Many marathoners refer to the final 5-10K of a marathon as something they hope to “survive” or simply “make it through.” When training athletes for a marathon, it is always important to prepare them to close out strong, rather than simply survive. One of the most effective ways to achieve this late marathon push is to use a 5K or 10K race to cap one or two of your long runs.
Timing is key in this strategy, but essentially the idea is to run 14-18 miles prior to the start of a local 5K or 10K race (this usually requires a very early start) and then execute the shorter race aggressively as you would if it were independent of the longer effort. Both in terms of muscle memory and psychological preparation these “finish fast” long runs are a tried and true secret that professional marathoners have used for decades.
The Surprise Bonus: 5K PR
One of the ancillary benefits for individuals who are preparing for marathons is commonly great improvements over the shorter distances. Time and time again it is folks who are executing marathon preparation who see big jumps in the 5K and 10K events. Aerobic fitness plays a primary role even in the shorter events and, more often than not, it is people training like marathoners who often experience their best performance—even at the shorter events. So be certain during your marathon preparation—even within the final 3-4 weeks—to toss in some shorter races to see what you can do.