For those of you who haven’t been fantasising about running Boston like I have, the qualifying time for my age group (30-35) is 3.30.
My current PB is 3.38.58
That’s at least 9 minutes that I need to find. Luckily, spread over 26.2 miles, it doesn’t sound (quite) so scary. When I ran my current PB in Edinburgh, I averaged 8.19mm pace, so I need to be 20 seconds per mile quicker by April.
I thought I’d write this post to help me focus on what I need to do over the next six months.
1. Using a six month build up
Most traditional marathon plans are around 16 weeks long. I’m starting now, with just over 6 months to go so that I can build a really solid base of strength work and high mileage first. That way, when I come to the final stages, I’ll hopefully have laid the foundations so that I can concentrate on longer race paced intervals, which I know from experience I find the most beneficial.
It also gives me time to have an easy week once a month and not panic if I miss a long run due to fatigue, illness or just general life. That flexibility removes a bit of the pressure. You can read more about how I’ve planned my year here.
2. Cross Training
This made the world of difference in my build up to my Edinburgh PB. Coming back from a femoral stress fracture in December, the volume of actual running I did was far lower than any of my previous cycles, yet I ran a PB by 20 minutes. The difference? I cross trained like an absolute beast!
Strength training undoubtedly makes a HUGE difference. During my Edinburgh preparations I was strength training to reduce my injury risk. I hadn’t anticipated that it would directly improve my speed in the way that it did.
Last cycle I was using body pump as my primary source of strength work, but there’s one problem. Every week is the same. To see improvements you have to challenge your body by constantly changing the demands. This cycle I’m planning to mix it up a little bit more. I’m still going to use body pump, maybe every other week, but I’m also going to do a session in the gym to concentrate more on variety such as lateral movements. All free weights of course, as they are far more functional than a weights machine will ever be.
Plyometric/ explosive work
Or jumping to be simplistic! In the build up to Edinburgh I was doing grit cardio and plyo three times a week. It’s a killer, but I’m sure this was partly responsible for the improvements in my speed. This time round, I’m going to try to do grit twice a week during my strength and base training phases. If you’ve never tried it, grit is the Les Mills combination of burpees, jumping jacks, tuck jumps, high knee runs and lots of other high intensity power moves.
As a side note, I found grit really great for improving my mental toughness. When every fibre of your muscles are screaming at you to stop, you have to move up a gear and just keep going. A really useful mindset when you’re running long distance.
Single leg work
Let’s be honest, most of running is on one leg, so in order to try and improve my form and reduce injury risk I’m adding in a session purely to focus on single leg exercises. Everything from controlled single leg squats to explosive single leg box jumps and from single leg deadlifts to jumping lunges and calf raises.
3. Prioritise the key sessions each week
What this basically means is run the hard runs hard and the easy runs easy. In the past I’ve been guilty of doing so much cross training that I struggle to hit my running sessions due to fatigue. This cycle I’m going to select two to three key sessions each week that I’ll give my all too. To start with these will be strength sessions and even if my legs feel ruined, my running will just be at an easy pace so it won’t matter.
As the weeks go by though, the priorities will change. Eventually my two key sessions will probably be a long run with long race pace intervals and maybe a medium long session mid week also focussing on pace. If I have to take other sessions easy, or drop them altogether in order to give 100% to the key sessions then I’m not going to feel guilty about it.
4. Getting used to race pace
I need my body to know what 8mm feels like in it’s sleep! It needs to be comfortable. The single most helpful thing I did in the build up to Edinburgh was to run sections of my long runs at race pace.
Track sessions are great, and I will incorporate some, but 400m repeats don’t feel specific enough for marathon training. Running at race pace for sections of my long run not only helped physically to prepare me for Edinburgh, but the effect on my confidence was huge. It proves to myself I can do it, and that is a MASSIVE part of marathon preparation for me.
I’m going to target a couple of half marathons, particularly Bath, to run hard. My current half marathon pace is 7.40mm, but I want that to be nearer 7.30 pace. The quicker my half marathon time, the easier it’s going to feel when I drop the pace back to 8mm for the full 26.2 miles. Again, it’s all about convincing my body and more importantly my brain, that I can hold 8mm pace for 3 and a half hours.
6. Run with others
In the build up to Bournemouth I did some track sessions with a friend and we ran so much faster by pushing each other. Until now I’ve always done most of my running alone, but I’m starting to toy with the idea of joining a running club. I just need to work out whether I can fit it around work. I actually think I’m fairly good at getting the most out of myself, but I do wonder whether the support and competition of club running might just help me move up to the next level.
So there we go. Will it be enough? I have no idea. But what I do know, is that I’m 100% committed and whatever the outcome, I’ll have given it my absolute all.