Tempo/Hill Run: Done as listed on your schedule. Should be manageable as it’s short.
50% Run: Done at or as close to your goal marathon pace as you can sustain for the full run. It’s tempting to pretend like you lost zero fitness, but the reality is that your body will need time to get back to where it once was. These runs will give you a good indication of just how far you are from the fitness you’d like to attain.
Long Run: Should be done as first half easy / long run pace, then second half closer to goal race pace. Ideally this will be a negative split run, where you get faster over the course of the day. Don’t force it; you’ll be carrying some fatigue from Thursday and might do well enough to just get the full distance in.
That’s it — three main runs for your week. We don’t want to force more on the schedule in terms of bigger runs as you are on the comeback trail. Also, it’s likely your mental / social bandwidth will need some adjustment to full on training again, and this approach affords you that luxury.
What is Cross-Training? It can be anything outside of running. Cycling is a great alternative, as is swimming or almost any aerobic machine at the gym. Regardless of which modality you choose, keep the effort moderate enough so that it doesn’t impact your key runs. Try also to leave some time so you can get in a little light stretching at the end of your session.
Where Could More Running Go? If you are feeling up to it, you can put some light running on the days listed as cross training. Think zone 2, steady effort with some sharpening work at the end, such as a skill run [link]. But no need to do longer, or harder runs than you have already listed in your week.
Step Three: Commit & Recover
Once you have built out your plan, you have to stick with it. Many people on the comeback trail aren’t 100% committed in that a marathon sounds like a cool thing to do but they continue to struggle to get the workouts done. In a shortened program, there is little to no room for error, so be sure that in means IN…otherwise opt out and refocus on a later event.
Outside of the training work to be done, you’ll also need to be 100% on top of your recovery game so that you can reduce fatigue and ease your body back into the full routine of running. In addition to post run care like icing, ice baths, self-massage, etc., you can also work to factor in a 15- to 20-minute session of stretching each day.
What if the runs prove to be too hard? Learning to adjust and adapt is a critical determinant if your marathon bid is to be successful. Here are some options:
Plan A: Try to Run as Planned. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Get the runs done and note where things are challenging. These could be future points of friction that you could ward off with focused self-care or additional recovery.
Plan B: Just run for the allotted time. If your magical paces are eluding you, don’t force it. Instead drop back to run at a sustainable pace that allows you to get the full distance in. At this point in the game, the distance is more important than the speed. Instead of forcing it, let the speed come to you as you continue to exercise.
Plan C: Split the Run. Assuming the epic mileage of some (or all) of these long runs is a bit too much, you can divide them up to make them more manageable. I have provided an example below where the Saturday long run is split to Sat/Sun, with the Saturday effort being an easier/steadier run, and Sunday is closer to your marathon goal pace with perhaps some tempo work included. Note that the long run of 18 is a bit of a leap, but by that time in the program you should be ready to handle that volume.
Step Four: Build A Solid Race Plan
Racing is much more than just fitness; you need an actual plan you can execute on the big day. This plan needs to take into account your training, your current fitness, and most importantly — your new race day goals. Few things are worse than over-achieving for the first 13 miles on race day only to suffer through the remainder. Instead of going into too much detail, I suggest you download our marathon pace planner
Before I let you go, I need to confess that I believe in endurance fate. If something is threatening your big race experience, chances are that might not be a bad thing. Before you throw caution and commonsense aside, think long and hard about your plan. After all, there will be another marathon next weekend…and the one after that. Better that you are ready to race at 100% than post a sub-optimal result that could set you physically and mentally back.
So if you feel pain or discomfort, or are simply unable to meet the training paces or even have a general lack of motivation to run…please reconsider the effort. At the end of the day this is all just a game and is meant to be fun. If it ain’t fun, why do it?