Most people are now entering the second half of their training plans for spring marathons and it’s at this stage where I, among others tend to struggle most. The runs get longer, harder and more frequent and it can be difficult to think of new routes and sessions especially in the typically cold, wet weather!
For this reason I don’t follow a strict plan – I’d fall off schedule and ultimately feel defeated before I reach the start line. Instead I just ensure I do a long run at the weekend slowly building up the mileage before tapering and also try to include a speed/hills work out in between. I don’t run 4, 5, 6 times a week regularly as I would get injured/bored along the way and we are all different – training plans should be personalised.
I do however keep note of all my runs and here’s a comparison from the current plan (Brighton & London) against my previous marathons – Barcelona, Manchester & Berlin;
Marathon plans are so long that it’s impossible for everything to fall into place so comparing these can be difficult. My average pace has become quicker, slowing slightly for Berlin as I am NOT a summer runner! Manchester shows a lower mileage but in reality I know this was down to injury and also a huge increase in HIIT workouts and cycling in the gym to include cross training and prevent boredom.
Thus far, training for Brighton & London has gone relatively well. I’m feeling less pressure of having back to back marathons as I am not chasing a time and feel I have the experience to know that I can complete the distance (always respect those 26.2 miles!). I’m back to averaging over 3 runs a week whilst maintaining a good pace (for me). I’ve actually neglected my speed work and hill training though so I am surprised at the pace, but I do believe I am now a more consistent runner. Taking up pacing as helped to contribute that as well as some wise words emphasizing the importance of “easy” runs and miles.
I think mixing up your training is a great way to stay motivated and not get bogged down by all those miles you see on your plan. Incorporate track sessions, hill running, trail runs and some easy miles alongside those sometimes dreaded LSR’s at the weekend. These last 7-9 weeks are the toughest and will deplete all your energy sources but it can be fun too. Signing up to races as part of a long run can help as well as running in groups.
I have also been lucky this time round to be a part of some amazing events as well as working at a RunThrough event and helping alongside VirginSport to pace at Hackney Half. Getting involved in other activities like this or volunteering/cheering at races can help reinstate your motivation for training and that it will all be worth it come race day.
For the first time since Barcelona (March 2016) I’m also trying new trainers. I still don’t know what I’ll wear come race day but it’s great testing out a few pairs to find what works. Currently I’m choosing between Nike LunarEpics, Under Armour HOVR phantoms and Nike Epic Reacts – and I’ll make sure I race in the ones I complete my longest training runs in.
I’m also mixing up other areas of my training. I’m trying other products instead of gels such as Totum sports (sea water!), Lucho Dillitos – Guava paste blocks and back to good old Jelly Babies! I really recommend trying Lucho Dillito guava paste energy bars – they are very sweet “a natural tasty alternative to modern sports nutrition.” I was very fortunate to be sent some to try and highly recommend the coffee flavour so far!
The main thing I am learning is that marathon training will never be easy and following the same old plan each time just won’t cut it. If you are training for your first marathon this spring and struggling with the miles then I’d say not to focus on your race finish time. Whilst training, rather than focusing on distance or pace go out a run for a specific time. Run with a friend and don’t use a GPS watch once in a while. Time on feet is by far the most important.
If you’re an experienced marathoner and feeling demotivated this time round then I suggest mixing things up and try something new. Run on a track if you haven’t before or take to the trails. Run in groups or try different forms of cross training. A set plan isn’t always the best idea, in my personal opinion and training can become very repetitive.
Remember that ^^ – When you complete a marathon you become part of the 1% club, irrespective of your time. It isn’t easy but it is so worth it, and you’ll probably want to sign up to another almost immediately!
Don’t worry if your training isn’t going to plan, if you aren’t hitting the miles or pace suggested on your plans, but do keep at it and don’t give up. I highly recommend following @UKRunChat if you need any advice or motivation whilst your training and I’d be keen to hear on a specific part of the training that people may be finding the most difficult.
Which marathon are you training for?
How are you finding the training schedule?