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Marathon Minus Four

Marathon Minus Four

by: Ian Kemp


Previous article: Marathon Minus Five.

Only four months to go until that marathon! How did you get on in running the half marathon two weeks ago? If you finished it ok and still on your feet then you are looking good for that marathon if you keep on the way you are going.

A reminder - this series of articles is intended for those running their first marathon, or those who have run one or two previously who now want to make a reasonable time. It is not intended for the elite level athlete! I will give general guidelines in these articles - I do not want to give specific training schedules as is it not really possible to set up one program which will suit everyone.

Let's continue with the same 3 simple principles mentioned last time:

  1. Do lots of running
  2. Don't get injured
  3. Stick to your guns
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Stick to Your Guns!

If you have got this far then you are already well on the way! Believe me, if you can run a half marathon you can run a full marathon, just continue with the programme we are discussing in these articles.

Now is a good time to meet up with some other runners who are intending to run the same marathon as you. Ask around at your local running club, at work, people you meet while out running, and swap stories & ideas with other marathon-ees. And don't forget the internet, of course :-)

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Don't Get Injured!

At this stage in your marathon preparation it is time to start paying more attention to injury prevention. The golden rule, is of course, to avoid making any sudden changes to your workload. Introduce increased km's, new running routes, new shoes, etc. gradually! It is also good to be aware of early warning signs which can indicate 'overtraining' which is often a precursor to injury.

The classic signs of overtraining are

  • Chronic tiredness
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • High resting pulse rate
  • Persistent minor injuries ('aches & pains')
It is true that all three are standard symptoms of encroaching middle age :-), but the development of these symptoms during your marathon program is a good indication that you are heading for an injury.

Chronic tiredness - well you can expect to feel tired if you are now running 60km per week for the first time, but 'chronic' tiredness means a persistent physical tiredness which dogs you all day. If you find that when lining up for your daily run you begin to dread it because you feel tired, you may be suffering from this! If you find that you only wake up after 5 minutes into the run, but then feel exhausted at the end, this probably confirms it!

Flu-like symptoms - of elevated temperature, sore or inflamed throat, coughs and sneezes can be a reaction to overtraining. If not they may actually indicate a cold or flu, in which case all training should be put on hold until it's past, especially the raised body temperature.

High resting pulse rate - it is good to develop a habit of testing your resting pulse rate each day, as this is a very sensitive indicator of impending problems. The best time is to grab your watch & take your pulse just before you get out of bed in the morning. Write it down somewhere so you can tell right away if you pulse is higher than normal. If you find you are suffering chronic tiredness and a raised pulse rate, then forget that 17km run you were going to do today, either have a rest day or do a 5km jog instead!

Persistent minor injuries - combined with the two earlier symptoms this is a sure sign that you are about to be sidelined for several weeks! Achey knees, sore Achilles Tendons, lower back pain, stiffness in the arch of the foot, these are all warning signs if they persist and do not respond to gentle stretching. If these types of aches & pains are not associated with other symptoms of overtraining, then they should be treated - why not visit a physiotherapist or sports massage practitioner to get some of these aches & pains put away...

If you find you are suffering from the above symptoms of 'overtraining' the remedies are: 1) Ensure you are following a pattern of hard/easy, i.e. do not put in a hard run the day after another hard run, instead try to alternate hard runs and easier sessions. 2) Take a break every 6 weeks or so, that is a week in which you only run half or two-thirds of your normal kms. You will not lose any fitness, and the rest week gives your body a chance to rebuild and get stronger. 3) If you are suffering 'overtraining' symptoms, drop back your k's per week by 10km for a couple of weeks. This will give your body time to adapt to your current workload, and you should start feeling stronger and able to continue on with the marathon preparation. If you take a break in this way, don't try to take up from where you left off! You should actually be backtracking a little, so your targets of k's per week will now be shifted back 2 weeks.

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Do Lots of Running!

Well in the last article we said quite a lot about total k's per week, and the other major determinent of your endurance capability is the length of your longest training run.

A simple rule of thumb is that your k's per week will be approximately 3 times the length of the longest run you should be able to complete readily. Applying this simple theory to your current situation, if you are running 60km/week or more, you should have been able to complete your half marathon run last month without too much trouble. It is the same simple logic which leads to the recommendation of 120km/week of training volume in the leadup to the marathon (=3x42.2).

A second consideration is that I do not believe that you should 'stack' your training week with long runs! What I mean by this is that you should mix up the distances you run. To complete 60km/week, it is not appropriate to do it by running 3x20km runs! I believe you should run one 20km run (1/3 of your weekly ks) maximum, then another run of 14-17km (2/3 of your longest run) to support it. Make up the rest of the week with shorter runs (10, 5km etc).

So now you see one way to build up a weekly schedule - the week with a 20km run in it described above would be a 'hard' training week; the following week change the 20 to only 15, and drop the total weekly k's. This gives an 'easy' week to recover. Following this simple principle, you should be able to build up a programme where your training volume is growing 10-15km/week each month, and your longest run (done every 2 weeks) is growing slowly, being about 1/3 of your total weekly k's.

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Action Plan for This Month

The plan for this month is to continue to grow volume - aim to increase your k's per week by 10 or a maximum of 15 for the month. Also due in 2 weeks is your second 21.1km 'time trial'. The idea here is to run the same course as you did 2 weeks ago, and simply try to record a better time than you did last time. The actual time you do is not that important, but finishing quicker will show you that all this running is having some effect and that you are improving. Also, at all times be aware of the symptoms of overtraining, and look after yourself! See you in a month for 'Marathon minus Three'!

Ian Kemp, Cool Running Australia, 19.12.97


This page last updated: Saturday 20 March 2010


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