A Different Approach to Marathons

It’s that time of year when everyone is getting into half and full marathon training mode. And with that comes looking at countless schedules and plans and trying to figure out what is going to work for you.  I have always done things a little differently and here is what has worked for me.

I am not a certified coach, personal trainer, or professional athlete so take everything you are about to read with a grain of salt.  All of this is based on my personal experiences and what has worked for me in the past.  There are different types of runners and each responds differently to training regiments. That being said here is what has brought me success of the last several years.

I’m not a big fan of speed work and tempo runs, and for the last 6 years have never incorporated them into my plan.  That being said I know the training plans that call for tempos and weekly speed workout work.  I know too many people, veterans and beginners, who train with them and are absolutely killing it to not see that they pay off.  However  the constant looking at your watch, stop and start, changes in speed, and pressure to hit every 400, 800, or whatever distance split perfectly takes the fun out of running for me.  And hey who really wants to run if it isn’t fun?
I’m also not thrilled with most training plan’s called for ‘long, slow runs’.  If you want to race a specific pace why would you train at a pace that is substantially slower?  I know adrenaline, will to make it, and other factors are counted on to help you jump from your long run training pace to race pace.  In my experience it hasn’t helped that much.  I would rather build a base of longer distance mileage that is close to the pace I want to hold for the entire race.
The last thing about some marathon training plans (especially those targeting BQ times or sub-3 races) I’m not a fan of is the constant high weekly mileage.  I think I have broken a 60 mile week maybe twice in my life, but yet have still gotten decent results in the marathon.  I am a pretty firm believer in constant high mileage inevitably resulting in injury.  It may take a while but I think it is bound to happen just from the consistent stress on your body.

Here is the ‘training plan’ I have followed throughout my entire career: Don’t Have One.

To me running is about enjoyment and getting the most out of it.  I know too many people who stress out about missing a day, cutting a run short, or deviating from their training plan in any way for me to want to try one. I listen to my body and do what feels right.  Yes I try and get a long run in every week but often don’t know if I’ll go 9 or 16 till the day before.  It all depends on how I feel. And instead of doing speed/tempo workouts with longer, slower runs mixed in I try and do everything at or faster than my race pace.  To me it just seems logical…you want to practice like you want to race.  And I don’t know about you but I don’t want to sprint for 400, jog for 100, 5k pace for 800, or whatever the heck your speed work calls for.  I want to run at a fast, consistent pace the whole time.  On the same note I do not want to get used to my long runs being much slower than my race pace because the ‘in the moment’ adrenaline only can do so much.  Again 90% of the people I know follow the ‘speed work/tempo/long, slow run’ training programs and have excellent results.  However if you have hit a rut or are just looking for a change up try making your own, fun training schedule.

The key things to remember: Have Fun! Don’t push yourself too hard. It’s okay to miss a run every now and again. Focus on keeping a consistent (+/- 30 seconds) pace between ALL your runs. Work on your core and upper body (running involves more than legs and lungs). But most of all do what feels right that day, look at the big picture and don’t sweat the small stuff.

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