Professional runners have long used “build-up” races of 10 miles or more as part of their training for major marathons. Doing so provides a number of great benefits that you would not get through training runs. For starters, there’s the competition. Running a hard 10 miler or 13 miles in training is great, but simply not the same as competing in events of those distances. Races as “build-up” workouts offer a sort of dress rehearsal for the actual marathon in terms of what to eat on race day morning; how you’ll handle aid stations; dealing with hilly courses; Plus, you’re naturally going to go push the pace much harder than you would on even your fastest marathon pace runs.
With that in mind, Austin area runners training for the Ascension Seton Austin on February 20, would do well to use the last two races of the Austin Distance Challenge to finish up their marathon buildup. The Distance Challenge was originally created as a marathon build-up series, and the last two races are the most important in that regard.
The Decker Challenge, set for Sunday, January 2 at 8:30 a.m., at the Circuit of Americas racetrack (COTA) located about 12 miles east of I-35) this year. Although the event offers three distances: One lap around the track-3.4 Miles; Two laps around the track- 6.8 Miles; and Three laps around the track-10.2 Miles, the obvious choice for the marathon training is to run the three laps for 10.2 miles. You’ll tackle the 150-foot hill at the start of the racetrack three times, and in that way you’ll be simulating the climbing in the early miles of the Austin Marathon. Bonus points: How often do you get to run a race on a world-class Formula 1 racetrack?
You’ll have plenty of time to recover for your next (and final) buildup race, the 3M Half Marathon, set for Sunday, January 23 at 7:30 a.m. A good marathon training strategy would be to get in one or two more 20-plus mile runs in the three weeks after Decker and before 3M. The 3M Half is a full four weeks prior to the Austin Marathon (February 20). And that’s good news, because it gives runners more than enough time to recover from the quad pounding they’ll get on the “downhill to downtown” course. The point-to-point net down hill course is one of the fastest half marathons in the country, and should serve as a real confidence booster for the full marathon a month later. Like Decker, runners will still have the opportunity to round out their marathon buildups with one or two more long runs in the month leading up to the full 26.2-mile distance. Bonus points: 3M is a well-known as a PR course.
By incorporating longer distance races as the last part of your buildup, you’ll toe the starting line for the Ascension Seton Austin Marathon field-tested and race ready!
Upcoming Races: Saturday, January 1, Resolution Run 5K at 9:00 a.m., Gregg Clarke Park in Kyle. Sunday, January 2, the Decker Challenge at 8:30 a.m., Circuit of the Americas, Austin – One lap around the track-3.4 Miles; Two laps around the track- 6.8 Miles; and Three laps around the track-10.2 Miles.