Marathon Minus Three
by: Ian Kemp
Previous article: Marathon Minus Four.
Only three months to go until that marathon! How did you get on in running the half marathon time trial two weeks ago? Hopefully you were able to complete the course, and in a slightly better time than the first time you covered it. This should pursuade you that you are getting some benefit from all this running!
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:
- Do lots of running
- Don't get injured
- Stick to your guns
Stick to Your Guns!
Well by now you will have been running at a fairly high level for three months, and you may be wondering whether all the effort is worth it! If you been able to keep up the work by running regularly, & getting in those long runs every week or every two weeks, you have an excellent chance for the marathon. Now with three months to go it is time to realise that you are going to finish the marathon, in one piece, so it is time to get an entry form and enter the event! At this time entry forms should be available, so if you do not already have one, check the cool running calendar for the contact details & get one mailed to you.
Now if you have been following this programme you will have run your second half marathon two weeks ago or so. Now it may have occurred to you at the end of that run that the marathon itself is, logically enough, twice as far, and it would be like running the whole thing again! Well this is true, but do not worry, if you keep up the k's per week and continue to gradually increase volume and the length of your long run you will get there ok.
Another effect you may notice is that if you run certain routes regularly you may find that you are running these courses slower than in the past! Again, this is ok, and is a natural consequence of continually pushing up your weekly k's. Running that extra distance each week requires a lot of effort, and will often result in your speed falling. Don't worry about it, at the final stages in the program the k's per week will level off & even decrease, and you will find that the speed comes back to you. For the time being concentrate on getting in the volume and the long runs you need.
Don't Get Injured!
From now on your long runs will be getting longer and your total volume of running per week is still increasing, meaning that effectively you are requiring your body to recover from more work in the same time period (24 hours) between runs.
An important factor in keeping fit during this high-volume period is to guard against dehydration as much as possible. During runs of 20km or more it is almost essential to drink during the run, to avoid ill effects. Dehydration itself has two major effects - it can inhibit your natural cooling process (perspiration) and lead to dangerous overheating in the latter stages of the long run. Secondly it can reduce your body's ability to recover from the run & rebuild the stock of carbohydrate (glycogen) which is normally carried in the muscles and the liver.
It is not normally necessary to drink during a short run, say 5k or 10k, unless it is exceptionally hot weather. Generally a good drink of plain water before as well as two or three times after the run is sufficient. During the longer runs though it is necessary, and you need to either spot handy locations along the route at which you can drink, or develop the habit of running with a small water bottle. It is also useful to develop the technique of drinking while on the move, so that it becomes second nature by the time you come to run in the marathon itself.
It is generally true that plain tap water is the best drink - it is not necessary to take sports drinks and juice etc. on the run, and they also create a mess when poured over your head! You should also bear in mind that water at room temperature is more easily absorbed into the stomach than cold water from the fridge, so is to be preferred for drinking. Cooled water is however better for tipping on your head! The other main consideration is that a feeling of thirst indicates that you are beginning to become dehydrated, yet it takes time for water, when drunk, to permeate your system. Therefore it is important to drink regularly, without waiting for symptoms of thirst. If however you feel nauseous, or hear sloshing noises from your stomach, you have probably drunk too much, and should wait for it to 'go down' before drinking more!
As your training volume rises you will find it increasingly necessary to drink more during the day, i.e. during the 22-23 hours when you are not running. In addition to the water which emerges as perspiration and as vapour in your exhaled air, a lot of water is stored in combination with the glycogen carbohydrate store in your body. As you recover from your run, the glycogen store is rebuilt, consuming water from your bloodstream. Therefore, get yourself a good source of clean tap water, and keep drinking!
Do Lots of Running!
At this stage there is not too much to add to the earlier articles. Once again, you should be trying to grow your total volume, by say 10 or at most 15km/week each month, and gradually increase the length of those runs.
At this time, three months from the marathon, it is time to attempt a serious and challenging long distance run. Some time within the next two weeks you should try to complete a run of 20 miles (32km)! On the same principle as the first half marathon two months ago, the idea is to take it slowly, and concentrate on trying to finish the distance, don't worry about the time. It is also quite ok if you run into difficulties to slow right down & walk sections of the course as well. The extension from 21 to 32km is a serious step up in your training program, which will see you enter the final stages of your race preparation. When you go out on that 32k'er remember, nice & slow, plenty of sunscreen, plenty of water, get to the end on both feet, and have a couple of rest days and an easy week afterwards. Good luck!
Action Plan for This Month
You are about the enter the final stage of your preparation for the marathon! This month you should get an entry form for the race, sign up and pay the money! Now is the time to make a first attempt at the 32km 'warm up' distance - a slow run with the focus on just getting to the finish line. Do not run out too fast - a minute saved at the start will be much appreciated at the finish. Good luck!
Ian Kemp, Cool Running Australia, 19.01.98