Here's the approach...more miles...shorter long runs. Let me explain.
I love running long. Always did. But many marathoners...particularly those who are running over 3:45 for the marathon distance...are making their long runs way too long...particularly as they go into the later stages of their marathon preparation.
I think it's because the popular marathon training schedules put great emphasis on increasing the weekly long run to the point where the prospective marathoner is covering 20-22 miles. The trouble with this system is that people end up doing "training" runs in excess of 3 hours. With many of these marathon schedules, the long run can approach 40-50% of your total weekly running volume. Crazy.
Training is about stress and adaptation. A run that is close to half of your weekly total is simply too much stress. Adaptation is too difficult. Recovery takes too long. We need to remind ourselves why we are even training in the first place. Granted...we need a bit of confidence before heading to the starting line. We want to know we can finish. But most people cannot realistically do dress rehearsals for marathons without paying an unnecessary price.
This article describes the problem better than I ever could. This guy knows what he is talking about.
It's my personal observation that most people who train for marathons do really well for about 2/3 of their program. But once their weekly long runs start getting over 2 1/2 hours, the progress stops. And just when everything should come together, the wheels start to come off. Niggling ailments start to appear. Excessive fatigue sets in. They start to backslide. Some do OK. Most survive and end up completing the marathon. But if you look back, you often see that people were in better shape 4-6 weeks before the marathon actually took place when the idea is to be in your best shape on the actual day of the race.
If you have run marathons ...think back. Did you feel better on some of your long training runs than you did on marathon day?
Here is an example of a basic weekly marathon training pattern...one that isn't too "top heavy." I've slanted it to to the 3:45-4:15 marathoner, but the basic pattern can be followed by any experienced runner:
- Monday - light restorative movement 30-45mins (examples: brisk walking, walking on treadmill at an incline, indoor biking etc).
- Tuesday - 30-45mins easy run
- Wednesday - 60-100mins moderate progression run. First 30mins is always easy. Early in the preparation do ~60mins and gently build it on a week-to-week basis to where you eventually are over 90mins. On days you feel good...after 30-45mins, you can inject a little bit of pace. For example, you might run the last 15mins of a 90min run at half marathon effort.
- Thursday - walk 5 mins, 20-40mins of 1min walk/1min jog or similar pattern, walk 5 mins
- Friday - 45mins very easy run (can swap with Saturday)
- Saturday - 45-90mins run (can swap with Friday) - early in the preparation...this run will be closer to 45mins and will increase as you get further into the program. Eventually it will decrease in length as you get into the last few weeks.
- Sunday - 1:45-2:30 run...early in the preparation run more towards 1:45...and increase it as you go further in the program up to 2:30 (150mins)...not much more...2:40 is probably the max.
The taper period under this method would be relatively short. In fact, you wouldn't taper much except to pull back the longer runs slightly.
This is just a general example and obviously it should be tweaked for everyone's particular schedules and preferences...and made a bit more specific. But you can essentially build your own schedule using this general pattern.
If you have any questions...just leave it in "Comments".
All the best,