Digging into the marathon training

After setting a new personal best in the 5000 metres, it was quickly back to marathon training in preparation for Canberra.

There’s no rest for the wicked; or for marathoners, apparently. After finally ticking the sub-15 box last week at the 5k champs, it was quickly back to work in my marathon training, increasing mileage and grinding out some tough workouts.

Apart from a slightly sore heel pad on my left foot (which seems to recur every time I wear spikes… damn you and your stack height regulations World Athletics!) and some tired legs, the body feels pretty good and seem to be absorbing the marathon training pretty well.

It’s now just 8 weeks until the Canberra Marathon, and I’m getting into the meat-and-potatoes part of the training block. When my coach sent me the latest four-week program over the weekend, it was daunting to see some of the big workouts I have coming up on the schedule.

It’s a weird feeling, actually; a sense of dread mixed with anticipation and excitement. These workouts are going to hurt, but they’re designed to test you, and push you to (and beyond) your limits for sustained periods so you can better tolerate that pain and discomfort. They are designed to prepare you for the marathon.

I’m not a masochist. And I’m not exactly looking forward to the pain. But I welcome the notion of preparedness; and I’m excited by the prospect of feeling ready to race, both mentally and physically.

The distance doesn’t change. It’s 42.2 km whether you run in London, Tokyo or Canberra. It’s gruelling, and you need to be prepared to fight to the very end. On that note, let’s take a peek at the training week that was.

Training week at a glance

  • Total KM: 142. The biggest week yet
  • Longest Run: 35+2 km. A big Sunday with the crew. I had 2k really slow to meet everyone. We cruised for 90 minutes (or about 20k at close to 4:25s) and then we had 30 minutes at Greg’s marathon pace (around 3:35/40s). I had another 20 minutes to finish with Russ.
  • Toughest run: Friday session, 3 x 4km at around half marathon pace. As mentioned above, we’re getting into some of the big marathon training sessions, and this was a tough one.
  • Biggest confidence booster: If I’m being honest, I’m still riding a wave of confidence from the state 5K champs. There was no single run this week that gave me a ton of confidence; instead, I’m taking some confidence away from the collective effort. I managed to recover well from the race, and most importantly, I’ve been consistent. I think that’s the biggest key in a marathon training block.

Key sessions

On Tuesday, I had 30 minutes on the track: 15 x 1 minute efforts, off 1 minute float. This is a pretty challenging session and a good 10k workout, but with the legs still pretty fatigued, the goal wasn’t to hammer it. Rather, the goal was to run-to-feel and simply get it done.

I thought I would start to progressively slow in this workout, but surprisingly, I managed to keep things pretty steady. My efforts were pretty much always within 3:00-3:05 range, and the floats close to 3:30s. For the workout, I averaged 3:14/per km and ran 9.3 km.

My Friday session was 3 x 4 km targeting 3:15s (or 13 minutes for the effort), off a 1km float at around 3:45 pace. I got started, but knew within the first couple Ks it was going to be a grind, as the legs were still feeling pretty heavy.

Through two-thirds of the workout, I was in good shape. Mu splits were 12:45 and 12:50 for the first two efforts, off a 3:45 float. But my next float slowed to 4 minutes, and I also needed to make a quick pit stop. Getting rolling again was tough, but I managed to hit the final effort in around 13:05.

It wasn’t a perfect workout, but it didn’t need to be. Coming-off the 5K personal best last Saturday, this week was about re-adjusting to marathon training and more marathon-specific workouts. And this was still a solid effort I can bank, and build on.

Consistency and the 1 per cent

Blue towers, skyscrapers, your picket fence… call those neat little Strava mileage bars what you will, it’s nice to see them incrementally growing in size and staying relatively steady.

Since this marathon training block began in early January, I’ve been focusing on building volume while staying consistent. I had a couple down weeks in early December, as the body was feeling pretty spent, but since then the skyscrapers are looking good.

Here’s my mileage over the last 10 weeks: 125 km, 124, 133 (official start of marathon training), 139, 131 (small taper for 3k race), 140, 141, 117 (taper for State 5k Champs), 142. As much as hitting key sessions, this week-on-week consistency is a huge confidence booster.

It’s considerably more mileage than I would have logged in my last marathon training block (before Melbourne in 2019), plus I have an extra year of running in the legs. It’s a solid base of strength.

Over the past year, there have been some little injuries and nagging aches (there’s also been a baby), but the interruptions to my training have been relatively minor. That’s due, in large part, to my wife allowing me to get out and train. But also to being more diligent with the 1 per cent: stretching, foam rolling, and strength work.

I’m far from perfect, and if I’m short on time, these are the sessions that get sacrificed; but even making an effort to integrate them, in a small way, has been huge for keeping me on track. Over the next eight weeks, that 1 per cent needs to continue to be a major part of my routine.

For now, that’s all. You can follow me on Strava. Or message me if you have any questions or tips at myles@runcreature.com. And you can help us grow RunCreature by reading and sharing our great content.

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I’m Myles Gough. I’m a distance runner, writer and teacher. I started RunCreature to tell stories about athletes, runners, and the issues that matter to our community. 

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