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When I started running marathons I was out there just to finish and say, “I did it.” But somewhere along the way, just crossing the line wasn’t that enjoyable anymore. I was finishing, but I felt terrible. I didn’t feel strong or accomplished. Instead I felt defeated. The marathon was running me, not me running the marathon. Then I finally ran a marathon where I felt strong for all 26.2 miles (yes, it was still a mental battle for a bit between miles 21 and 23), and I learned that feeling strong in the race is determined by a few key efforts in your training.
Build a solid base
The key to a strong marathon training cycle is to start with a soild base. Spend eight weeks building your weekly mileage with easy running, so that when you start your marathon training plan, you have a base of 25 to 35 miles per week. Build your mileage gradually, never increasing more than five miles per week. Be sure that your long run is never more than the sum of your weekly mileage.
Longer Speed Intervals
Half mile repeats are pretty standard in most marathon training plans and are beneficial, but consider longer repeats. Here are a few great marathon prep workouts. Be sure to warm up and cool down with 10 min of easy running.
- 3 x 2 miles (5 min rest): Run three 2-mile intervals at 5K to 10K pace.
- 6 x 1K (2 min rest): Run six 1K repeats at 5K pace or faster, with two minutes of easy jogging between each.
- 2K, 2 x 1K, 2K (3 min rest): Run 2K, jog for three minutes. Then run 2 repeats of 1K with three minutes rest between each. Finish with a final 2K. Run the 2K’s at 5K pace and the 1K’s at 5K pace or faster.
Run more than two 20-milers
The training plan you are following may require only one or two runs of 20 miles. However the difference between simply crossing the line and running strong to the finish is in running more than two runs of 20 miles. Consider scheduling three or four 20 milers. You don’t necessarily have to run longer than 20 miles, and they shouldn’t be back to back. Space out your 20-milers with a “step-back” weekend in between where you run 10-13 miles. And always consult your coach or training plan before adding extra mileage to your routine.
Related: How To Avoid Rungar After A Long Run