Being just over a month out from the Melbourne Marathon, means I do not have the luxury of time. I still want to set a PR, but with the recent gaps in training, decline in performance and inability to handle the loading I believed was necessary, there are plenty of doubts about my ability to run well. That said, I still plan on aiming to meet my original goals.
From this point on the majority of my training is quite lean. My biggest limiter is a inability to handle volume. Running long threshold sets and/or stacking up the kilometers between the key runs is breaking me down. The reduced overall kilometers, and in particular lack of long threshold runs is likely to leave the back end of the marathon a risky area for me. Is there a way around this?
For me it means I have to change my mindset. Traditionally I do very well with the longer kilometers, which leads to a good ability not to slow late in the race and even pick things up. The bank of kilometers has usually given me a reasonable margin for error on race day. This time I won't have that. Instead I have to focus on what else I can do get myself ready for the marathon.
Now my focus is in on getting in a good quality run, that provides a good training stimulus, followed by some recovery for 1-3 days before the next harder run. The plan is hardly even pencilled in. Instead I am constantly running the through the checklists to make sure I am absorbing the training and don't have any real residual fatigue before doing the next key session. Another element to note is the key runs are not ridiculously hard. I am pushing the envelope each time, but now I cannot afford to over shoot the mark and require another week to recover. I need to have a lot of trust that this will work.
Until the taper, the recovery days are either no running at all or something that feel stupidly easy like 30-60 minutes, slow. If I'm feeling extra good, then I will stop the run short. The slightly longer runs will only happen if I feel like I loosening up more with the kilometers.
There are three.
- Marathon Pace
The long run will be over the usual mixed terrain. Somewhere around the 3 hour mark, and maybe 32-36km. The pace will be what feels natural, without really dipping into the reserves, but with a proviso of aiming for an even to negative split. If feeling okay and the recovery between sessions is going as hoped then I will push some of these runs over the last sections. Importantly I will pick courses that finish with a few hills and an overall small ascent in the last half, to roughly match the Melbourne marathon course.
For the marathon pace run the initial goal had been to cover 20-24km at around predicted race pace. Now I have reduced the distances down to 7-16km. Instead of aiming to push the boundaries, the goal is to dial in the rhythm. This run should feel easier each time I do it. This run shouldn't be difficult and really isn't about substantially increasing my fitness.
The fast run will be varied. At this stage I expect to alternate between intervals on the track like 6-8 x 1000m @ 3:35-3:40, with a prolonged run of 7-10km @ 3:50/km. These runs are about improving my fitness. They should increase my race paces, plus my ability to sustain these speeds. The other key benefit is the training and development of the fast twitch muscle fibres that do not receive much stimulation in the rest of my training, but play a significant role in the latter stages of the marathon.
In A Few Sentences
In each of the next few 8 day cycles, I get in two hard sessions (one long, one fast) and one comfortable pacing run. Everything else is about ensuring I recover and adapt to these few runs. No longer about clocking up a big bank of kilometers. It will be interesting to see if this approach works.