Coaches Corner: Essential Marathon Workouts to Omit Mystery Racing on the Big Day


It is marathon season and many of you are preparing and hoping for successful races where you finish the race wanting more. There will also be races where you will find out what it feels like to run out of fuel. This blog should help you prevent that from happening on the day of the big race. It's a good time to go over my marathon training techniques like specific-endurance workouts (16km-30km) and fuel runs (25km-40km) and why to use one over the other. Since the majority of your running will be at an easier pace, there are more important tools to use other than just running huge volume. The marathon is an event that has changed dramatically in the last ten years. One major reason for this is that Kenyans and Ethiopians use these techniques to train very specifically for the demands of a world class Marathon. It is not possible to run fast without fast long runs!

 Specific-endurance workouts are workouts that help you to develop the specific ability to race the marathon at a designated pace or a goal pace.  These workouts are normally within a small percentage of race pace to teach the body the specific movements (nervous system/mechanical lever demands) and specific metabolic demands (sugar/fat fuel efficiency) of the race. All of these things make you more efficient at running race pace. The following workouts are a few examples of specific-endurance workouts to use in preparation for the marathon.

 -       10mile progression averaging race pace

-       4 x 5km/1km mixing speeds - 5km a race pace/ 1km at 80% of race pace

-       25km at race pace

-       5 x 5km/1km mixing speeds – 5km at race pace/1k at 80% of race pace - normally totaling 30-35km  

-       Up to 30km at goal race pace

 The emphasis on all of these workouts is hitting as close to goal race pace as possible.

 Fuel runs are workouts that are normally run within 10% of race pace for 30k – 40k. The emphasis on these workouts is on the metabolic demands of the marathon and helping you to build a bigger fuel tank. While we do care that mechanical speed is close to race pace, the real goal is inside the body, teaching it to burn a correct balance of fats and sugars so that on race day you will burn less glycogen, leaving you feeling better and stronger. The following workouts are a few examples of fuel runs to use in preparation for the marathon.

-       30km progression 90 - 100% of race pace

-       35km progression 90 - 98% of race pace

-       40km progression  90 - 96%  of race pace

-       Long run mix like 9 miles easy + 3miles of 1min. fast (100-105% of race pace) / 1min. mod. ( 85-90% of race pace ) + 6miles at 100% race pace + 1mile easy jog + 3miles 102% of race pace + 1mile cool down

 The goal is normally to use a support percentage that is metabolically specific without demands that are too hard. These are advanced workouts that are made to build a bigger tank and are a support level workout that in the end will build a better result on race day.

 Many different things contribute to good and bad marathons. But, if you want to make sure you are close to your goal on race day, you need to be in the ball park on these specific things instead of just getting out and running a lot of miles!  While you can achieve a lot with very high volume and threshold work, if you want to sharpen your arsenal for less mystery racing the day of the marathon then you must pay attention to specific-endurance workouts and fuel runs. Good luck!