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Running marathons as marathon training

985 Views 18 Replies 11 Participants Last post by  Coach Craig
I used to share the view that it was not smart to run the full distance during marathon training: my first several marathons, I maxed out at 22- or 23-mile long runs.<br><br>
But then last year I joined Marathon Maniacs, and my perspective on marathons changed. Now it feels like deprivation to go an entire marathon training cycle without running a marathon.<br><br>
Not only that, but last fall when I ran 4 marathons in 5 weeks, I noticed some surprising training benefits. Specifically, I'm often plagued by calf cramps late in a marathon. Over the course of those 4 marathons, my calf issues went from moderate to zero. So it seems like there was a definite beneficial adaptation. On the other hand, of course the first of those 4 marathons, my fall target marathon, was the fastest.<br><br>
So... with that in mind, what is the best way to use a marathon as a training run for a goal marathon? I'm running Boston this year, targeting ~3:10, and I'm using the Georgia marathon, three weeks earlier, as a training run. Options include:<br><br>
1. Treat it as a normal long run (~8:00 pace, ~3:30 finish).<br>
2. Treat it as an MP run: e.g. 1st 10 miles at 8:00 pace, next 10 at 7:15, last 6 easy.<br>
3. Go for my now-standard "non-target-marathon" goal of a BQ, 3:20.<br><br>
Plan 3 has the interesting feature that it can be combined with plan 2: if I do the first half at 8:00 pace, then the second half at goal MP, 7:15, that works out almost exactly to a 3:20 finish. However, if I just wanted to finish in 3:20, and minimize effort/damage, it would be smarter to run the whole thing at 7:38 pace. Plus the second half is somewhat hilly.<br><br>
Oh, and the schedule I'm on (Pfitzinger 55) calls for a 20-miler that day.<br><br>
One more thing... I'm also considering a half the week after Georgia (two weeks before Boston), as a full-effort tune-up race. I always like to get in a half as a marathon calibrator, and that one seems to be my only local option.<br><br>
Thoughts? Opinions?<br><br>
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Bob, I will be right there with you in Atlanta. We can discuss it for the first 10 miles @ 8:00 pace and then decide. <img alt="biggrin.gif" src=""><br><br>
Since Boston is more important to me, it wouldn't phase me if I ran the entire 26.2 at easy pace. Since it's a hilly course, it should be a strength building long run, even at easy pace. IMO, there is plenty to be gained from running it easy. Particularly in respect to physiological adaptations from the slower fat-burning pace.<br><br>
If truly using as a training run for a marathon three weeks later, I think a good approach is to run the marathon with a frame-of-mind to rebound in time for the next scheduled quality workout. I don't see any benefit of running the 26.2 in training if it takes me away from subsequent quality workouts.<br><br>
As an aside, I have backed into three of my best marathons because my A-race did not go well (once due to weather and another to flu.) Because I "pulled-the-plug" by mile 18 of my A-race, I was able to turn it around and re-race the marathon three weeks later. I applied the last 18 days of the Pfitz "Four weeks between marathons" plan as my template to make it work.<br><br>
My latest example was Grand Rapids (3:04) three weeks after Steamtown (3:16.) So, intuitively speaking, racing a marathon (three weeks out) for 18-20 miles could be argued as a good idea. Not sure I would recommend it, though.
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