Marathon Training for Triathlon

You may be thinking about doing a marathon later during the season.  Even if your goal is to just finish the race, which is not a bad idea for your first marathon, you will need to put in some long runs during your training.

You will need to have approximately two to three hours done over a period of time of eight to ten weeks in order to be ready to run the distance.   You will need to do some walking, not only during your practice, but also during the actual race.

Maybe you are using running a marathon to help build an aerobic endurance for training as a triathlete.   It may be that it is hard to train for the bike portion of the triathlon for many people.  Marathon training needs to include long runs and even hills that will help you.

But for those of you who want a personal best time during the marathon, while also getting ready for launching your fulltime training for a triathlon, there is more to the training.  In many cases, the training needs to be more than just having long runs.

You need to just forget the idea that having a certain volume each week will help you run fast during a marathon.  Also, you don’t need to be increasing your logged miles each week to get faster.  What is important to being able to do a full 26.2 mile run is doing race specific intensity.  You will find the workouts below that will help you prepare for a marathon.

Long run

Before you train for speed, you need to first work on your distance.  A “long run” for marathon training is considered running anywhere between 2 ½ and 3 hours.  It doesn’t really matter what your have as your race goal, you should never run more than this.
If you go longer you won’t get any more of an aerobic fitness, it will only increase your chance of injury and even overtraining.  To start, you will take your longest run and add 15 to 20 minutes to it each time you go for a run.  Your pace is going to be a moderate one, which is about two minutes per mile slower than what you are going to use for a 10k pace, or your heart rate zone 2.

Hilly run

This particular run is one of the most valuable workouts you can do, besides doing the long run.  It will not only help build strength for the hills you will encounter during a marathon course, but it will also provide you with a powerful stride as well.

Tempo run

The longer the race you are running is, the more important it is to make sure you understand what pace is and what is the right pace for you.  You don’t want to start out too fast or you will never make it through the race.

It is suggested that you break the race into three different parts.  Your basic tempo will be the pace you use during miles 4 -20 of the race.  You will be doing this a 10 – 20 minute warm up and a 5 – 10 minute cool down.

You will use a more advanced tempo finish when you come to the end of the run.  A good example would be to run 60 minutes of your long run paced during the above workout and then pick it up a little bit for 30 minutes, which gives you a 90 minute workout.

You will want to gradually make the tempo portion a little longer until you are able to run 60 minutes at your long run pace and then 60 minutes at your tempo pace.  This will help prepare you for the rigor of the marathon.

Cruise intervals

The mile repeat is done at a pace that is just a bit faster than what your average marathon pace is in order to help improve your muscular endurance.  “Mile Repeats” will be how many repeats are to be done and what the pace is based on what your goal time is for the marathon.

The recovery times between each repeat will be a 200 meter walk.  This particular workout will come after you have completed the basic endurance and even the hill training.  This particular pace will make your marathon seem like a breeze.

Downhill strides

The idea behind these are to improve your running, how smoothly you will run, while makes sure your legs and quads are not sore like they are typically during the later part of the marathon.  What you will do is on a 2% grade, you will run 1 minute downhill slower than your top speed.

It is best if you can do this on a soft surface.  You don’t want to do this on asphalt or concrete.  Make sure you are concentrating on your form and that it is relaxing.  You will then either walk or jog slowly up the hill.  You want to do between 8 – 12 of these in the workout.

Cross train

You don’t want to run every day.  You should bike and/or swim on the recovery days.  For those of you who are in your 20’s, you may run 5 or 6 times during a week because you recover quicker.  For every 10 years of life once you hit 30, you will subtract one day you will run every week, with a minimum of 3 days of running.

Marathon Periodization

Below is a 12 week schedule as an example of one of the many ways to prepare using the suggested workouts from above.  It is going with the idea that you are beginning with a good base that was built on runs that are between 2  ½ – 3 hours and that you have a sound body strength that was developed in the weight room.

The schedule below follows a 4 week mesocycle.  If you are 40 years old or older or are more prone to injury or even overtraining, you may want to use a three week period.  The idea is that every 3rd or 4th week you will reduce the amount of work by ½ for 5 – 6 days and then you will test your progress either on the 6th or 7th day.

You want to make sure that the long and intense runs are separated by 48 hours or more.

Weeks 1 – 4

You want to make sure you do a long run that will be on a hilly course during weeks 1, 2 and 3.  Also make sure that you are completing a basic tempo run during the same 3 weeks.  Also include one cruise interval workout during weeks 2 and 3 and ¼ of what you are indicated in the “Build to X Reps” column.

Weeks 5 – 8

You will want to complete a long run on what is a rolling, but not hilly, course during weeks 5 and 7.  During weeks 6 and 8, you will do a tempo finish run.  You will then do cruise intervals in weeks 5, 6, and 7 by adding 1 or 2 reps each week.  You will also want to do downhill strides in the first 3 weeks of this particular block.  You will start with four and keep adding each week.

Weeks 9 – 12

You will want to start tapering off as you prepare for the marathon, which will be at the end of week 12.  You will need to reduce the volume of your workout by 20% each week.  During weeks 9 and 10 you will want to include tempo finish runs of 90 minutes.  You also want to maximize the cruise intervals and your downhill strides during weeks 9 and 10.

During week 11 you will include a basic tempo run and then ½ of the maximum number of cruise intervals and downhill strides that you were doing in week 10.  During week 12 you will run a basic tempo run, which will be 15 – 20 minutes early in the week, otherwise you want to keep everything short and easy during the week.

Testing Progress

As you recall, every 3rd or 4th week you will have a week that is about rest, which is culminating a test of progress.  One of the best tests would be to run a race that is less than 10 kilometers.  Another test would be to run 8 – 12 X 800 meters run as fast as you possibly can with 20 second walking recoveries.  Hopefully as your marathon fitness improves your average time will for this workout.

The average time you run during this will give you an idea of about how fast you will run the race.  An example is that if your average is about 3 minutes and 10 seconds, you will be able to run the marathon in 3 hours and 10 minutes.

The Race

Once you get to the starting line, you will be ready for a fast marathon based on the 3 part pacing.  Don’t try to go out hard, go ahead and build a cushion for later in the race.  Running fast, early during the race, will only cause problems later on in the race.  Be patient and know that the hard work you put into training will pay off.

Good luck!


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