Q and A

Since starting on this marathon campaign there have been a number of interesting questions asked. So far I've only addressed a few. Here is an attempt to get on track an enlighten a few on some of the reasoning behind what I do. Thanks to everyone who asked away. It does help me work through my training plan.

Marathon Pace

I see there are no MP long runs until week 17. What about bringing these in earlier, or as 'part' of the long run - such as last 20 mins at MP?

Earlier in the training program (Base period, weeks 1-16), marathon pace (MP) can be a little misleading. Early on the extended, steady-state threshold runs of 45-75min will essentially start at around my expected marathon pace, but the actual intensity will be slightly higher. It is hoped that a portion of the aerobic conditioning runs, including the longer runs progress to close to marathon pace as my training progresses. However, it is still base training which is designed to prepare my body to handle the specific training to follow. The focus of base training is to build appropriate endurance, musculoskeletal and connective tissue integrity and the necessary strength and speed skills to make the most of the marathon pace runs and longer high intensity training in the final weeks.


Next, about your strength training regime: Are you looking at circuit training, higher reps (initially) and then move to increasing muscular strength by incorporating lower reps and higher weight?

I've experiemented a lot over the last few years with different strength training techniques. For the most part it comes down to a simple concept: to get stronger, lift progressively heavier things. My aim for the marathon is to increase general strength, but most importantly increase the strength of my connective tissue such as ligament and tendons where injuries are typically more likely to occur. To that end my strength training will typically involve 3-4 sets of 4-6 repetitions of a very slowly increased load. I am in no rush to increase the actual weight lifted by much, just as long as there is some sort of improvement. Hopefully this will allow time for the connective tissue to adapt appropriately.

The exercises will usually be squats, overhead press, pull ups, deadlift, bench press, and calf raises plus core strengthening. Combined with a slow progression and the 3-4x4-6 scheme, strength training shouldn't leave me too sore for the following day's training. Essentially the training is about buidling a structurally sound body, not breaking any records. It is also the way I like to lift and meets the needs of the physical side of my work.

Prediction Tables

My experience with McMillan is that if you're very strong on endurance/have done sufficient long/long-fast finish runs you'll go close to converting a half time. He was hopeless for me though - predicted 2:52 and I ran 3:11

Which is exactly how McMillan describes his prediction tables. The times are equivalent if you include the appropriate mix of volume and intensity of training. I have found these very relevant for me in the past. Seeing a trend like a drop of in the longer distance race times suggests my endurance is lacking, or a drop off at the fast end suggests I need to look more at my high end training. It is a guide only, but one which I have used successfully in the past. Being able to hit the predicted 10km and half marathon times while training specifically for the marathon with plenty of long runs and sustained threshold type work should mean I am on track to my marathon goal. On the other hand if I hadn't included all the long runs and sustained volume, then I wouldn't expect to be able to correlate 10km and marathon time.

Minimal Training

I really don't enjoy marathon training and have almost given up on that distance. However, I've been reading more about training for the marathon with fewer running days and fewer overall miles. I'm a 4:00-4:30 marathoner. Do you have any experience with those types of programs?

In my experience and opinion, reduced volume training programs will not lead to your best possible marathon. That doesn't mean you can't reach certain goals, just that if your goal is to hit your potential best marathon time, then reduced training is unlikely to achieve it. I am a big believer there needs to be a moderate to high amount of running volume over a considerable period of time. That's one reason I have stopped comepting in Ironman triathlons. The volume of training required for me to race at a level I am happy with is too much for my current lifestyle choices.

Red Line

Yes, the good thing about 'training through' is that you're not fresh enough to really cane the legs.My tendency would be to run even or negative split type races - thus spending less time near the 'red line'.

The suggestion is that spending more time at near red line is a bad thing. For most lead up races I see it as important to race hard and achieve prolonged time at a high intensity. Truly racing will identify strengths and weaknesses for my to address in the follow up training. By training through races I do miss out on that little bit of extra kick that seems to result in the need for extended recovery. Red lining is what it is all about for me in most races. I love pushing my limits and need to develop the mental side of pushing myself just as much as the physical side. I do not want get into the habit of holding back in races.


Of course if you did 400m-type training the time would come down - probably not in the plan though? Also, I'm not sure about the need for the 400m TT in a marathon program

I use a 400m time trial as a marker to get an idea of my combined anaerobic tolerance, power/muscle strength and speed development. Naturally 400m specific training will bring the time down, but when I stated I preferred my time to be at or below 65 seconds, I was meaning in line with a marathon program. It is a time trial that I can be recovered from within 24 hours. As with the prediction tables, it is a measure of part of my fitness. If my 400m time came down significantly, but my longer races or MAF test slowed, then I would know training is erring on the side of too much higher intensity.


I reckon there is a certain euphoria from a good race that can sometimes carry you though to the next session, but 3 days later, ouch, reality sets it! - Em

I am interested that you say 3-6 days for recovery. I did the R4K and Puffing Billy in my training lead up to the Half Marathon and did not miss a session in the weeks following these (but substituted an easy 5km for the track session the first run after Puffing Billy).But, after the half, my calves were absolutely shot to bits. Did an easy 5km on Friday night and that was hard enough. Legs feeling ok now for first time since the race.Your thoughts?

Recovery is a very individual element. Not just varying between people, but for the same person throughout the training and racing career. When I am fit (ie. with a consistent bank of kilometres over many weeks), my recovery times usually pretty quick. If the recovery is purely in the form of normal muscle breakdown and soreness then the time line is at it's shortest. If there are further problems such as actual muscle/soft tissue tears or adhesions then will usually be a requirement for prolonged downtime. Feeling extra good the day or two after race may be more than just euphoria. There is a bit of talk in strength training circles of increased performance the day or two after heaving lifting. Maybe the body is in a heightened state, expecting to have to perform again. The downside is usually a significant drop afterwards.


  1. Thanks Jason. That's enlightening.

    I agree about the prediction tables being great for highlighting weaknesses (or your best event).

    I'm becoming more interested in theories about 'recovery' and 'over-training', with the high miles I've been running. I agree that all athletes need different amounts of recovery. Take Dave Criniti for instance - 34k runs on the Saturday and Sunday the week before a 2:24:30 PB marathon! Do you have an experience or views about HRV? Canute has written extensively about it and recommends the Suunto t6c to measure this value and use it to guide the timing of recovery/hard sessions.

  2. A good read as always, Jason. Cheers, PB


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