic acid created by burning energy without oxygen. They also improve your running efficiency and aerobic capacity (your body’s ability to utilise oxygen). All this helps to improve your marathon performance.
LONG RUNS are vital, run at an easy pace – after all, a marathon is a very long run. At first, we will concentrate on increasing the time on your feet rather than worrying about distance. We will start by running for at least an hour at 65% WHR. Gradually, towards the end of the schedule, this will build to 75% WHR as you start to practise periods of marathon pace (MP). These runs improve your muscular endurance and condition your body to burn fat as its primary fuel source. They also prepare you physically and mentally for the task ahead.
KENYAN HILL runs develop strength in your muscles and tendons without putting them under the type of stress they are exposed to during faster runs. We will run up a 10% gradient for about two minutes at a steady pace. Turn immediately at the top and jog down, then turn and repeat with no recovery. This type of session is used extensively by elite Kenyan athletes, and are one of their main conditioning sessions. Like a tempo, a hill session is not the time for witty social chat, as you will be running at about 80% WHR.
FARTLEK is a Swedish term that means ‘speed play’. It involves a number of bursts of effort at brisk pace over a variety of distances with a variable recovery. So, for instance, running hard between lampposts, then recovery between the next two – then hard again between the next two, recovery to the next and then hard again to the next. In a typical 3 to 4 mile session you should manage 8 to 12 hard stages of between one and five minutes.
Impossible is nothing, and remember, we never really know our limits until we exceed them.