You’re at the half way point of your marathon training program, so where should your training be and how should you feel? If you’ve completed all or most of your key sessions as designed you’ll be feeling fit, strong and motivated to get to the marathon start line.
With 7-8 long runs under your belt you will have developed a good endurance base and strong aerobic capacity. Running for over two hours at your long run pace should feel comfortable and dare I say relatively easy. This is why we run weekly long runs so that running for long periods feels comfortable. At this stage in your training you should have built to your maximum long run time or distance, your base endurance training is almost completed. One of the great feelings from regular long runs is the bodies adaptation to endurance. As the body adapts to regular increases in the long run distances, the distances that were difficult early in your marathon training now feel easy.
Over the next 5-6 weeks before a taper you can add some quality marathon specific training to your long runs. These can consist of race pace efforts during a long run. A favourite session is on a 30km long run to include 4 x 5km at race pace in the middle of the run with a 1-2km recovery between each. You can easily structure a long run session on a similar theme but add race paced efforts during the middle or finish the long run this way and really build your resistance to fatigue at your race pace.
Half way through the marathon program you will be strong from regular hill sessions. These sessions have given you the leg strength to be able to feel stronger as you fatigue during your longer runs. This strength will be vital in the later stages of the marathon when running gets tough. Over the next 5-6 weeks hill sessions we recommend continuing completing hill sessions weekly and ensuring a strong body on marathon day.
On top of the long runs and hill sessions, the two most key base marathon fitness sessions the interval and aerobic runs you’ve completed will have assisted in building a really strong fitness base. As mileage has increased over these 7-8 weeks as has a solid aerobic capacity. People whose marathon training has gone to plan to this point could quite easily run a good marathon this weekend.
The second half
For the second half of the marathon training you will most likely want a 10-14 day taper at the end. If you are on a 16 week marathon cycle this leave six weeks of training before the race taper. From this period you can focus more on race specific training and less on building your endurance and strength.
The three key sessions won’t change too much but the focus shifts slightly to long runs that incorporate race pace, intervals that are shorter at a slightly higher intensity and hill sessions that are shorter. The focus in this period will give intervals the priority over hills. This is reversed from the first half of training when building strength was a great priority then speed. This is because your strength base is now built and we shift to getting ready to running your fastest on marathon day.
Remember you don’t need to become a faster runner to run a faster marathon, you need to stop getting tired and run your best at the end of the marathon. Therefore long runs should be run throughout the training program and will always be the most valuable run of each week.
If you are feeling this way at half way then you should be confident that you are on track for the marathon start line and a good performance. Stay motivated and keep working hard and you’ll achieve your race goals in your marathon.