10 Miles by Christmas
So you’ve got your entry to the 2018 Virgin London Marathon with St. John Ambulance….but what now?!
Over the years we have been coaching most common thing we’ve seen with runners tackling their first marathon is a big initial enthusiasm and flood of training, followed by a lull before Christmas….with a bit of panic setting in during February. Your marathon journey in reality starts well before Christmas and we wanted to give you a few targets to keep you focus in these early months.
Your marathon goal will feel a lot more manageable and achievable if you can build a platform and base ready for the New Year when the long runs really kick in. ‘10 miles by Christmas’ (or 80-90 minutes) is a great goal to have in your mind in this phase. This is because it is the perfect distance to have arrived at in your long run ready for the New Year giving you your crucial foundation on which to build your marathon campaign.
You do need to be patient though. If you try to jump up too fast too soon you might find energy levels dipping or niggles cropping up. So 10-15 minutes per week added to your long run can be a great approach. This allow your body to gradually adapt, build fitness and reduces injury risk. When the marathon plan kicks in with 16 weeks to go early in the new year, the long runs will step up from 90 minutes to between 2-3 hours frequently, depending on your pace.
There are other key elements that need to be worked on in this pre marathon training as well. You will see the term ‘threshold training’ appears regularly in the plans we have developed for the St John Ambulance. These are runs that will help you get a bit more variety and speed into your running week, massively strengthening your heart and dramatically improving your endurance. If you could build a weekly threshold run into your training now, you will definitely find yourself ahead of the game come January - that is particularly the case if you are a bit more experienced and are looking to get faster.
It can be a tricky effort level to get right. Look to work at a “controlled discomfort” intensity or 3-4 word answer pace (these are not sprints or high intensity effort…but instead cruising at pace). A typical session might start as 3 x 5 minutes at this effort with a 2 minute walk / jog recovery built into a 40 minute run but develop into 5 x 5, 5 x 6 and 3 x 10 minutes by Christmas or later within your marathon prep.
Another key element to look at is your strength endurance and this is often created by completing a weekly set of continuous hills. Find a sensible gradient and run up for 45-90 seconds at threshold intensity before turning and running back down (falling forwards lightly) and then turning again at the bottom and repeating the process until the time block is complete. Again you might start with 3x5 minutes and build this up to 3x10 as the winter months pass. Imagine this session as being the base foundations which will be giving you the strength you need to both complete your training well in March and April but also maintain your pace in the challenging final 10km of the marathon.
Consider also some racing goals to build confidence and keep you motivated. Perhaps enter a local 5k or 10km. There is nothing like having targets and markers set within your journey on the road up to the end of the year. You wont drift or let the weeks slip by if you are busy training for another race, even if it isn’t your main marathon goal yet. The big popular spring half marathons tend to sell out quickly so be organised and to get yourself booked into a half marathon or two between late February and the end of March.
Finally use this period to really focus on your strength and conditioning plan and perhaps also see a good running physio for an MOT to find weaknesses, hotspots and areas for improvement. Check out the advice and support we have given to St John Ambulance which includes some basic routine core and strength and conditioning exercises as well as the key stretches you should be completing after every run.
It’s time to think about how you want to feel on January 1st. The training your do in December will make the difference between waking up feeling positive, fit and looking forward to the challenge ahead, or feeling more pressure than you need to and a sense of needing to play catch up.