Following the decisions this week of many major spring marathons to postpone until the autumn, I’ve had a lot of questions from people about the best way to structure their training now to maintain the strong endurance base they have built up. Many people have been out running 18-20 mile long runs recently, and are understandably feeling as though their training has been wasted, and are worrying about losing that endurance over the next six months.
It’s a difficult thing to come to terms with; you’ve put your heart and soul into training for a marathon, and for many, it’s heartbreaking. I’ve written down a few tips and ideas of how you can structure your training over the next six months to maximise the fitness you’ve already built and build upon it further.
Focus on the positives
Once you get past the disappointment of not running your goal spring marathon yet, you will hopefully see that you’ve actually been handed a huge opportunity. You’ve built that endurance up, and there are probably things you wish you had done differently during this training cycle, right? Such as add in more strength training, or give yourself more time to build mileage? Now you have that extra time. Think about what you have learned so far, and what you would add in, or change for next time.
Ideally, you don’t want to lose the endurance you’ve built up. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to go out and be able to run 15-16 miles easily, without it feeling like a big deal. There’s no need to regularly do 20 mile runs now your goal marathon isn’t until the autumn, but if you can fit in a 2-3 hour run every 3 weeks or so, this will really help you to maintain that great base you’ve built up. If you were running 35-45 mile weeks, then try to maintain that consistency and aim for 25-35 each week. The key is to keep up the consistency without burning out, so that when the time comes for you to peak towards your new autumn goal, you’re ready.
Make yourself stronger
Strength training is usually the workout that’s easiest to drop, particularly when peaking towards a marathon event. Now you’ve got the opportunity to incorporate this into your training week properly and consistently, making it a healthy habit, that will prevent injury and make you stronger. Include workouts such as weight training, body resistance exercises, plyometric workouts, yoga and pilates. If you need to self isolate during this uncertain period, this kind of training is also so easy to do from home.
Build your speed endurance
I would always recommend you work on EITHER building mileage OR increasing speed, never both at the same time. However, now you’ve built up your endurance, you have the opportunity to maintain that while you focus on boosting your speed a little. Build in some short intervals if you’ve never tried speedwork before, something like 30 second bursts of speed with a 1 minute recovery to start with. Gradually build these up, until you can manage much longer ones, something like 1km repeats with 2-3 minutes recovery. I predict lots of autumn marathon PBs.
Take the pressure off yourself
Training for a marathon is tough. You are completely, single-mindedly focused on a goal. Perhaps you’re feeling a little burned out. If you are, take a break. Run without your watch. Try some new routes. Instead of being focused on covering a certain distance, run for time instead. Do some easy running. Enjoy yourself. Remember why you love running.
I hope these tips have been useful. If you need any specific advice on your training, please get in touch. Look after yourselves, and be kind to others.
If you still would like to run the marathon distance this spring anyway, consider a virtual event such as Run Things virtual marathon which runs all throughout April in aid of a mental health charity