Tag: marathon training

Brian Harvey: Training Update Plus

As we get ever closer to the Boston Marathon, members of the Level Legion: Boston Marathon Edition are checking in with some thoughts on the training the race, or whatever else they can come up with it. We let them go freestyle, but the question remains: will Brian Harvey “share his feelings” with us? For now, we have a training log update from him. 

Training log from Monday, 3/17 to Sunday, 3/23:

Overview: 114mi total in 11 runs.

Monday (16mi total)

7:05AM: 8mi in 1:01:00.

6:00PM: 8mi in 1:00:00. Nice to have this be in the daylight!

Tuesday (19mi total)

6:55AM: 14mi in 1:44:10. Seem to finally have loosened up my hip for first time in over a week!

7:15PM: 5mi in 35:00. Commute home via the River.

Wednesday (15mi total)

7:50PM: 9mi in 1:08:00. On the “Harvey Humps” loop which includes a few hills in Brookline and Summit Ave.

4:40PM: 6mi in 44:00

Thursday (22m total)

7:40AM: 17mi in 1:52:00. 3x~3K @ MP effort on Bussey Hill in the Arnold Arboretum. Start at top, 1K down, 1K up, 1K down. Easy run up the hill as recovery. Main goal of this workout was to work on downhill running which will be needed for the last 5M+ of Boston.

3:09, 3:42, 3:22 = 10:13 [4:45r]

3:11, 3:40, 3:04 = 9:56 [4:34r]

3:09, 3:41, 3:01 = 9:51

Did this with Eric Ashe. Since we were both coming off races we ran the previous weekend (I ran the Gate River Run 15K, Eric ran New Bedford Half), this workout was meant to be moderate. In general it went well and fun to try out a new workout spot.

6:15PM: Commute home after a couple beers with one of my advisors and other students.

Friday (10mi total):

7:45AM: Ran with Tim Ritchie (aka Tinky). Kept it nice and easy!

Saturday (8mi total):

8:30AM: 8mi in 1:00:00. Very easy today with big long run tomorrow.

Sunday (24mi total):

8:25AM: 24M in 2:16:00. BAA “Down the Hatch” run from the start line in Hopkinton, ending at Cleveland Circle.

Splits: 4:45 warm-up, 5M in 25:53, 10M in 57:55, 5M in 25:47, 6:16 up Heartbreak, 4:57 from mm21à22, easy 9:57 cool-down.

Great to get out to the start line one last time and grateful the BAA buses us out there. We had very favorable weather and a 7-10mph tailwind which helped quite a bit. Ran this all with Eric and 9mi in the middle with Alex Taylor, David Bedoya, and Nils Schallner. Felt strong throughout this run…good confidence builder!

And now a special treat, Tim Ritchie (one of Brian’s fellow BAA Unicorns), shares his feelings on Brian’s impact on the BAA.

Oh Captain, My Captain – by Tim Ritchie

Brian, in my eyes, has been the captain of the ship that is the BAA Running Club since I joined 3 years ago. He has been the model of consistency and involvement in every aspect of the club and as such makes us all better than we are. From discussing how we can continue to develop the club, what accessories are necessary for our training (capes, belt buckles, etc) and how we ourselves can improve as runners, the miles I have spent with Brian have been some of my most formative. I know I am not the only one who has felt immediately and continuously welcomed as a member of the BAA team because of Brian’s care, concern and support.

Hatton, Harvey & Ritchie after the 2012 BAA 10k.

Hatton, Harvey & Ritchie after the 2012 BAA 10k.

It has been a true blessing for me this year to watch his running be focused towards our signature race, the Boston Marathon. I have been constantly checking his log, meeting for the occasional run and counting the days until I can watch him crest Heartbreak Hill. A few weekends ago, I had the joy of having Brian (and Sam Alexander) along to the Gate River Run 15k Championship. Together we finished 2nd as a team in a very competitive race. His poise, confidence and courage down there inspired my own race and I was beyond grateful to be able to stand beside him on the podium.

For Brian, his best races still lay ahead, a big one of those just over two weeks away. We have many Unicorns entered, all of whom will do the club quite proud! I can say honestly that I am more excited for this year’s race than I was for my own a year ago, because this year I will be able to go nuts for some of the best men and women I know.

I hope you have been enjoying reading Brian’s training, question responses and other pieces through this Level Legion project as much as I have. Be sure to keep following him all the way down Boylston Street to the finish. He is a real talent, a great captain and an all-around bro. Good things ahead for this Unicorn (and for all who have the pleasure of knowing him)!

Crazy Fun In Crazy Conditions

As we get ever closer to the Boston Marathon, members of the Level Legion: Boston Marathon Edition are checking in with some thoughts on the training the race, or whatever else they can come up with it. We let them go freestyle, and we’ll be presenting those to you throughout the week. Up next is…

Jose Rivera

I am a Central Mass Strider true and true. I owe a lot to this organization. It was because of their volunteering program that I got a time-waived entry to run Boston in 2013. This is a great perk they provide for just a couple hours of your time to help out at local races.

As true as I am a CMS’er, I am also a member of and co-founder of Tri-State Running based out of Webster, Ma. Tri State Running was started by my friend Joana and I to get runners in the surrounding area together so they wouldn’t have to run alone, especially in the cold, dark winter nights. The group started out with just a handful of members and after an article in the local paper, the group practically exploded overnight. Next thing you know we were hosting morning runs, weekend long runs and Tuesday night Pub Runs.

Rivera pub run

From one of our pub runs

I’m not writing this to promote our group. We are small town and would like to stay small town. But I just want to state that because of this group, my training for Boston 2014 has been some of the best times in my “running life”.  Just about everyone pictured above, with the exception of my wife and two others, I have met through this club. With some, I have become good friends.

Everyone would agree that this winter has been a brutal winter for us runners. Especially so for those of us training for Boston or any spring marathon for that matter. Running with these new found friends has been a blessing to my training. Waking up at 4am for weekday runs have been a bit easier knowing that there would be someone out there to meet me. Those brutally cold long runs on the weekends have felt like short runs as most of us got lost in conversations. Many adventures and many memories were made out there this winter.

Rivera frozen beard

Froze my beard one too many times this winter

The extreme cold was the killer of many runs for a lot of people this winter. Most took to running inside on treadmills. I take pride in saying that 99.9% of my runs have been out on the streets in whatever kinds of conditions Mother Nature threw at me. Sometimes they weren’t pretty, but I got them in. I was happy to find out through this club that there were many other crazies like me that did the same. This winter we trained hard and got our miles in, but most importantly we had fun doing it!

Rivera group shot
When training is this much fun, is it really training? I am lucky to have found these crazy people!

Treadmill Running to the Extreme

By Mike Giberti

The month of March typically comes in like a lion as they say. But in terms of running in New England, March kicked off with a new world record. Back on March 1st, 2014, Concord, MA native and former Tufts University athlete Tyler Andrews hammered down the world record for a half marathon on a treadmill in the Marathon Sports store on Boylston St. He needed to beat the time of 67 minutes, 29 seconds, which he had already done on the roads more than once. Marathon Sports was clearly attracting the attention of the city as many folks who walked in between 10AM and 11:07AM expecting to purchase gear wound up supporting Tyler as he attempted to break a world record. With all his hard work and the cheers and support of those who witnessed it, Tyler managed to cover the 13.1 miles in 67’18”, breaking the world record by 11 seconds.

How does it feel racing on a treadmill as opposed to the roads? Which do you find easier?

I think that (like all things) there are upsides and downsides to running very hard on a treadmill. When you run on a treadmill you don’t have wind or hills or bad weather to deal with, which is a huge help. You also have a lot more control; you can set the pace exactly as you want and it’s perfectly consistent. The biggest difference that I noticed in terms of pacing is that the machine is setting the pace, as opposed to your body setting the pace. When you go out and run a race, you’re generally running by feel. And then, when you get tired you naturally start to slow down.

What I found—and this actually helped me—is when you are running really hard on a treadmill you have to actively slow down. You have to press a button to make yourself slow down instead of your body naturally slowing as it would on the roads or track. For me, there was a long stretch in the middle of the record where I was feeling pretty bad, but I kept going mostly because I really didn’t want to have to push the button and make myself slow down. Instead of the effort staying the same and the pace getting slower, the pace is staying the same and it’s just getting harder and harder to maintain. This can be really beneficial because it can help you push through the hard spots.

Finally, it can be tough to run a race without any other competitors! Running against the clock is always hard - whether you’re running for a National Championship qualifier on the track or a fast time on the roads or a world record on a treadmill. Running solo is always tough. But for me, I had a huge group of supporters that were there cheering me on and that gave me a ton of strength, so I don’t think I ever really was alone!

If your record gets taken down at any point in the near future, would you do this again to try and recapture the crown?

It’s certainly a possibility. This run was first and foremost a fundraising event for STRIVE (www.strivetrips.org) – the organization for whom I work and who sponsors me as an athlete. We were raising money to support the development of a community center we’re building in rural Peru as well as student scholarships, so that was another great motivation for me to have!

So, to answer your question, I think I could take another shot at the record if I had another great cause to stand behind. Right now, I’m just focused on the Boston Marathon next month, though, so I haven’t thought too far past that!

How exactly do you manage to handle 150+ mile weeks (at altitude too)? Most of the highest volume runners out there will top out at just over 100. Did you run close to or at that kind of volume while at Tufts?

For me, volume has always been an extremely gradual but consistent buildup over the course of about six years. I didn’t start running until fairly late (senior year of high school), at which point I met my (still current) coach, Jon Waldron. I ran on my own under Jon’s tutelage until I transferred after freshman year of college to Tufts to run in the NCAA. At that point, I’d built up mileage consistently and injury-free from basically nothing to about 80 miles per week over the course of those three years.

At Tufts, I was fairly lucky in that I was given a good amount of freedom when it came to running a lot. My coach at Tufts was definitely more conservative when it came to running very high volume, which I think was reasonable given the extremely demanding life of a varsity student-athlete (I was a mechanical engineering and astrophysics major, so I had a fairly demanding course-load beyond athletics).

Still, I put a ton of time and effort into my training (which includes all the things NOT running as well – getting enough sleep, eating well, recovering well between hard runs, etc.), so I was able to continue pushing the envelope and seeing what my body could handle. I peaked in the 100 miles per week (MPW) range as a sophomore, 120 MPW as a junior, and 130 MPW as a senior. Most of these really big weeks would be during summer/winter base phases when I wouldn’t have as many obligations with regards to school, so that made it a bit easier to handle.

And each year, I continued improving and found myself both handling and even enjoying running these very high-mileage weeks (I remained injury-free through college with the exception of a sprained back sustained while moving a dresser). Since I both saw positive results and enjoyed the process, I knew that I wanted to keep pushing myself when I graduated. And it only seemed natural to try to raise the volume a bit more again as I started to look at half marathon and now marathon.

So now, I’m running 140-155 in my build-up to the Boston Marathon and feeling great. A lot of what I’m doing right now in my training is new as this is my first marathon and so far my body seems to be responding really well. I guess that’s the most important thing I can say about surviving or even thriving in a very high-mileage program: you need to listen to your body and understand your limits. I’ve had a lot of times over the last few years where I’ve felt I was right on the edge of doing too much and getting hurt, and so I backed off. If you know yourself well enough to do this and really enforce it and not be afraid to say “no, this is too much,” then you’re probably ready to tackle something new.

What are your goals for Boston? Will you be starting in the elite wave?

I was invited to debut in Boston, which is a huge honor for me (both as a runner and a Bostonian!). As this will be my first marathon and Boston is notoriously difficult – due to unpredictability in weather and the challenging course – my goals are a bit more conservative. Mostly, I just want to race well and learn from the experience. I’m sure this won’t be my last marathon, so any lessons I can take for next time are going to be valuable.

In terms of specific time goals – when my coach and I started planning a marathon for this spring, we’d originally talked about running a flatter course and going for a good debut time. Based on my 20km (1’02’13) time, we thought something in the 2’16-20 range would be a good goal. So, my marathon paced workouts are based around that goal pace (~3’16-18/km), but that’d be more applicable on a course like Chicago or London. In Boston, I’d expect it to be a bit slower (even in good weather) and I’ll mostly judge my success on how I feel I competed with the other runners.

If you go into Boston with a tip-top fitness level and the weather and road conditions are ideal, do you think a trials qualifier is possible?

I certainly think it’s possible, but I wouldn’t hold that as the only mark of success. I am in very good shape right now – what I consider “new ground” fitness. I recently did a workout which Canova often uses for his marathoners. He has his guys run 40km hard in the middle of a big week of training (so no taper), where the time for 40km tends to be a decent predictor for tapered marathon time (for example, Wilson Kipsang did this workout and ran 2’03’2x before running the marathon WR, also 2’03’2x). Anyways, I ran 40km in 2’15’49 in the middle of a 150 mile week last weekend. Since this is my first rodeo, I don’t know how exactly that’ll translate to race-day (for example, my run was at sea-level, compared to Canova’s guys who generally do this run at around 8000ft), but it’s definitely something I have not been able to do before, which is really exciting.

So, I wouldn’t count anything out. I probably won’t go out super-fast with eyes only on a USOT qualifier, but if everything comes together on race day, I wouldn’t count it out. 

Tyler will be repping his blue and green Strive Racing uniform and sporting bib #115. The Level wishes Tyler the best of luck in his training for the Boston Marathon. Be sure to look out for him on race day and give him some support!

For more on Tyler’s record run, check out his blog entry Race Against Time.

London Overcoming Fatigue

As we get ever closer to the Boston Marathon, members of the Level Legion: Boston Marathon Edition are checking in with some thoughts on the training the race, or whatever else they can come up with it. We let them go freestyle, and we’ll be presenting those to you throughout the week. Up next is…

Anne London

Reflecting back on this marathon training season, three things come to mind.

  • ·         It’s been insanely cold
  • ·         I am insanely tired
  • ·         I haven’t run that much…due to being cold and tired.

Every local runner will complain that this winter has been harsh. This caused me to enact a personal rule: “If it is below 20F, I am not running outside”.  That came back to bite me one Saturday morning when I woke up to a scheduled 13 miles and it was 0F outside.  I ended up running a half marathon on a treadmill and thought that I was going to have to be locked up in a padded room afterwards.  Yikes.  Not easy, or fun.  But, as the days have gotten longer, and it’s gotten “a little” warmer, I keep reminding myself that “it can’t possibly be this cold on race day”, so I am trying to look forward to that.

River London Boston Marathon Legion

Anne and Jose at their last long run before Boston. Photo courtesy of Jose Rivera.

When it comes to the fatigue, as any new parent will warn you, it comes with the territory of having a baby. Not just the physical fatigue (feeding the baby every 2 hours around the clock at the beginning), but mental fatigue as well (being a new parent and not having a clue about what you’re doing!).  Add in returning to work and managing the transition into a new house, and the thought of going out for an “easy run” at the end of the day seems impossible.  Even though the baby is sleeping more regularly, the runs have gotten longer, so there is never time to catch up.  The whole fatigue issue has turned into a mental endurance test, probably the toughest I’ve ever had to deal with, and again, I remind myself that “I can’t possibly be this tired and stressed on race day”, so again, I am trying to look forward to that.

Finally, I haven’t trained like I have in the past.  The other times I ran Boston I averaged between 40-60 miles per week; this year I am topping out at 30.  In the past I have been focused on time goals (breaking 4 hours), this year I am focused on finishing with a smile on my face.  Also, in years past I have run faster, but not healthier.  In 2008 there were ankle problems, 2009 a femoral stress fracture, 2010 featured a terrible sinus infection…all because I over trained and over did it and it never translated into an enjoyable race experience for me.

This year I am focused on the real reason I am running the race – to raise money and awareness for the National MS Society and to prove to myself that I am “back” in the game post-baby.  Not going to wear a watch.  Not going to push through the pain.  Just going to enjoy what is promised to be an amazing Boston Marathon.  Between the fans, the runners and the city backing this event, it is really going to be a special year, and I am honored to be a part of it and be a part of the Marathon Strides Against MS Team.  (And of course the Legion, can’t forget those guys).

Graham’s Rules of Marathon Training

As we get ever closer to the Boston Marathon, members of the Level Legion: Boston Marathon Edition are checking in with some thoughts on the training the race, or whatever else they can come up with it. We let them go freestyle, and we’ll be presenting those to you throughout the week. Up first is…

Scott Graham

There are a couple of rules that I use to train myself for a marathon.

1.  You’re not ready to run a marathon until you’ve had a bad long run and mentally push your way through it.
2.  Run HOT. Years ago Geoff Smith gave me this advise. He was a big believer that if you’re always hot during a training run, come race day you’d be hard pressed to overheat. So I always layer up during my training runs.
3.  You’re out the on the long runs to put time on your legs. Speed work is saved for speed work days.
4.  I’ve never put in my log that I beat someone in a training run. Heck, I’ve never really kept a log.

I made this humorous little video a few years ago about this:

What does it take to do a marathon? I believe anyone can do a marathon…ANYONE!!

The first thing you need is a burning desire to do one. It has to be almost like a bucket list type of thing. Your mindset has to be finish at all costs.

Second you need time, lots of time. You will be spending many hours running and with that you’ll need to balance this with work, family, friends and rest. Yes you’ll need recovery time and rest is very important.

Third, for beginners you’ll need a plan, something that will structure your training. I’ve been doing this for nearly 30 years so I listen to my body, but someone new needs a well defined plan that they can follow.

Lastly and most importantly you need a good/great support system. A support system can come in many forms but for me it’s my ever encouraging and patient wife Chris. She knows that on my long run days don’t plan anything. She understands what I need nutritionally and knows that there will be a mountain of training cloths piling up in the laundry. She is without a doubt my foundation to my training. Heck she has put up with my Boston training for 28 years. She knows the drill.

Another form of support is your training partners. Everybody needs help. Everyone has down days and when you do your friends will be there to pick you up and get you going. You depend on them because they also depend on you. For me this comes in two forms, the first is my racing team, GLRR. Second, I belong to a lose group of guys 50 or so strong out of Westford, MA. We go by the name of ROAG (Roudenbush Outdoor Athletic Group). This group of guys are into all sorts of sports year round: biking, running, snowshoeing, swimming, mountain biking, skiing, XC skiing, triathlons…etc. This group has a saying for when one of our group starts to fall back and they have to swing back to pick the person up. “We’re not here to help, we’re here to watch”. They just love watching someone suffer. They are a fun group and with them I’ve been able to really mix up the training over the years so it doesn’t get stale.

I’m looking forward to my next two long runs on the course. I’m feeling stronger but you just never know. Hope everyone else is progressing and are looking forward to April 21st.

The Long Run Revisited

By Michael Gauvin

There is no one factor or program that guarantees success when training for the marathon. Consistency over many years is probably the key to success at all distances but if we assume that our runners are doing what it takes to stay healthy and keep their sessions regular, how do we structure a program that can get them to the line as prepared and confident as possible?

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and place far too much emphasis on particular aspects of a fully constructed program. I am not claiming to be the expert on what it takes to optimize training for any distance as I think there are too many variables based on each individual. I have tried to stick to a simple philosophy that can be adjusted accordingly depending on your desired outcome, ability level, and injury profile.

Whether I am coaching high school athletes or experienced marathon runners, I follow a simple formula for how I structure each program:

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Depending on the event the athlete is training for the “hard” days will be set up in a periodized fashion to ensure the runner is ready for the big day. We also attempt to set up the hard sessions to focus on multiple paces to create a well rounded runner.

So what does this have to do with the Long Run?

As I mentioned earlier there are many programs out there that prescribe long runs at “easy, just survive” paces of varying distances throughout the 12-18 week program.

There is a time and place for easy long runs as part of a comprehensive approach but…

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So we treat the many long runs as “hard” days in our cycle. This allows the runner to treat the long run as a quality session because she will have 2 easier days pre and post session. Let’s now look at the what, when, why, and how of these runs.

What: The Progression Long Run

12-20 miles total miles dropping down pace through the run.

When: Depending on what cycle you are in and your total weekly mileage, progression runs can be incorporated after you have a couple of easy cycles under your belt. Longer more intense progression runs are used primarily during the middle to late portion of the training period.

Why: Specificity of training and focusing on your goal pace is the optimal method to achieve results. Gradually exposing the runner to paces that she will be attempting to run for 2 ½ to 3 hours not only builds confidence but also helps the runner become efficient at that pace over time. Treating some long runs as “hard” days and allowing for ample recovery pre and post is a great way to reach your goals.


  • Select a marathon race and desired time for that distance (calculate your goal pace too)
  • Work backwards from the goal race and create cycles that follow the hard-easy-easy approach
  • If you don’t want to do this, just try to treat every 2nd or 3rd Sunday long run as a workout
  • Gradually extend the time spent at goal marathon pace (MP)

Workout Notes:

  • Do not force a drastic increase in pace; listen to your body and start easy
  • Feel free to finish the progression long run at a fast pace (5k pace or faster) for the last 2 minutes or so
  • Make sure to follow this session with a nice easy recovery day (or 2)
  • Keep in mind this type of session is just one of the focus areas of a well designed marathon training program. You need to also make sure you spend time at paces much faster than marathon pace and also much slower.

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Michael Gauvin has a Masters Degree in Exercise Physiology and coaches cross country and track and field at Ludlow High School and works with members of the Western Mass Distance ProjectThis article originally appeared in Sep/Oct 2013 issue of Level Renner. Get your free subscription today (box in upper right portion of screen). Feature image courtesy of Krissy Kozlosky.

Long Run: Too Much Emphasis?

Are you Putting Too Much Emphasis on the Long Run as Part of Your Marathon Training?

Guest blog by Jeff Gaudette (RunnersConnect)

marathon long run overratedThe marathon long run is overrated.

In my experience, too many beginner runners (those training to run slower than 3:45) focus on trying to get in multiple 20 or 22 milers in their training segment at the expense of improving more critical physiological systems. More importantly, scientific research has shown that runs of over 3 hours offer little aerobic benefit compared to runs of 2 hours while significantly increasing injury risk.

As such, rather than cramming your marathon training schedule with multiple 20-22 milers that increase your injury risk and recovery time without decisive aerobic advantages, you should focus on improving your aerobic threshold, teaching your body to use fat as a fuel source, and building your overall tolerance for running on tired legs through accumulated fatigue.

Since the long run is such an ingrained element of marathon training, and suggesting they are overrated sounds blasphemous to many veterans, I am going to provide you with scientific research, relevant examples, and suggestions on how to better structure your training to help you run your next marathon faster.

The science of the long run

Most beginner runners training for the marathon are averaging anywhere from 9 minutes to 12 minutes per mile on their long runs (3:45 to 5-hour finishing time). At a pace of 10 minutes per mile, a runner will take roughly 3-hours and 40-minutes to finish a 21-mile run. While there is no doubt that a 21-mile run (or longer) can be a great confidence booster, from a training and physiological standpoint, they don’t make too much sense. Here’s why:

Research has shown that your body doesn’t see a significant increase in aerobic development, specifically mitochondrial development, when running over 90 minutes. The majority of physiological stimulus of long runs occurs between the 60 and 90 minute mark. This means that after running for 3 hours, aerobic benefits (capillary building, mitochondrial development) aren’t markedly better than when you run for only 2 hours. Therefore, a long run of over 3 hours builds about as much aerobic fitness as one lasting 2 hours.

Furthermore, running for longer than 3 hours significantly increases your chance of injury. Your form begins to break down, your major muscles become weak and susceptible to injury, and overuse injuries begin to take their toll. This risk is more prevalent for beginner runners whose aerobic capabilities (because of cross training and other activities), exceed their musculoskeletal readiness. Basically, their bodies aren’t ready to handle what their lungs can.

Not only are aerobic benefits diminished while injury risk rises, recovery time is significantly lengthened. The total amount of time on your feet during a 3-hour plus run adds considerable fatigue to the legs, which leads to a significant delay in recovery time. In the long-term, this means you can’t complete more marathon specific workouts throughout the following week, which I believe, and research has shown, are a more important component to marathon success.

Why is the 20-mile long run so popular

Given the overwhelming scientific evidence against long runs of over 3 hours, why are they so prevalent in marathon training?

  • First, many people have a mental hurdle when it comes to the 20 mile distance. The marathon is the only race that you can’t easily run in training before your goal race.Therefore, like the 4 minute mile and the 100 mile week, the 20 mile long run becomes a mental barrier that feels like an obtainable focus point. Once you can get that 2 in front of your total for the day, you should have no problem running the last 10k, or so your mind believes. Unfortunately, this just isn’t true from a physiological standpoint.
  • Second, the foundation for marathon training still comes from the 1970′s and 1980′s at the beginning of the running boom. Marathoning hadn’t quite hit the numbers it has today (you could sign up for most marathons, including Boston, the day before the race) and the average finishing time at most races was closer to 3 hours (today that number is near 4 hours). As such, the basis for how to train for a marathon came from runners who averaged close to 6 minutes per mile for the entire race. Therefore, 20 and 22 milers were common for these athletes as a run of this distance would only take them about 2.5 hours to finish at an easy pace.
  • Moreover, the 20-mile distance is synonymous with “hitting the wall” or “bonking”. Hitting the wall frequently occurred at 20 miles because your body can store, on average, two hours of glycogen when running at marathon pace. Two hours for a 6-minute per mile marathoner occurs almost exactly at 20 miles.

In short, the basis for a lot of our understanding of marathon training is passed down from generation to generation without regard for the current paces of today’s marathoners. Therefore, we also need to reassess where the long run fits into the training cycle and how we can get the most benefit from training week in and week out.

How to train smarter

I suggest that you downplay the role of the long run if you’re training to run 3:45 or slower and focus instead on improving your aerobic threshold (the fastest pace you can run aerobically and burn fat efficiently) and utilize the theory of accumulated fatigue to get your legs prepared to handle the full 26 miles, without needing to run the full distance.

For example, you should focus on stringing out your workouts and mileage over the course of the week, rather than having 40 to 50 percent of your weekly mileage come from the long run, which increases the total amount of quality running you can do and decreases the potential for injury.

The question still remains, however, about how do you get your legs prepared to run for 26 miles?

The answer lies in the theory of accumulated fatigue.

  • By shortening your long run to the 16 to 18-mile range and buttressing it against a shorter, but steady paced run the day before, you’re able to simulate the fatigue you’ll experience at the end of the race.
  • In addition, when you have shorter long runs, you’re able to increase the total quality and quantity of tempo and aerobic threshold workouts throughout your training week. Instead of needing four to five days to fully recover from a 3-hour plus run, with a shorter long run, you can recover in one or two days and get in more total work at marathon pace or faster. Developing your aerobic threshold is the most important training adaptation to get faster at the marathon distance because it lowers the effort level required to run goal pace and teaches your body how to conserve fuel while running at marathon pace. The more work you can do to improve aerobic threshold and your ability to burn fat as a fuel source, the faster you can run the marathon.
  • Finally, with a focus on shorter, more frequent long runs, you can implement faster training elements, such as fast finish long runs or surges, which allow you to increase the overall quality of your long runs. Running your long runs more intensely teaches your body how to run marathon pace while tired, and also increase your body’s ability to store energy for the end of the race and use fat as a fuel source more efficiently.

When you balance out the gains you can get from finishing a long run fast and upbeat with the potential drawbacks from an extended, 3-hour plus long run, you can see why a shorter, faster long run is the better training option for almost all marathoners aiming to finish over 3:45.

This is a somewhat controversial, and frightening, topic for most runners, so I welcome you comments, thoughts and questions.

Thanks once again to Jeff Gaudette and RunnersConnect for sharing this great material with us. Be sure to check out their blog, which pretty much has all of your technical running needs covered.

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