Reasons why you don't need to run 26.2 miles marathon training
Yippee! Whoop Whoop Whoop!
Now you're all signed up and you're following your plan. But let's be honest here ... you don't really trust it do you! You look at the plan thats been recommended and you have questions.
There are only 3 runnings sessions a week
"Surely that's not enough? Shouldn't I be running every day?"
There's loads of speed work
"How can speed work be relevant to running a marathon, a marathon is only about distance surely?"
And your long runs max out at 20 miles
"Heck ... how can I be sure that I'll be able to get around 26.2 miles if I've not tested it out in training?"
I had the same concerns when I trained for my first marathon
So, I added in more runs, so I was running each day and doubled up training with loads of gym work. I ignored speed work. It was so unpleasant to get my heart racing and feel my lungs burn, I ran each training session at an average race pace speed. And at weekends I took myself out for my long run each week increasing distance so my final run was about 24 miles. Then race week I hardly tapered, I was still pounding the pavements "training hard and shedding the pounds".
My marathon was a disaster!
Even if you've been running for years, if this is your first marathon I know you'll have doubts about the training plan you've picked. But trust me ... you need to trust it. Yes really!
So why don't I need to run 26.2 miles in training?
Your training programme is designed to build your body so you have the strength, stamina and running endurance for you to complete a marathon
Hill training, threshold and interval runs and your weekly long slow run will challenge your legs, heart, lungs and mind. All these sessions will work to make physiological adaptations to your body, to make it stronger, more resilient and able to handle the demands of running on race day.
You need to be pushing yourself hard during training
You need to experience discomfort (I didn't say pain!), learn to understand what it feels like and (almost) learn to love it!
You get no additional physiological benefit from running a super long distance
For your body to become adapted, strong and resilient to be able to handle 26.2 miles it doesn't need to have gone that far in training. Studies have shown that you get no further physiological benefit (i.e. changes and adaptations in your body from training) from running 20+ miles as you do from running 12 miles. So there's no physiological benefit from running those crazy long distances in training.
The further you run in your weekly long run the longer it will take to recover
It takes, even for experienced club runners and elite athletes, about 4 weeks to recover from running a marathon. So if you're wanting to run close to that distances in training, be prepared to be fatigued for a very long time after! And if you're exhausted from from your long run you're not going to be able to give other training sessions your maximum effort. You'll be training super tired, and when you do this you put yourself at risk of injury, from overuse or from training with poor posture and form. Too many people get injured whilst marathon training. Don't risk it if you really want to get to the start line in good shape.
But how can I be SURE I'll be able to do it?
As I said, trust in the programme! But I get where you're coming from ... your brain needs to be certain you can run that distance. You brain is sceptical and feeling scared. It doesnt trust you or advice from experienced runners and needs to have definite proof that you can do it!
So if brain is playing tricks on you here's what you do ...
Really go for it in your training
Challenge your body, experience discomfort in your legs, heart and lungs during your short hard training runs. When you're feeling fatigue and discomfort your brain will urge you to stop. Have those "I'm bloody well doing this ... shut up brain" conversations whilst you're doing your speedy threshold intervals. Find solutions that work for you to keep you pushing on through, at the point your brain wants you to quit.
I focus on my breathing, running with good posture and play number games when I find a workout tough. Other people sing, in their head or out loud. Find out what works for you.
But I'm still not sure ...
OK, here's the deal. Let me explain what happens on race day.
Race day, after you've been easing off training for a few weeks (through the taper phase of your training) you will be well rested and your legs will be fresh. Think about your training, each long training run you will have gone out and done with fatigue. So your longest run, maybe 20 miles, you will probably have been a bit tired from the threshold or hills session you did earlier that week. Marathon day, you won't be tired. Your legs will be fresh, so they'll be able to run stronger for longer.
During taper you won't be burning so many carbs in training, and you'll be filling up your body's carb stores to maximum for race day. You'll also most likely take hydration and fuelling seriously during the race, which doesn't always happen when you're training. So you'll be well fuelled to power you around the course.
When you get tired and want to give up on running your sheer bloody mindedness will keep you going. That's the point you put into place your "brain calming strategies", remind yourself of your goals, why you're running the marathon and why that's important to you.
And finally don't discount the effect the race day atmosphere and the crowd has on motivation. If you've friends and family along the route, especially in those final few miles, you want to make sure you're running good and strong for them.
You CAN do this ... and WILL RUN that Marathon!
f you're running a marathon this spring and you're terrified about taper, confused about carb loading and nervous about the day join my Prepare to Run Your Marathon group coaching calls. I'll be holding these call through March and April, timed to get you ready and prepared to run your spring race.