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:
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!!!!