As we approach the end of January, I hope your training is progressing nicely. Many of you who are preparing for the Boston or London Marathon or any other 26.2-mile race between the middle and the end of April, are still in the base period of your training. There are more training periods ahead of you. I understand you are working with your own uniquely-tailored schedule, so I thought it might be beneficial to explore a few aspects for your overall training schedule. This includes examining the value of sufficient recovery time in between each training phase and passing on the distance progression of your long runs.
While following the principles of training for your marathon,
- you will soon move from your base period, which for many of you has taken up the past six to eight weeks,
- to the first build-up period in February of three to four weeks of higher mileage and longer runs,
- followed by another build-up period in March—again lasting three to four weeks—with your highest mileage and your longest runs, and finally
- to your tapering period, with shorter and faster runs to get ready for your race. The tapering period usually is scheduled for the last two to three weeks before the marathon. Interestingly, some elite runners taper even longer, with a final recovery week just before their marathon.
Together with these four periods of training—and as discussed in one of my earlier messages in December and in my article “General Guidelines for Your Preparation” (see point 5)—it is essential to take enough time for each individual training period to maximize the benefits of that training. It is equally important to move slowly and first recover from one phase or period of training before going to the next.
Also allow enough recovery time in between intense workouts during each training period. This means that when you check your uniquely-tailored weekly training calendar up until marathon day, you see the specific suggestions regarding when to train hard during your “Hard Training Weeks” and when to recover while adding an easy “Recovery Week.”
Please always keep in mind that, when you follow a plan, go with your own feelings as well! If you feel very tired from your hard weeks of training when you have trained more intensely and have added miles to your long runs, it can be time to relax for a week (“Recovery Week”), and run easier and fewer miles—even if the plan doesn’t suggest it at that point. Then, after you feel you have recovered, you can continue to train harder again. You can vary the length of your intense and easy training days and weeks. However, always allow enough recovery and rest days to avoid “Overtraining”—a key factor in helping you to realize your full potential in your marathon.
For beginners and intermediate runners only: There might be a situation where you still feel strong after three weeks of adding miles and you are convinced you could add another hard week of training. If so, then go for it. However, advanced runners should not exceed three hard training weeks in a row because your training is different and more intense and you may risk “Overtraining.” In this case, two hard training weeks in a row is the general rule of thumb.
All this is part of the concept of periodization that I will explore in one of my future messages. My next message, though, will include some information on details for your “Recovery Weeks.”
Sometimes injury or other challenges may prevent you from following your originally planned schedule and the essential training principles. If that does happen, please stay calm and positive. Have the courage to adjust your time goal and training plan for the marathon. Then move forward with your modified training schedule. This will help you to continue without risking further injury and/or feeling too overwhelmed during your remaining time of marathon preparation. It will also help you avoid adding unnecessary pressure to your other personal goals.
In short, in difficult situations like the ones I have mentioned, step back, re-think, re-schedule, and continue your training! Be the master of your “running mind”—it will give you more determination, better focus, and most of all the courage to run freely and strongly. It also will help you be better mentally prepared for your race.
Distance Progression for Your Long Runs
Plan a proper progression for your long runs. Follow the guidelines in your uniquely-tailored training schedule. The length of your long runs will depend on your goal for the marathon and on your current fitness level. For beginners, I would suggest you are able to run 12 miles, and for stronger runners, 13 to 15 miles by, at the latest, 12 weeks before your chosen marathon.
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* 7 to 8 weeks before your marathon.
** Please do not plan your longest run too close to your event. My suggestion is to not schedule it closer than three weeks before your marathon and at the end or during the last days of your highest mileage period.
*** For our advanced runners, only go further than 22 miles when you are feeling confident and strong.
To all runners, please run “Negative Splits” by starting each of your long training runs easier than you finish them, and with a good and relaxed feeling. Running “Negative Splits” means to cover the second half of your chosen distance faster than the first half.
Maybe you are able to plan to run your longest distances on weekends. This is preferable because it might give you more time to recover after your run. And during your “Hard Training Weeks,” try to include one longer run each week.
I wish you good luck for your fitness and training! I will be back soon with a few thoughts on your “Recovery Weeks”—so essential for your marathon preparation. Stay tuned…
© Copyright 2013 by Uta Pippig. All Rights Reserved.