Marathon Training in London, are you ready?
So we are fast approaching Autumn Marathon season, with World Marathon majors such as Berlin, Chicago and New York all happening in the next 2 Months.
But more importantly there will be many of you watching your post-box carefully in October as you await the result of the Virgin Money London Marathon ballot to see whether or not you have managed to get one of the illustrious places to run in the greatest Marathon in the World come spring time on April 24th 2016. If you are one of the lucky ones then your focus turns towards training and I’m often asked how much preparation is necessary to run a marathon.
Firstly it is important to work out what your goals are. Are you looking to just get round or are you trying to obtain a time goal? What is your current level of fitness? What experience do you have? What is your injury history like? Marathon training and injury prevention need to take a multi-faceted approach in order to get to the start line fit and healthy.
I am an advocate of needing a minimum of 16 weeks specific build up towards a marathon. But, and this is a big but, you need to have a good level of base endurance before you start the specific 16 week phase.
So what does a base level of endurance encompass? You need to be comfortably running a minimum of 3 times per week and your longest run needs to be 8-10 miles. Remember, this is before you start the specific 16 week phase. There is a reason that the result of the ballot gets announced in the middle of October, and that is because it is time to lace up those shoes and start getting to work on your base endurance phase. A period of 2 Months base level endurance would be a good starting point.
Now is also the perfect time to get a once over from a physiotherapist to make sure there are no problem areas that may cause you to miss any of your specific phase. Strength and conditioning is also a major positive in order to stay injury free and perform to the maximum of your capabilities. Running 26.2 miles is not forgiving on the body so the more conditioned you are, the more likely you will get to the start line in one piece.
If you are new to running then you may want to make the specific phase of your marathon programme a 20 week cycle. This will give you greater flexibility to move long runs around or recover from illness, holidays and other unexpected circumstances. Ultimately, the optimal time to prepare for a marathon depends greatly on your mileage, experience, age, training effect and work/life balance.
The best way to structure your training week is to follow a programme that challenges the physiological systems you’ll rely on for race day.
Endurance workouts: This consists of long runs, recovery runs and easy runs. A weekly long run is a must, building up to 20-22 miles if you are a beginner and 26-28 miles for a more experienced runner.
Stamina workouts: This consists of threshold runs, tempo runs and tempo intervals. Lactate threshold training is key in order to maintain marathon pace for long periods of time. It is the line between aerobic and anaerobic running
Speed workouts: This consists of anaerobic intervals. It is important to maintain speed during marathon training in order to feel more comfortable at marathon pace.
Hill workouts: This provides great stimulus to the cardiorespiratory system, develops your ability to buffer lactic acid and strengthens the legs, all key for optimal marathon performance.
So in a nutshell give yourselves 16-20 weeks specific training for optimal marathon performance. Your training should match your goals, fitness levels and injury history. Respect the distance of 26.2 miles as quoted by Phillip C. McGraw “Life’s a marathon, not a sprint”!