Marathon Specific Training – Five Creative Long Runs

Marathon Specific Training – Five Creative Long Runs

Preparing for a Marathon in the coming months and looking to step your Long Runs up a level or two?

We recommend adding some variety to your long runs by incorporating pace changes. Not only is this a perfect stimulus for a Marathon, it also breaks the Long Run up mentally.

Most elite Marathoner’s alternate same-pace long runs with pace-changing long runs. These pace-changing long runs feature some running at Marathon goal pace interspersed with running at easy paces.

Here are a few examples you could use in your Marathon preparation, completed by elite Marathoner’s from Australia and the USA…

More Tempo Running – A Key Ingredient To The Kenyan Success

More Tempo Running – A Key Ingredient To The Kenyan Success

For reference, the Kenyan athletes were completing about 60% of their total kilometres as easy runs, 25% as tempo runs, just under 10% as short intervals, just under 5% as long intervals and around 1% as tests/competitions. For comparison the national level athletes completed close to 70% of their total kilometres as easy runs, 10% as tempo runs, around 6% as short intervals, 12% as long intervals and 2% as tests/competitions. 

When considering the application of this for either your own or another athlete’s training it is obviously extremely important to consider the goals, strengths and weaknesses of that specific case however the comparison between athletic levels presented in this study is definitely interesting. If working in a similar time period (10 weeks from major competition) and you’re doing a lot of longer intervals, it may be worth switching some intervals for tempo runs, and hey, Wilson Kipsang does it. 

VO2Max – What is it and Does it Matter?

VO2Max – What is it and Does it Matter?

So why does all this science matter and what does it mean for you? First of all, VO2max is the strongest independent predictor of future life expectancy so everyone out there should be at the very least slightly interested in their own value, athlete or not. Additionally VO2max  becomes especially useful once we consider its impact on athletic performance. 

In order to walk, run or move at all, our body needs to produce energy; we can either produce this energy without oxygen (anaerobic) or with oxygen (aerobic). Any exercise will require energy production from both aerobic and anaerobic systems however their relative contribution is determined by the duration and intensity of the effort. As anaerobic energy production is only possible for a very short period of time, our bodies will always try to meet the energy demands aerobically. In trained individuals it has been shown that during a maximal effort the switch to predominantly aerobic energy systems occurs somewhere between 15 and 30 seconds into exercise as by this point we have “run out” of anaerobic fuel. The rate of work, power output or running pace that an individual can maintain aerobically is determined largely by their VO2max. 

Insights Into The Training Of Kilian Jornet

Insights Into The Training Of Kilian Jornet

Kilian claims to train seven days a week – amassing 1200 hours of training per year. For a long time, Kilian has eschewed the tutelage of a formal coach and devised his training himself. A key to his success appears to be how he varies training according to the seasons, mixing running (mostly in the mountains although he has incorporated more flat running in recent years) with skiing, alpine climbing and cycling. This has allowed remarkable consistency through the years, which in turn has enabled him to develop a phenomenal aerobic apparatus and a body that is near perfectly adapted for what he does.

Endurance – He says that the vast majority of his training (88% according to his site) is done at low intensity – zones 1-3. Z1 before and after races. Z2 in long workouts (up to 10 hours plus) “to create volume”. Z3 in the lead-up to races, long sessions of up to a few hours.

10% is at high intensity (zones 4-5): “In Z4 specific workouts with intense intervals and repetitions. In Z5 workouts of a few seconds and many repetitions. Only about 10 times per season and during the competitions (about 30-35 days of competition per year).

2% of the time at maximum intensity (zones 6-7).

Whilst these numbers appear to be somewhat generalised estimates, Kilian is known for his fastidious documentation of his training, so they are probably more accurate than you would imagine.

Kilian Jornet – Ultramarathon Training – Variety Is The Key

Kilian Jornet – Ultramarathon Training – Variety Is The Key

Kilian has achieved all this whilst maintaining an imperturbable aura of positivity and fun. He lives for the mountains, and what he does as ‘training’ for these events he has dominated is so clearly what he would prefer to be doing on any given day. He is well known for essentially having no taper for events. Prior to dominating the Hardrock 100 he spent the week running up 14,000 footers in the San Juan mountains, exploring new terrain. When questioned about this approach in an interview with Outside magazine on this approach he responded “Such beautiful mountains! I went out, met people, ran summits, the rivers. It’s a shame if you just go there to race.”    

These incredible performances are the culmination of decades of aerobic base and a life spent in the mountains, doing what brings him joy. Kilian is now based in Norway, where he can climb and train away from the throngs of people that descend on Chamonix and other alpine hubs. In our last article we took a look at some of Kilian’s training philosophies, now we will take a look at some more specifics. He spends lots of time on excursions that last the whole day, climbing mountains and descending through valleys around his home.
Why am I talking about Michael Joyner’s predictions of the fastest conceivable marathon time? Well, Joyner and a number of other researchers have published a paper (again in the Journal of Applied Physiology) on the female equivalent of the two-hour marathon, addressing “physiological, historical, and social factors that contribute to current and past sex differences in marathon performance.”

This paper was published in 2015, when the world records stood as follows: 

Men: Dennis Kimetto, Kenya – 2:02:57 (2014 Berlin Marathon)
Women: Paula Radcliffe, UK – 2:15:25 (2003 London Marathon)

Their initial approach to establishing the equivalent mark is to determine the difference in marathon performance by elite athletes of each gender in terms of a percentage. The difference between these two records was approximately 10%, meaning that the equivalent to a two-hour marathon for women would be 120 minutes plus 10%, 2:12:00. However, when analysing the top marathon times (at the time of writing their study), it appeared that the difference between men and women was more significant than 10%, coming in at closer to 12-13%. Interestingly online predictors such as the Mercier Score suggest that the two-hour equivalent sits at 2:15:34, and this had already been achieved by Radcliffe (and subsequently smashed by Kosgei).

The Importance Of “The Long Run”

The Importance Of “The Long Run”

What is the perfect long run training distance for marathoners?

There is no “perfect” distance. 32km (20 miles) is the peak distance used in most training programs, however many elite runners will run 35km or longer on 3 or 4 occasions leading into a marathon. Most coaches feel that once you reach 25km (16 miles)  you’re in long run territory. That’s the point where the psychological changes Vaughan mentioned kick in. But a few coaches prefer talking “time” rather than distance, “hours” rather than kilometres/miles.

Running much further than 35km in training increases the risk of injury, especially for those new to running. Many experienced coaches argue that running further than 40km for seasoned and elite runners is not necessary and again, increases the chances of injury.

It’s well known in the elite running world that some Japanese runners do 5+ hour runs when building up for a marathon. Former world record holder Robert de Castella and Steve Monaghetti from Australia would peak with a 48km (30 miles) run 5 weeks before the marathon, but that’s after steady diet of 35-40km runs nearly every weekend leading in. Most runners would self destruct on that much mileage.

Marathon World Record holder Eliud Kipchoge completes his long runs on Thursdays and alternates 30km one week with 40km the next and does 12 weeks of this 2 week cycle before a marathon, meaning he will complete 6 40km runs before a marathon.

Mo Farah is similar – peaking at 40km runs 4-8 weeks before the targeted marathon.


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