Marathon Q&A.

I'm am not a coach, by any means.  However I am fortunate enough to have access to some of the best minds in endurance sposts.  So when people send in questions, I seek out their answers from the people who know best.

One such question came from a Chicagonow Radio producer who is new to running, training for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, but also other races during her journey to Grant Park and needed some guidance on how to proceed.  Luckily coach Jennifer Harrison was able to jump in and sort things out, if you are a runner, this is a great question and great advice.

"I know in June you really have to start the hard core marathon training - but what should I be doing now?  I don't want to peak to early...I'm signed up for the Soldier Field 10 miler at the end of may and I was wondering if I should be focusing on the training program for that.  I am currently running three days a week, 3,4,5 miles....I need to work on cross training - but it's just been easier to focus on running lately.  What do you suggest?"
 

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I have all my marathon athletes that are training for Chicago race and train for shorter distance races.  Since you have the 10 miler over Memorial Day weekend, I would suggest increasing your long runs by 5% each week (no more than 10%) in prep for racing 10 miles in less than 7 weeks.  That would set you up nicely for the beginning of marathon training June 1st.
 
If you can, I would increase your runs to 4/week.  I tell my athletes that I think that is the magical number to see improvement, but not too much that you cannot do other things.
 
I would also recommend adding in a day of Functional Strength.  What I mean by this is a day where you spend 1 hour at the gym (either solo or with a personal trainer) working on lunges, strength, flexibility, core...and really focus on your body imbalances and smoothing things out on your body.  This transfers over beautifully to a strong core and good form that is critical in running,...especially as you get tired and lose form.

I would also recommend 1 day of cross training.  Do you like to swim
or bike?  Something easy like that - where Heart rate is VERY low -
like 65% of your max HR...and just using different muscles.
 
In regards to your 4 runs per week...I would start to introduce, if you
have not yet, tempo runs//fartleks/hills or track workout....each run
has a purpose and needs to be done on fresh (not tired) legs to
maximize the workout.  So, for example....your long run one day on the
weekend and then perhaps a HARD run (example listed above) on Wednesday
and then 2 easy and short runs on the other days of the week.
 
Make sure your heart rate is NOT always in that gray zone...what I mean
by that is always training at a moderate level...MAKE SURE your easy
days are easy and your hard days are hard!!!
 
I hope this helps!  GOOD LUCK!

To find out how coach Jennifer can help you reach your training goals, click on her name below.

Jennifer Harrison
USA Triathlon Level 2 Certified Coach

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