Marathon training for real runners Part 3…..the different runs that a regular person can do

Marathon training is a long road...

If you look at any book on training or an online plan, there will be several different types of runs to prepare for a marathon.  I am going to share what works for me.  Could I do more/ different things and get faster?  Without a doubt.  But the whole point of this is for me to try to share some of my experience for what has worked with a busy life where things aren’t always as planned.

Here’s what I don’t do.  I don’t do track work.  It’s just logistically a pain in the butt.  Maybe if you live next to a track you’ll do it, but I’m already pressed for time, so I am not going to waste time driving to a track and back.  I also think it’s pretty challenging mentally (I did track work all through high school), and I say pick workouts that you are likely to do and complete.  If running is a source of fun and stress release, track work may not fit the bill.  If you love it, keep it in your schedule, but it just doesn’t work for me.

I do shoot for one tempo run a week.  I define this as a slightly faster than marathon pace run.  I’ll run the first mile without looking at a watch and just go comfortably.  Then I shoot for 15-30 seconds faster a mile than I would run a marathon at.   Sometimes I run with Mark, and just by default because he is faster than me I achieve a tempo run.  This is still a fun run because I get to pick a route, and I get home feeling some real work got done, but not completely wasted.

I also shoot for one hilly run.  This may or may not be at marathon pace.  I just pick a routine route that has a lot of hills and if I have a hilly race coming up, I do the hills a couple times each.  I don’t do hill repeats though.  Same reason I don’t do track workouts.    It is a time suck to drive to a giant hill, and not much fun.

I do one Pancake run.  Pancake and I have a 6.5 mile loop we do every week.  She’s 12 years old and does great, and I know my days of running with her could be over soon, so I make sure I get this run in every week.  She runs pretty fast, but we lose a little time here and there for bathroom breaks and sniffing.  I probably end up about 30 seconds a mile slower.  But who cares.  It makes me feel so good to head off to work and see Pancake curled up in her bed, happily exhausted.   I also count this as an easy run, or sometimes a recovery run.

The long run.  This is the meat of the marathon training.  I’ll give it more attention later, but plan to work up to at least 20 miles on 3 different runs.  I do this run very early (usually start by 5am) and it is one of the highlights of my week.  I treat myself to driving somewhere I really enjoy running (most of the time, every now and then I run from home).  This is the one you can’t skip.  You’ve got to commit to doing these.

Easy/ recovery runs.  This is everything else.  These are the chatty runs with friends, the just go out for 6 mile runs, and the aforementioned Pancake runs.  Some weeks this is all I do other than the long run.  Sometimes I have every intention of running a tempo run, but get horrible sleep the night before and know I just won’t make the times, so I aim just to get out.  If your goal is just to finish a marathon, I would say just do these and the long run, and maybe a couple marathon pace runs for your whole program.  If your goal is a certain time, then add the tempo and hills routinely.

Like I said, there is a lot more you can do to get faster.  This works for me though.  It gives me a little bit of pushing myself, but most of it is just going out and enjoying a run.   You may find something different works for you, but if you have no idea how to structure your training this might give you some ideas.

My schedule is a usually like this:

Monday:  easy

Tuesday:  easy

Wednesday:  easy

Thursday:  hilly tempo

Friday:  bike ride on the trainer, no running

Saturday:  long run

Sunday:  tempo run / yoga

Well, if I haven’t bored you silly by this point, I hope you stick around for the next part of the series.   Less than one month until Boston!!!!  Yay!!!!



2 thoughts on “Marathon training for real runners Part 3…..the different runs that a regular person can do”

  1. I’m impressed that you can run 6 days/week… my body tends to get injured with more than 4 or 5 days. Do you consider the cycling a “rest” day? Or one of the easy runs? I’ve gone back and forth between taking a full rest day, and taking an easy cross training day and counting that as rest/recovery.

    1. Laura… The bike day is a rest day. I just ride the bike to get some blood flowing in my legs…. Or I skip it and sleep in. I am an OCD type who won’t take off days unless I schedule them and getting on the bike a bit prevents me from getting too neurotic.

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