Specific Marathon Training

This is it. The last chance to mould my mind and body for the marathon.

Before I reach the taper I have five calendar weeks of Specific Phase training. These five weeks will be covered as 4 x 8-9 day cycles. Each cycle will consist of the following:

  • Long Run
  • Marathon Pace Run
  • VO2 track intervals
  • Speed/Anaerobic Conditioning
  • Aerobic Conditioning
  • Strength/Core Conditioning

The first four in the list are key, not-to-be-missed runs. The aerobic conditioning and strength work, while important is still secondary.

As mentioned previously, I was heading towards a premature performance peak. Running a marathon on the downside of a peak is an invitation for a very poor result. Therefore, I am attempting to put the brakes on the recent, fast increase in racing ability and hopefully have myself in even better condition on October 11. To do this, the next five weeks will consist of some relentless training. The key difference will be instead of having some really hard key sessions that require 2-3 days of easy/recovery work, before doing it all again, the key runs won't be anywhere near as intense. To force the body into a new phase of adaptation, the training approach will appear a little easier. That is the requirement of each run will be that it is almost repeatable to next day. Of course the key runs are harder than the aerobic conditioning work, but not significantly so. The key stimulus will be the relentless nature of training each day at a relatively higher level, without some very easy days to break things up. As a result I'll expect to have my race times dampened somewhat over the next few weeks.

Long Run

Alternating between a comfortable 3hr run and a 2.5hr fast finish run. The 3hr is now a pleasant time for me to run. I'm not too concerned about pace.

The fast finish on the other hand will start easy, have a portion run at around marathon pace, finishing with a very fast effort over the last few kilometres. I have taken the basic ideas from Greg McMillan as covered in his article "The Marathon Long Run".

Marathon Pace Run

Simple, run somewhere between 90-120min at my expected marathon race pace.

There are two ways of doing this depending on where I am. If able to run over a measured course, then I will simply stick to the pace and ignore heart rate. If unable to run a marked course, then the run will be guided by my expected heart rate range and calculated from the 30km race covered at marathon pace a few weeks ago. With an average HR of 157 there, I'll be looking to hold 152-162 for these runs.

VO2 / Track Intervals

Originally planned to be run at 8-5km race pace. I've slowed things down a tad, to something around 10km pace to make sure I get that peak right. Pretty simple really. Run a few intervals at near 10km race pace, with a 400m float in between. The plan for each cycle is as follows:

  1. 6x1000m
  2. 6x1200m
  3. 5x1600m
  4. 4x2000m

The increased stimulus comes from increasing the overall distance covered, as well as the distance of each interval. There is to be no increase in the speed these sessions are performed for each cycle.

Speed / Anaerobic Conditioning

Some argue not very important for marathon racing. I disagree, as long as it isn't overdone at the expense of other running. The faster work allows for ensuring a functional dynamic range of motion, improves relaxation and comfort at race pace or above, provides specific power/strength training and develops the muscle fibres and motor recruitment patterns required when things are getting hard. The basic structure of the main part of the session will be:

  • 4 x 100m @ 800-1500m pace
  • 6-8 x 400m @ approx 85sec, then 400m float
  • 4 x 15-20sec stair repeats

Fast running, but within my capabilities and shouldn't have my legs toasted.

Aerobic Conditioning

The in-between runs. Run at a bit below marathon race pace. Covering about 75-90min each run, unless I have other commitments (such as work) where hopefully I can make it a double run day. I should be able to cover 14-19km most of the time.

Strength / Core Conditioning

Weights. Each cycle will have 2x40min of general, whole body strength work. Squats, deadlifts, overhead press, pull ups for only two sets. I should feel stimulated, not broken down by the intensity of the training. Nothing is to failure.

The core work will be another 2 sessions per cycle, covering about 30min of various sit ups, planche work, swiss ball exercises.

One difference is that I will include calf strengthening work 4 times a cycle as this appears an area of vulnerability to injury at the moment.

Get Out and Run

The plan is there. No I have put it all down in writing, there isn't much thinking left to do. I just have to get out there and put in the effort each day.


  1. Hi Jason,
    I'm slightly confused at the aerobic conditioning runs being 'secondary'. You call these 'in between' runs. Are you not planning to have any easy days between the first four sessions (long run, marathon pace, V02, speed/anaerobic)?


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