What comes next after a marathon?

You’ve run your marathon and everything went well (or didn’t), your left with that feeling of personal accomplishment but also an empty feeling of what comes next. Almost every runner feels some emotions when the marathon is over and there is no more marathon training to get after.

The feeling can be rather empty, you’ve climbed your own Mt Everest on marathon day only to find that the next day it’s not there and you need to start again. It’s a strange feeling and many runners struggle to cope with the post marathon blues which can easily lead to motivational issues that last for weeks or months.

Recovery from a marathon is important and you should take a few weeks post marathon to ensure  you recover fully. This should include only easy running for at least a few weeks before starting building mileage again. While you are recovering is a good time to look to the future and start thinking and planning about what comes next.

Three tips on planning what comes next.

Another marathon

Depending on whether you achieved your goals in your marathon may impact what you plan for your next race. If you missed your goals for the marathon, especially if you came very close it is easy to stay motivated and start planning for another marathon to claim redemption. These days there are plenty of marathons to choose from so it’s quite easy to find another marathon to run.

Once you’ve decided on which marathon it is reflect on how your preparation went and what you could have improved last time. The aim is to improve from your last race so take the experience you learnt from the previous marathon and take it to the next marathon preparation.

If you achieved your goals in your last marathon, think about what you want to achieve in the next marathon and how you alter your approach to be even better next time.

Pick some shorter races

Sometimes the hard work of preparing for a marathon can lead us drained and getting straight back onto that horse may not be the best idea. Picking some shorter races can be a good idea to keep training towards without the volume of marathon training to overwhelm you.

If you run some 5km, 10km or half marathon races you’ll be able to recover from them much quicker and may be able to string a few races together to keep racing and stay motivated to train. These distance are also great to travel to without a large race taking your focus for the entire weekend. Running shorter races can be great to keep you focussed on running faster and improving your running.

Go Ultra

Maybe now is the time to go ‘Ultra’. With the recent boom in trail ultra marathons its easy to think it’s time to hit the trails and go longer. In most countries now there is an abundance of 50km, 100km or 100 mile events to choose from and whatever distance you choose will give you a much different challenge to a road marathon.

Ultra marathons can take you well outside your comfort zone so if this is what you need post marathon then this could be the goal for you. Running on trails is fun and being far away from the urban lifestyle and out in nature certainly has its appeal.

Taking on a longer distance will require the same commitment to marathon running and these days are just as accessible. Going ultra may just be what you need to get back on track.

Whatever you choose to do post marathon it’s important to enjoy the moment and celebrate a marathon finish. US statistics say 0.5% of the population will run a marathon in their life, it is a big achievement. Remember this before you go and chase your next goal.

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Goals of a successful marathon taper

 

Within every successful marathon program is an effective marathon taper. The taper is used to absorb the hard training you’ve put into your marathon and have you feeling rested but not stale or sluggish on race day. Most marathon programs use a two week taper from the last long run, with the hard training tapering off over this period before the race.

We will break the taper down into three areas;

Training

Over the course of your marathon training you have put in a tremendous amount of hard work. The discipline and commitment to get through the training is what gets a marathoner to the race fit and ready to race a great marathon. In this last two week period you can forget about the hard training and utilise your training to assess your fitness and enjoy the runs.

For a simple way to manage the marathon taper training, take an extra day off. If you normally run five days per week run four. You won’t be running and long run in this week so have another rest day. You can still run your hill and interval workout if you like but keep it shorter and not overly challenging.  If you’ve been running six reps of your hill, run four and likewise on the intervals. The intensity of your training doesn’t need to change but make each session shorter. For your aerobic or easy runs the same should be done, make them 10-15 min shorter and enjoy the run.

A marathon taper that doesn’t change too much from your normal routine will keep you a happier runner over the taper period and motivated up until the race.

Sleep

With a busy life and adding the rigours of marathon training to it runners often don’t get enough or prioritise sleep. One of the great benefits to running less is the advantage of more sleep. It is important that the marathoner takes advantage of the extra sleep available. Whilst the body clock may have you waking early any way do your best to sleep as long as possible and be as fresh as possible when it comes time to run your marathon.

With an extra rest day scheduled this should be viewed as a sleep in opportunity. With every other run shorter than normal there is an opportunity to sleep longer and run slightly later in the morning. The marathon week is a key time to make sure you get enough sleep, go to bed early and sleep.

Imagine if every extra hour of sleep you could get in this two weeks is a minute off your marathon time (not saying it works this way).

Nutrition

Whatever nutrition or dietary strategy you used for your marathon training shouldn’t need to change too much in your taper period. If it has worked for you for the 12-14 weeks of marathon training there shouldn’t be too much reason to alter in these two weeks.

Be mindful of how much less running you’ll be doing and how many calories your won’t be burning off. Cutting your weekly mileage by 30-50% from what it’s been used to may have an effect if you continue to eat the same way. Monitor how you feel, if you start to feel sluggish you may need to adjust your portion sizes. There is certainly no need to over think your nutrition and change your food intake too much though. keep it simple and you’ll be happier and feel good about this upcoming marathon.

Whether you are experienced at tapering or beginning down this journey stay focussed on why you started the marathon journey in the first place. If you’ve come this far and stayed healthy and uninjured than you are almost ready to run a great race on marathon day.

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Review – Naked Running Band

The Naked Running Band is a high performance running waist band with 3-4 litres carrying capacity. It is distributed internationally by Naked Sports Innovations and available from their website for US $45.99 plus postage of US $7.95 within the USA.

The Naked Running Band features unique design with three individual mesh pockets which cover the circumference of the runners waist. These three pockets are designed to store almost all running accessories such as water bottles, sunglasses, gloves, mobile phones or nutrition products. Available in 12 different sizes to fit every individual correctly.

One of the main complaints with running belts or bands I have used in the past is when they are filled with anything remotely heavy they suffer badly from bounce. When running bands or belts bounce they become uncomfortable and annoying. One of the claims of the Naked Running Band is that is bounce resistant, so I was hoping this one would be different. Having seen this product being used by some of the ultra running worlds best athletes including Timothy Olsen and Pau Capell I was keen to test it out. I’ve been using the naked Running Band now for approx. a month and used over a variety of runs carrying a variety of accessories.

The first noticeable positive is that bounce is virtually eliminated even when each of the pockets are heavily used. I used during a three hour long run and utilised all three of the pockets with a mobile phone, nutrition gels, gloves and a 500ml soft flask, there was no bounce or discomfort from wearing the band. Using the three individual pockets is very easy to access while running as there are pull tabs on each pocket and the mesh outer easily moves away to allow access both in and out whilst on the run. This is a simple design and very effective, no need to play around with zippers while on the run. This will be particularly helpful during races allowing you to concentrate on running rather then accessing your running band.

Another positive is that comfort while running is excellent. With 12 sizes to choose from it is important to get the right size as there is no adjustment available or required. When selecting my size I used the sizing chart provided and was easily able to choose my size which fit perfectly. The Naked Running band is tight across the waist but very comfortable and virtually unnoticeable when running. Even with all pockets utilised the weight in the pockets doesn’t alter this and comfort is fantastic.

A couple of cool features included are the race bib shock cord adjustments allowing for easy attachment of race numbers. Another feature on the back of the Naked Running Band is two silicone elastic straps that can be used to secure a rain jacket or folded running poles.

The Naked Running Band is a brilliant running product, the storage capabilities from the three pockets are extremely impressive and perfect for using over long training runs and races. This is head and shoulders the best running band I have used. The comfort, even after a number of hours running is perfect and the storage is fantastic. Without doubt the best feature is the elimination of bounce when wearing the band even with all pockets filled. This is a must have product for all long distance runners.

 

Disclaimer: Thank you to Naked Sports innovations for supplying a Naked Running Band for the purpose of this review. 

 

 

Runners: Stop getting tired

 

“Distance runners don’t need to get faster, they just need to stop getting tired” – Matt Fitzgerald

When most runners think about improving their performance over any race distance they think about how to get faster. What we really should be thinking is how do I stop getting tired during races. This thinking and Matt Fitzgerald’s quote is synonymous with the way elite runners approach their training. It is mostly not about becoming a faster runner, it is about getting through an event reducing the effects of fatigue on your running performance.

Most runners suffer nerves or anxiety before a race, however not usually nerves at whether we can run the desired pace. Nerves before a running performance are often directed at the pain and suffering that runners go through as muscle fatigue sets in. It is not the speed we are running that is the problem, it is being able to keep running that speed as we tire that runners need to improve.

Your goal pace in the marathon for instance is not that fast for you. However it is extremely difficult and painful to continue at that pace at mile 24. The only difference is you are physically and mentally fatigued.

How can you stop getting tired?

If you want to be able to perform at your best practise makes perfect. If you want to improve your running, run more. Simple advice,  but there really is no shortcut to improvement.

  • Consistent long runs

If you want to give yourself the best chance at running well as you fatigue then consistent long runs are essential. Legendary running coach Arthur Lydiard used to have his 800m and mile runners complete 20 mile long runs every Sunday. These were completed at an aerobic pace and designed to have the runner build endurance. Elite 800m runners are no different to elite marathon runners in that they don’t need to become faster, they need to stop getting tired when they hit the home straight in a fast run 800m race. Quite simply, if you want to minimise the effects of fatigue during the business end of your next race you should be running an aerobic long run weekly.

  • Aerobic mileage

Aerobic mileage means running at a pace that builds the aerobic capacity, this means low intensity, low heart rate running. If you want to improve your running, run more at an aerobic mileage. It is not the weekly interval session that will make you tire less but the repeated aerobic mileage. Increasing your aerobic mileage and sustaining this over a period of time will give incremental improvements. These will be difficult to see in the short term but over time the improvements will be able to be measured. If you need to skip a workout for whatever reason it’s better to skip the interval session and run the aerobic session. Remember, you don’t need to get faster, you need to stop getting tired.

These are two simple ways you can train your body and mind to make a small change in your running training. Almost every one of us has been guilty at some stage of running our easy runs too hard, shifting your mindset to believe you don’t need to get faster can change this habit. If you run your easy runs at a lower intensity you will recover quicker and be ready and motivated for the next run allowing you to run more often.

When you go into a race knowing you’ve done enough training you will be better equipped to deal with everything a race throws at you when you get tired. You may not ever become a faster runner, you don’t need to, just stop getting tired.

 

 


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Running hills, Yes please

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.

Hill Workouts

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.

 


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Stop planning your rest days

 

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


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3 Tips to improving your running performance

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.

Mileage Matters

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.

 

Get Stronger

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

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Marathon Training – Week 8

Another good week of marathon training. The run is going well with six runs this week and just over 80km covered. Unfortunately the swim and bike components have not gone well and today I have made the decision to not progress with training for the Ironman 70.3 in May. Whilst I am disappointed I haven’t been able to put it together and get my triathlon training on track it gives me time to focus purely on running a good marathon in Canberra. I may revisit my triathlon goals at a time in the near future when a marathon isn’t in the midst and requiring my focus.

Running this week started on Tuesday with my usual hill session. Hills went well and half way through this preparation I can feel the strength needed for a good marathon returning nicely. Wednesday was a 10km aerobic run that helped the legs recover and be ready for intervals on Thursday. I had a real purpose with intervals this week of 20 x 1 min with 1 min rest to keep every interval under 3:30 min/km. I failed on two of these intervals and stupidly one of them was the first, the other was the last which I can cop because I was spent after this session. All the other intervals were run between 3:20 and 3:30 min/km.

Friday was another aerobic run, this time only 7km. I knew I had a tough long run planned so ticking the legs over was the purpose of this run. Long run on Saturday had a purpose of 5km aerobic then 5km at my threshold pace of 4:10 min/km x 3. Meaning every 45 min contained a 5km effort with a 3km warm down afterwards to give me 2 hours 30 min overall. Really happy with this run, the efforts felt hard, particularly the 3rd but I was able to hold the pace and finish the session feeling confident. I rounded out the week with an 11km aerobic run on Sunday over grass. The grass was nice on the legs and a good way to finish my biggest week of the year so far.

Getting through my three key runs every week is a goal for every preparation of mine. I continue to believe that developing speed, strength and endurance is the best way to run best on race day. This week i was happy with all three of my key sessions and how my running has progressed in the seven weeks of this marathon preparation so far.

Week 8

With triathlon off my mind it’s now purely focussing on running and this marathon. Working hard over the next 5-6 weeks before tearing for the race.

Monday – Aerobic – 1 Hour

Tuesday – Hills – 1 Hour

Wednesday – Aerobic – 1 Hour

Thursday – Rest Day

Friday – Long Run – 2 Hours 40 min (Aerobic)

Saturday – Aerobic – 45-60 min

Sunday – Intervals – 14 x 2 min with 1 min recovery

 

I have also decided to compete in the Port Macquarie Running Festival half marathon, March 11th, just two weeks away. Looking forward to a solid week of training before a race that will test my fitness. Aim of this race will be to stick to a consistent pace, quicker than marathon pace and try and hold this pace of the duration. There will be no taper for this race, it will be a good test of my current fitness deep into marathon training.

I’ll also run this race in Gladsoles sandals, most likely the trail 8mm model. Looking forward to testing my speed over 21.1km in sandals. I haven’t raced a pure half marathon for a while and I haven’t decided yet whether Canberra marathon will be in sandals or shoes. This half may make the decision for me.

Looking forward to another week of marathon training. Feeling like my fitness is coming together.

Run well.

 

Four discoveries from a 30 day run streak

This morning I completed my 30 day run streak and during this time I made some discoveries about my running. Here they are…..

  1. Aerobic training is beneficial

At the start of the run streak I decided that all my running in these 30 days would be aerobic and I would forget about pace. On the whole I was able to manage this only running twice outside my aerobic capacity. This was a parkrun effort and last weeks goal race pace half marathon run.

Running purely aerobically for the majority of the 30 days has seen me develop my aerobic capacity. Running aerobically often is easy on the body and recovery is simple, when you run within your limits there is no soreness the next day and you are able to run more. Following this when I did increase the intensity and complete a tougher workout, my half marathon felt very comfortable. Building the aerobic engine is very beneficial for running performance.

The take away from this discovery is that during my next focussed training block I will have more aerobic training to compliment the focussed harder workouts.

   2. Technology is unnecessary (almost)

Another goal of this run streak was to divorce pace and use perceived effort to measure my run rather achieve a pace for the run. This has been a successful discovery where I am now unconcerned by the pace my watch is saying and rather the feeling my body gives me from the effort I output.

During each of the runs I have only looked at the time for the run on the watch and not pace. This has taught me to focus on my feeling and breathing to stay aerobic and run consistent pace through effort. During the harder half marathon effort the same applied and I was impressed by the consistent pace I was able to achieve.

The future of my running will feature less reliance on technology, I am committed to continuing to monitor my running by feel and use the data to analyse post run.

3. Running everyday is good for you

While I am normally an advocate for rest days, life balance and letting the body recover from runs I found the task of running everyday good for me. All my runs are completed in the early mornings and the simple task of committing to getting up each morning and going through the process to get out the door and run was mostly pretty easy.

During the 30 day streak I had wet weather on 5-6 of my runs, only one of these days did I consider not running through the rain, however this doubt lasted about 15 minutes before I decided to get the job done.

I enjoyed the day to day commitment of getting out the door to complete my run. Committing to a run streak is a way to challenge you to overcome a small challenge everyday and start the day ready to tackle something bigger if it arises.

4. Minimal footwear is better

This may have not been a discovery but more a reinforcement. Every run I did with the exception of one run were completed in zero drop footwear. these specifically were Gladsoles sandals both the trail 8mm and new 6mm and Carson Footwear Iguana Racers.

If you are fully transitioned to barefoot running then minimal footwear is better for your running. After 4-5 days of the run streak I had a slight pain in my right calf that was evident for a few runs, this went away by itself and I was able to run without pain for the  all the other runs. Minimal footwear keeps you aware, your feet stronger and running with better technique. To run injury free for long periods of time these are important. Without trying to jinx myself to an injury I believe the benefits of transitioning to minimal shoes will help me run longer into my life.

Don’t be scared to make a change to your footwear if you are on a path of consistent injuries. It will take time but it will be worth it.

Overall the run streak has been an enjoyable experience and most likely will continue beyond 30 days. My routine of running every morning is a habit I would like to continue.

Photos from a 30 day run streak

 

Marathon training week 9

After 12 days of no running due to the flu training resumed last week and all my goal runs were completed. The main two being my 5km parkrun on Saturday and a long run on Sunday.

Parkrun on Saturday was run in 19:23 about 2 min outside my best, however I was more than happy to get through the run. Sunday I managed 1:30 along th breach at 4:45 min/km which was nice for the confidence.

This week normally programming resumes with a simple routine.

Monday – Rest

Tuesday – Hill repeats

Wednesday – Strength

Thursday – Rest

Friday – Long run (2 hour 30 min)

Saturday – Rest

Sunday – Intervals (8 x 4 min 90 sec recovery)

Hoping to fast track training to be back on track towards the marathon. Will need to ramp up my long runs quickly over the next 3-4 weeks.

If I get through this week I’ll be confident I can get back to peak fitness by the marathon start day. Looking forward to testing myself anyway.