It was a pleasure to start the marathon training group off on an 18 week block of training on Wednesday. 30 runners joined the first session of 5 x 7 minutes at marathon intensity with a 1 minute recovery.
The purpose of the session was to think about what a marathon intensity might feel like at the outset of an 18 week block. This could have been measured by pace, by heart rate, by breathing, or by perceived effort. It was pleasing to see runners finishing the session as comfortably as they started. ‘Thanks for keeping me honest,’ one runner said to his partner as they finished the session together. In another group that formed on the track, I could hear some snatches of conversation through the deep breathing. This is key. Although the sessions take place on the track, this does not mean that we are blasting our way around. The marathon, by definition, has to be about learning to control effort and manage intensity. We should be able to finish these sessions knowing that we could have run some more, and certainly feeling that we could run on the Thursday or Friday afterwards. The fastest that we’ll ever really get over this block is around 45 seconds faster than marathon pace (don’t worry if you still are unsure what this is, more about this in the future), as this will provide enough of the training stimulus that we need.
Most of the group are targeting a Spring 2024 marathon. We also welcomed people who are training for an ultra, a half marathon, or who have the Ironman 70.3 as their A-goal at the end of June. What unites us all is the ambition to build the endurance to complete (or compete) the longer distances.
And so to the foundation of our training over the next 18 weeks: the long run. The importance of this cannot be over-stated in marathon training, and our thinking about what the long run is there to do is something that I will keep returning to as we build this out. We will, in future weeks, think about how to manage energy, fuelling, motivation, and discomfort. However, in week 1 of 18, none of these should be an issue because we should not be going that far.
So how far should we go this week?
For most of us, simply adding a little volume to or normal Sunday run will be sufficient. Adding a mile or two to the distance that you normally run would be a great place to start. If you training by time, a 10 - 15 minute increase, will see you on the way to building the all important volume. This is not the stage of training (or the time of year!) to be worrying about pace, other than to work consciously to keep the effort down. This should feel easy, almost cheating. However, the physiological adaptations that are prompted by low intensity training are the bedrock of marathon training. There will be time later on in the programme to build in marathon intensity work.
Ok, that’s it! Get out there, enjoy the weekend and enjoyed your longer relaxed run. I cannot make the track own Wednesday as I have a funeral to attend in Boston, but Gareth is going to take the session so that we can build the consistency we need. The details will go up on Monday. In the meantime, if you need anything, please give me a shout.