Even though the heat will continue to persist for another month or two, there’s no question fall is on the way. High-school and college cross-country runners are getting into top form, and lots of Austin-area road warriors are just starting fall marathon build-ups.
While the recipe for marathon training can appear fairly simple (increase your mileage and throw in some long runs), the reality is, there’s much more to it than that. Here are some often overlooked aspects of marathon training.
Consistency is the overarching hallmark of any successful running program, but never is consistency more important than in marathon training. Sure, some people get away with cramming in a few big weeks and then jumping in a marathon, but for the most part, it’s consistent training that lays the foundation of strength that you can rely on come race day. This is very important in your final approach 10-12 weeks out from your marathon.
Get Your 10K speed down. If you have a marathon time goal in mind (and who doesn’t), one tried-and-true approach to reaching that goal is to first focus on getting faster at shorter distances. Yes, it’s a long-game approach, but the marathon requires a long game. In 1982, when Alberto Salazar set a (then) Boston Marathon record of 2:08:34, he was running 10Ks in the mid-27-minute range. Too often, runners focus just on the long run aspect of marathon training and hope to achieve their goal regardless of other race outcomes.
Learn and recover from long runs. Obviously, getting in 10-12 solid long runs in the 20-plus mile range is the cornerstone of most marathon training programs. But how you respond to those workouts, and also, how you run them is equally important. One of the main things you should look for as you get closer to the marathon is how easily you recover from your long run. If you notice you’re pretty beat up after a 21-mile run, then you are not ready to achieve your marathon goal. Besides emphasizing recovery, former Austinite Greg McMillan, now based in Berkeley, CA, is a big proponent of the fast-finish long run, especially in the later stages of marathon training. He has his runners include two to three fast-finish long runs in their buildups. There’s a real value in these workouts. By pushing hard during the last three to four miles of a long run, when you are both physically, and mentally fatigued, you simulate what you’ll inevitably face in the marathon itself.
Go further. As many a marathon runner knows, it’s all too common to end up barely moving over the last five or six miles, as you watch other runners pass you and your time goal goes out the window. While there are certainly many ways to fix that in your training, one of the simplest ways is to throw in a couple of really long runs, of around 25-28 miles. Too often runners get in a series of 20-mile runs and hope for the best on marathon day as they cover the last 10K. As marathon guru and well-known running expert Jeff Galloway puts it, “The confidence bestowed by that 26-mile achievement will take away many of the nervous anxieties leading up to the marathon itself. After running 26 miles in training, you won’t have to push the wall back during the marathon. You have arrived.”
Upcoming Races: Friday, September 6 at 6:30 p.m., Zilker Relays (10-mile race with teams comprised of 4 runners. Each participant runs a 2.5-mile loop) at Zilker Park. Saturday, September 7 at 8:00 a.m., the Heroes 9/11 Memorial 5K at 1405 Gruene Road in New Braunfels.