In the last post, I defined my goal for qualifying for the Boston Marathon: “I will run the Ottawa Marathon in 3:30 on May 28, 2019.”
To achieve this lofty goal, I will obviously have to train diligently. Determining how to train requires that I acquire the proper knowledge. “Acquire Knowledge” is the first A in the DREAMS Cycle ™.
Many elements need to blend together to deliver a Boston Qualifying time. The basic one is the training plan. My approach to developing a training plan is captured in the running guide I developed: “Plan on RunningYour Best”.
A multitude of sources of information is available on training for a marathon. You can become a student and educate yourself. Runner’s World is a great source of knowledge. Alternatively, you can download a training plan from sources such as HalHigdon, CoolRunning. The Boston Marathon even has their own marathontraining plans.
If you have the means, the most effective advice you can get is by hiring a coach. A certified coach will not only assist you in the development of a training plan, but will adjust you training as necessary and provide some motivation. For those interested, I am willing to guide individuals for free using the DREAMS Cycle approach. I am a level one NCCP coach. Just contact me.
For a cheaper support system, you can utilize a software package or even better, an online platform that will prepare a training customized plan. Garmin Connect and RunCoach are two that I have experience with. Garmin Connect is linked to the Garmin GPS watch my wife bought me a few years ago for our anniversary. I can download my training and they have some basic plans available. Recently, I was introduced to RunCoach when my wife and I registered for the Ottawa Marathon. As part of the registration, there was an option to get support from RunCoach. I ticked the box and then I received an invitation to register for RunCoach. So far it seems like a good platform as it sends me an email every week with the suggested training. RunCoach also includes a paid Gold Membership for those who want one on one advice and support.
No matter what tool you access to obtain a training plan, the main components of an effective marathon plan are: Long Runs, Hill/Strength Workouts, the Speed Sessions, the Steady Runs, the Recovery Runs and the Rest Days. Here is a quick breakdown.
This used to be referred to as LSD – Long Slow Distance. Through experience, I found no reason for this workout to be particularly slow. The main purpose is to build the endurance necessary to reach the finish line of a marathon at the desired pace. One common guideline for the Long Run is to run the same amount of time you plan on finishing your marathon, but at a slower pace. In my case, with my desired marathon time, my long runs would be about 3 hours and 30 minutes. This represents about 35K. My personal belief is that 35K is better than 32K. It gives you that extra mental and physical edge to get you to the end of the marathon.
Steady Runs are the runs that will build your condition and confidence to race at the pace needed to qualify for Boston. These would normally be done a race pace, the pace you plan on running in the marathon. The distance to cover would be between 15 and 25 km. For my goal of a 3:30 marathon, my race pace would be 5 min per km.
The Strength/Hills workout will build the strength required to tackle the hills on a marathon course. Even if there are no hills on the course, the strength developed allows you to push your speed workouts to higher pace. The fitness gained through the Strength/Hills workouts will assist in delaying the onset of fatigue.
The Speed Workouts will build the speed necessary to sustain your desired pace during the race. The Speed Workouts are accomplished at a faster pace that you race pace. When you run you marathon, the pace will feel easy at the beginning as you will be trained for running faster. Building your speed comparable to what you would run in a 15K or half-marathon race should be sufficient to get you ready for the marathon.
Recovery Runs aim at providing some recovery after steady runs, long runs, speed sessions or strength training. You cannot run hard all the time, but you need to long it the miles anyway.
Few individuals can train seven days a week without getting injured. One or two days per week of not running will allow the muscles to rebuild and become stronger. In my case, my body has always needed a couple of days of rest. I usually take these Rest Days on a Monday after a long run and on a Friday at the end of the work week.
One of the common questions when attempting to qualify for the Boston Marathon is “how much distance do I need to cover.
A study by Strava indicated that Boston Qualifiers ran about 85-
per week. That seems to be consistent across many individuals who have
qualified. For my 3:30 marathon, I figure I need to reach at least 75 km/week
and I should probably try to reach 85 km/week.
Getting to 75-85 km per week and a 35 km long run takes a gradual buildup. The increase from a consistent running base should be limited to about 10% per week and no more than 5 km increase per long runs.
Once you have the knowledge of how to train, the next step is to put it all together and create a training plan, which in the DREAMS Cycle ™ is your “Action Plan”, the second A.