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Marathon Minus Two

Marathon Minus Two

by: Ian Kemp

Previous article: Marathon Minus Three.

Only two months to go until that marathon! How did you get on with your first attempt at a 20-mile (32km) run? Hopefully you were able to cover the distance, don't worry if you had to slow to a walk or took it very slowly. As mentioned in the previous article, the step up from 21km to 32km is a major move in your training program, and should be approached with due care. My own experience this time was that I was able to run fairly steadily for about 28km, at which point I hit a hill in the course, and slowed to a walk. The last 3km were covered by alternating walking and jogging. This is fine, because at the end of the run I knew I had been close to finishing it, and could come back and complete it next time! More on this in the rest of the article.

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, rather the articles offer some practical tips and hopefully some advice in gauging your progress.

Once again, I'll refer to the three basic principles used in the earlier articles:

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

This month the focus is really on training volume, the first of the three principles, since most of the issues involved in injuries and motivation have already been addressed.


Do lots of running!

If you have been able to keep to the programme I have been outlining, and have not been interrupted by injury or non running-related distractions, you will still be gradually increasing your weekly kms, and have now made at least one attempt to stretch your longest weekly run to your final 'warm-up' distance of 32km.

The remainder of your running programme at this stage will vary significantly from one runner to another, and it really depends upon you applying the basic principles I have tried to impress in these articles: do as much running as you can, but constrained by the needs to make only gradual changes to your weekly volume or longest run. You really need to be able to gauge how your body is coping with the workload, and set your programme accordingly, rather than stick to a rigidly defined schedule.

To explain a little more, my own experience has been that, running about 70km/wk I found at the first attempt at 32km I was able to complete 28km fairly steadily, but the full 32km required walking/jogging intervals in the latter stages. Having 'run to exhaustion', I took an easy week the following week, then on the next weekend returned to my standard half marathon course, and completed that at a slow pace. Three weeks after the first 32km attempt I was feeling fully recovered from the run and decided to have another shot at it. This time I was able to finish the full 32km at a reasonable steady pace. Returning to my original plan (marked on the planner at the start of the 6-month campaign!) I decided to run a third 32km course a further 3 weeks on, to meet the target of a 32km run 5 or 6 weeks before the marathon.

In this case the judgement about what workload to take on has to be made on your own assessment of how you are coping. In general you should aim to do a long run every 2 (or 3) weeks. At this stage you can decide for yourself whether you want to tackle the 32km course with this kind of frequency. I would recommend that you should have at a minimum two attempts at the distance prior to the marathon, i.e. once 5-6 weeks before the race, the other 5-6 before that (i.e. the one you have already done!). The other long runs can be 32km, or 25's or half marathons, it is your call!

Again, don't worry too much about speed at this stage, your pace will be affected by the fact that you are continually increasing the weekly km's.

At this point in your programme you may find it difficult to actually fit in the weekly volume you wish to run! It is easy for one or two interruptions in a week see you drop 15 or 20 k's out of your planned programme. Don't try to make up the volume by putting in an extra half marathon in the week! Rather, treat the week as a rest week and try to get in a full programme the following week. There are only about 8 more weeks to go until the race, after that you will get some of the rest of your life back!

If you are keeping up your daily runs without too much trouble, an additional tactic you may like to try is to run twice a day once or maybe twice a week. This involves slotting in an easy run one morning (if you normally run in the evenings) or one evening (if you normally run in the mornings). It is not a good idea to put two hard runs 12 hours apart, but an extra light run slotted in like this will assist in developing your recovery response.


Don't Get Injured!

If you have reached this stage in the programme without interruption by injury, then there is little to add at this stage to the previous articles. Once again I would stress the need not to make any sudden changes to your training programme, and to approach any change (e.g. new shoes) with caution.

Probably the main consideration at this latter stage in your progress is to be alert to the signs of overtraining (see the article M-4), and be ready to back off for a couple of weeks if you find yourself affected.


Stick to your guns!

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.


Action Plan for This Month

You are in the final stages of your preparation for the marathon! Continue to gradually increase your weekly km's. Have at least one more attempt at the 32km 'warm up' distance, preferably 5-6 weeks before marathon day. Keep up the long runs (i.e. 21km+) every 2 weeks or so. Good luck, there is not long to go now!

Ian Kemp, Cool Running Australia, 18.03.98

This page last updated: Saturday 20 March 2010

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