Recently in these pages we talked about the benefits of increasing your weekly mileage and how doing this can improve your overall running performance. For most runners a small increase in mileage in the short term will not greatly increase their chances of injury and if this increase turns into a consistent training variation the benefits outweigh the risk of injury.
The main injury risk associated with an increase in mileage is increasing beyond your capabilities. Therefore you should structure your mileage based on your recent running volume. Going from 40km per week to 80km in a week will have very little benefit if you cannot sustain the increase and need to go back to 40km after a week or two.
The best method of increasing is to develop a plan that will allow you to increase gradually and then sustain the new weekly volume. The easiest two strategies are;
- Increase your easy runs by 5-10 min
- Consistent long runs
Almost every runner can make 5-10 minutes more in their daily schedule to increase their run. This is fail safe plan against injury for most runners as the extra mileage will hardly be noticed. Only strategy needed is a commitment to get out the door for 5-10 minutes.
Long runs should be run consistently for any long distance runner, they are the staple run for improving endurance over time. Make time in your schedule every week to run long regardless of the period in your training program. The distance or time of these long runs can vary based on your ability, running background a goal races. Easy rule of thumb is to make your long run 25-30% of your total weekly mileage.
How rapidly you should increase mileage can vary from runner to runner. If you are new to running you will need to be patient, the body will take time to get used to the increase. If you have a history of injury then you should be cautious, this does not mean you can’t increase mileage but monitor yourself as you increase mileage. Remember the benefits will only be delivered if you can maintain the increase for a period of time, be patient.
If you are an intermediate or advanced runner with little history of injury then you can push greater mileage with confidence. Increase mileage to a point where you can maintain the increase for 3-4 weeks without suffering fatigue or burnout. If you do feel you are starting to burnout then you’ve increased too quickly and may need to plateau or decrease.
Incorporating regular rest days into your schedule will help you avoid burnout or fatigue. We recommend not planning rest days and using these when you feel you need to rest. This helps you avoid burnout and injury as you rest when the mind or body says no, and run when you are motivated, ready and willing.
When you increase mileage you should be attempting to create a new normal for yourself that over a period of weeks feels normal. Therefore you should only increase to what you feel you can capably sustain. If you achieve this you certainly give yourself a better chance of remaining injury free.
You’ll get great benefits over time by increasing your mileage, you’ll get even greater benefits over time by remaining injury free and enjoying your running.
Running hills regularly is one sure fire way to improve your marathon result and almost all aspects of your running performance. Regular hill workouts will give you gains in strength, speed, endurance and injury prevention. Every runner will benefit from running hills no matter whether you started running last week or are a seasoned veteran.
Hills are a member of the three key sessions we recommend runners run each week. If you want to be a self coached runner and keep your training cycle simple, run a focused hill, interval and a long run each week mixed with aerobic recovery runs.
Whilst most marathons are run on flat courses designed to offer runners a chance at a fast time, the benefits from regular hills give you the chance to improve even further.
We are here to talk about hills today and why they should be a regular part of your training schedule. There are many ways to add hill running specifics into your runs but three simple and easy to additions are;
- Hill sprints – Short explosive effort uphill followed by a downhill walk recovery. These are usually 10-15 second efforts and can be included at the end of an aerobic run.
- Hill repeats – Run the hill with a focus on a medium hard effort followed by a recovery run down the hill. Varying the length, gradient and number of repeats can add variety to this session.
- Hilly Tempo runs – Choose a hilly terrain and run a focussed tempo session over a hilly terrain for 45-60 minutes. To aide recovery during the run you can run the uphills harder then the downhills.
Running hills regularly builds leg strength specific to running which helps every aspect of your running. This gives you benefits of speed and endurance that are vital to improving your performance over every distance. Being stronger gives you a better chance to avoid injury.
If you are training for an upcoming marathon you should be running a hill repeat or hilly tempo at least weekly, particularly in the early phase of the training when you are building strength and your aerobic base fitness. Later in your program you may want to run sessions more specific to your goal race, but for at least the first eight weeks hills should be a weekly part of your life.
If you want to make hills part of your training schedule commit one day each week for hills. If you are new to hills start with hill sprints at the end of a run. When you feel ready add a more challenging specific hill session to your week, to start pick an easier hill for repeats before moving to steeper or longer hills. This session may just become your favourite session of the week.
Most runners would agree that rest days are a valuable part of the training process as they are allow you time to recover from the stress that running causes on your body and mind. The frequency that rest days are used will vary between runner’s ability and experience. Elite runners may rarely take a rest day whereas a beginner runner may need 2-3 each week.
How you structure your running can be beneficial to get the best out of the training. For that reason we recommend to stop planning rest days into your training schedule. For most runners rest days are needed but every runner’s life is different and things can happen that stop you running. When this happens, take a rest day.
Planning to run every day and resting when feel you need to is a better plan. If you have pressures from work or family life that get in the way of running then take a rest day. If you start to feel a niggling injury and feel you need a day off, take a rest day.
Advantages to not planning rest days
- More flexibility for when you run
- Less pressure to run when you can’t
- Less likely to run through pain
- You’ll run more miles and improve
Quite simply things can get in the way of running and when they do you can take a rest day. When rest days are unplanned you have more flexibility around when you get out the door to run.
When your rest days are unplanned you have the ability to look after yourself when a niggling injury happens. Take a rest day get the body right and run again the day after. For this reason you’ll be less likely to run through pain and do further injury to yourself.
What culminates from an unplanned approach is you are able to run with more regularity and when you run you are motivated to run. When rest days are planned your structure is rigid and you can’t afford to take a rest day when the need arises. Keep them unplanned and you’ll run more and be more motivated on the times you run. This will help you run more mileage in the long term and this will improve you as a runner.
The most effective way to structure your weekly training is to plan days for your three key sessions – these being your long run, interval session and hill repeats. These should be planned for days that give you the best chance to complete them, if things get in the way then being flexible and changing them is fine. Try not to run these sessions on consecutive days though. The remainder of the week will be scheduled for aerobic or recovery running and when a rest day is needed take it and adjust the week accordingly.
An unplanned rest approach takes the pressure off you to get out the door when time constraints, life or injury gets in the way. After all it’s supposed to be fun. Enjoy your running
“An unaimed arrow never hits it target”
This is also true when it comes to running and a structured plan to get the most out of your running mileage is important. Increasing running mileage helps develop your aerobic capacity so you are better able to handle harder sessions and also run faster over longer distances. Increasing running mileage helps you translate times over shorter distances to longer races. Theoretically if you can run 20 min for 5km you should be able to run a 3:15 marathon, however this doesn’t always happen and building aerobic capacity over time is what can make this a reality.
Benefits of more mileage
- Building your aerobic capacity
Building your aerobic capacity means building your endurance. The most important factor in becoming a better distance runner. Most running programs feature a lot of aerobic running with harder workouts littered through them. Building aerobic capacity is the number one thing you can do to improve your running and the best way to do this is to increase your mileage at an aerobic pace.
- Increasing running efficiency
Improving your aerobic capacity will like help you run more efficiently, meaning you’ll be able to run further or faster using less energy. The more you run the better more efficient runner you’ll become. Increasing running is not the only factor in improving running efficiency but certainly one.
- Prepare you for fatigue in race
When you increase your mileage you deal with fatigue regularly when you train. Your weekly long run even when you are not in a preparation phase for a race is the best run to prepare you for race fatigue. You’ll be better prepared to deal with challenging periods of races when you’ve done greater mileage.
- Build resilience and mental toughness
When you’ve done the hard work in training you are better equipped to deal with tough patches in races and become resilient and mentally tough. When it’s time to dig deep in a race it takes mental toughness to convince yourself you can still run your best. Mileage in the bank helps prepare you to be mentally tough.
- Race faster
Quite simply the result of all the benefits listed is better racing results.
How to increase mileage
- Have a structured plan
Think about the time you have available to run and structure your training around this time. Give yourself the best opportunity to fit running into your schedule.
- Consistent long runs
Even when you are not in a race preparation phase you should complete a weekly aerobic long run. The most valuable run you will do to increase mileage and your aerobic capacity.
- Increase runs by 5 – 10 minutes
Increasing your easy runs by 5-10 mins may give you 1-2km per run more which adds up over time. Will it really affect you if you set the alarm 10 minutes earlier.
- Run an extra day per week
If you can fit an extra run into your schedule if you can. Keep this run as an easy recovery run rather then a rest day. The miles will help you in the long run. If you can’t fit another day in thats ok too.
There is no magic number on miles that every runner should be doing, this is individual and there are too many factors to list. However almost everyone has the ability and can benefit from a small and measured increase in miles. Run well.
When looking to improve your running performance small changes can make a big difference. Here are three well tried tips to improve your running performance before your next race goal.
If you want to improve running one of the easiest things to do is increase mileage. Being able to run further in a race preparation will give you great benefits. This does not mean you need to run more hard sessions and the recommendation is to avoid these. Running more should be more running at an aerobic pace to build your aerobic capacity.
A few ways you can increase your mileage are;
Increase your easy runs by 5 – 10 min. If you run four easy runs per week this may mean you add 5-10km to your weekly mileage which doesn’t sound a lot but over a 16 week marathon preparation this could add 160km of aerobic building running to your fitness. Can be as easy as getting up 10 min earlier or not looking at your smartphone notifications that you’ve accumulated overnight until after your run and get out the door running earlier
Run an extra day a week or run twice a day. If you currently four days a week add a day and run five. If you have an opportunity in your schedule to at times run twice in a day, go for it. These extra miles you’ve run will be valuable when they add up. Only do these if you have the time in your schedule though, there is no need to force yourself out the door. It’s supposed to be fun and if it’s not then use the time to rest more
If you can use any of these ways to give yourself a small increase in your weekly miles they will help you over the long term.
The pace required to run a 3 hour marathon is not difficult, for most runners the pace of 6:52 min/mile is a fast jog and easily manageable. What is very difficult though is running this pace for 26.2 miles and it takes strength to do this. Being able to run at a fast perceived pace when the body fatigues is what makes running difficult.
Building strength so that the body can perform at a high level through fatigue is often neglected yet vitally important. To improve strength we suggest a weekly hill repeats session and a strength program of both body weight and explosive weighted exercises.
Hill repeats are part of our recommended three key sessions that every runner should do weekly to build strength. Trying to run these on the same day each week will build them into a habit, that when repeated will become a part of your routine. Be ready to change up from time to time when life gets in the way. To get the best results this should be a hard session so do them when the body is well rested and ready to be stressed.
In terms of strength programs its best advised to consult a personal trainer in your area to recommend a strength program for you that incorporates running specific weight training and ensure you use the right technique to perform these exercises. A strength routine of 1-2 times a week should give you a great benefit to your running.
Correct training paces.
Speed work or interval sessions are supposed to be difficult. They are meant to challenge you so be prepared to run them hard.
Whether you aim to hit a certain pace or use perceived effort as a measure of intensity is up to you but be prepared for them to challenge you. If you intend to hit a pace use an online calculator to give you the correct paces to hit and go after them. These are designed to build speed, so they need to be specific to your ability and run accordingly.
Running interval sessions based on perceived effort will allow these to be purely individual but you’ll need to be honest with yourself when applying this effort. Be prepared to work hard and give your best effort.
Running these regularly will build speed and the ability to run a faster pace then comfortable when fatigued. Training at the correct pace for you gives you the best way to improve your speed quicker.
Until next time. Run well
Whether you are new to the marathon or a seasoned marathoner searching for a new personal best, being prepared for the training to come is essential. For some preparing for a marathon will simply mean increasing your mileage to prepare for the 42.2km on race day. While for others it will mean increasing mileage further than you’ve ever run and this may seem daunting. Here are three tips to do prior to your marathon training beginning to give you the best chance at a successful marathon training load.
1. Prepare to adjust your mileage
Whether you regularly run marathons or are preparing or your first you are likely to not be regularly doing marathon specific training. Being prepared to increase your mileage is important.
Is your body ready to cope with more mileage? With most coaches and runners structuring a 14-16 week marathon program you can use the 2-4 weeks before this begins to assess where your mileage is and begin to increase. Try and understand whether you are ready to increase your mileage. If you aren’t be mindful for the first half of the program and be cautious with every week that the total mileage or the long run gets significantly longer. The old rule of not increasing weekly mileage by more than 10% still applies and can be used to monitor. The weeks before the program begins are ideal weeks to set small goals to ensure you are prepared for your marathon preparation to start.
How will your life cope with an increase in mileage? Another aspect of preparing for a marathon is that you will likely spend more time running. Are your family and work life ready for the increase and how will you fit the extra time in
2. Prepare for your training paces
This tip is for those looking to run their best time in a marathon. In the weeks leading up to a marathon preparation to gauge where your fitness is currently and then prepare your interval or tempo workout goal paces around this current fitness levels.
In the weeks before your marathon preparation starts you can run a time trial over whatever distance you feel comfortable with 3-5km is perfect to gauge your fitness. From here you can use this time to enter into one of the many running calculators on the internet and gauge your times. In our opinion the McMillan Running calculator is the best available as it will give you individual training paces specific to your goal.
Using this information can be a great place to assess where your fitness is and what you need to do to do your best in your marathon.
3.Figure out your schedule
Whether you are accessing a quality running coach or self structuring your training having a schedule that fits into your life is crucial. To give you the best chance at your marathon fitting in the key workouts is important.
Scheduling how many days you plan to run and which days you will do your key workouts will give you the best shot at success. Making sure you have a plan in place for when you will run your long run and harder sessions each week. And also having a plan to reschedule if life or weather or other factors get in the way. Committing to and completing these sessions each week should be part of the schedule.
Figuring out your schedule is a vital piece of the puzzle to get you ready to run your best marathon.
There are many other things that form the pieces of a marathon preparation, these are just three that you can do prior to your scheduled training starting.
If you have any questions or comments on your own marathon training leave a comment.
A look at two of the leading protagonists in the London Marathon shows the importance of pacing to run your best marathon time. While Mary Keitany set out at world record pace in London, Vivian Cheruiyot ran a more controlled and consistent race to ultimately take the win.
A look at each ladies 5km splits tells the story.
5km 15:46 16:15
10km 16:00 16:38
15km 16:00 16:25
20km 16:04 16:13
25km 16:34 16:25
30km 16:39 16:23
35km 17:33 16:29
40km 19:47 16:20
42.2km 2:24:27 2:18:31
1st half/2nd half 67:16/77:11 68:56/69:35
These splits tell a story about both ladies, firstly a brave decision by Keitany to go out at world record pace and as the second fastest lady in history it is an obvious goal to break Paula Radcliffe’s world record. Also a brave decision by Cheruiyot not to go with Keitany and Dibaba through the first 5km and run her own pace. Cheruiyot is the current Olympic champion at 5000m running 14:29 to win in Rio so no doubt could have stayed with the lead pace. The decision to be controlled and run a consistent pace over the entire marathon paid dividends in the end.
At 20km Cheruiyot was 1:41 behind Keitany and from there she started to close the gap, overtaking Ketiany after 35km. Cheruiyot’s 39 sec positive split was run on a warm day in London. A very patient and well paced race by Cheruiyot, running a pace that she could consistently hold for the 42.2km from the start of the marathon till the end.
How can the average runner benefit Cheruiyot’s pacing example?
There are two lessons here that average runners can take away.
- Consistent pacing is the key
The best marathon results are achieved by consistent pacing throughout the entire marathon. Cheruiyot’s marathon in London is a perfect example of marathon pacing. Her first 5km split is just 5 sec faster then her 35-40km split when the race was there to win. To run a 40sec positive split on a warm day in a 5 minute personal best means she was controlled and patient early and gave her best effort in the latter stages of the race.
This strategy can be replicated by every runner trying to achieve their goals. Be patient and controlled and when the marathon asks for your best effort you’ll be in a position to give it.
2. Know your goal pace is achievable on the day
If consistent pacing throughout the marathon is the goal you need to know your goal is achievable. If your best marathon is a 3:35 then attempting to break 3 hours may be unachievable. You may be able to run 3 hour marathon pace for a good part of the marathon but when it gets tough your pace will ultimately fall away and the last quarter of the marathon is most likely a painful experience. Cheruiyot clearly didn’t believe she could run world record pace for 42.2km, she did believe she could run sub 2:20 and paced her race perfectly to do this and ultimately win the race.
The other part to this is adjusting your goal if the conditions aren’t ideal. It was warm in London and a lot of runners suffered on the day due to the heat. Perhaps Keitany should have adjusted her expectation with the warm weather. Adjust your goal if necessary.
Pacing is an important part of running to any distance, learning this skill and be realistic about your goals and paces can help you achieve your goals and ensure your enjoy your race day experiences.
happy pacing, happy running
The last few weeks of this marathon preparation have been slightly disjointed but things are finally falling into place now. At the end of week 12 I started to get a sore throat and head cold which meant I didn’t complete the week as planned and delayed my final long run.
Week 13 therefore had a different structure to most weeks of this preparation. I was planning a two week taper but missed my last long run and wanted to get this done before switching off and tapering. Week 13 went as follows;
Monday – Rest (Still sick)
Tuesday – Aerobic 45 min
Wednesday – Long Run including 4 x 5km at 4 min/km with 2 km aerobic rest between – Total 28km
Thursday – Aerobic 45 min
Friday – Rest
Saturday – Rest
Sunday – Tempo run – 3 x 2km – first two 2km efforts at 3:55-4min/km, third at 3:30min/km – 1km recovery between.
The head cold I suffered returned at the end of the week and I decided to take Friday and Saturday off. The two major workouts this week were the final long run with 4 x 5km race pace or thereabouts efforts and the 3 x 2km tempo. Both these runs felt comfortable and leave me confident going into race week. Head cold is now 95% gone and I feel good about race week.
Only a week left now till Canberra marathon and time to move into that final week taper phase. Not looking to much out there this week other then to keep the legs moving and be ready to race on Sunday. One short, fast session on Tuesday before taking it easy for the rest of the week.
Monday – Aerobic 35-40 min
Tuesday – Tempo – 3 x 1500 at race pace with 500m recovery with a warm up and cool down.
Wednesday – Rest
Thursday – Aerobic 30 min
Friday – Aerobic 30 min
Saturday – Rest
Sunday – Race Day
Overall happy with my preparation for this marathon. Fitness is as good as it could be and feeling motivated to give my best effort next Sunday. In some past races I have been relieved to get to the start line because the body needed a break from the training. This marathon I don’t feel that way and feel ready to race.
My goal for this marathon I to better my marathon personal best of 2 hour 57 min. The body and mind feel ready to get me there, but the marathon can be a troublesome beast and always throws a curveball your way. Looking forward to race day now.
The footwear choice for my upcoming marathon has been a decision I have thought about throughout this marathon preparation. Should I run this marathon in shoes or sandals?
Gladsoles sandals have been my number one footwear choice for the past 18 months, I do probably 60% of my running in them. I have completed a marathon in them before albeit the Beach to Brother trail marathon. They are a great sandal to run in. I completed my recent half marathon in these sandals in a new personal best time. I haven’t run a road marathon in these sandals yet though. My most recent road marathon was Seoul marathon last year which I ran in shoes, in particular the Salming Race 3.
While I do a lot of running in sandals, when I run long in them they are harder on my lower legs and feet. Naturally with less or zero cushioning they slightly tougher on the body. While this feeling is minimised by running a lot in sandals there is still a factor in the legs getting conditioned to running for long periods without cushioning.
Running in sandals has helped me be a better runner, my legs and feet are stronger and my technique is better. I have changed my foot strike from a heel striking runner to a forefoot runner. However when I run longer distances my form deteriorates as I fatigue. During my recent half marathon my form gradually deteriorated over the last 5km as I became fatigued.
For this reason I have chosen to run my marathon in three weeks time in shoes. Whilst I can run just as fast in sandals as shoes, when I fatigue in the final third of the marathon I don’t believe I can manage a running form that will allow me to run my best race in sandals yet. This is a weakness in the runner not the sandal, in time I will develop the strength needed to complete a marathon in sandals
The Salming Race 5 is the latest edition of racing flats from Salming and these will be my marathon race day shoes. They are fast, flexible and responsive. They are slightly narrower then the previous edition I wore in Seoul, which I would rather was not be the case but this is a small negative. The racing flat with only a small amount of cushioning will compensate for my drop off running form when I fatigue and allow me to run longer at my goal pace then the sandals on a road surface.
This is somewhat disappointing as it indicates that my barefoot running technique has still not developed to a point where I can run a road marathon and remain running with sound technique. I would prefer to run this marathon in sandals, however I am mindful that I want to run my best race and my weakness when fatigued will be better suited in shoes. I will continue to work hard on improving my foot and lower leg strength that will help me achieve this possibly for my next marathon, but this time it’ll be shoes in the marathon.