Because people ask...
After seeing some form of this question three times today on Twitter and/or Reddit, I thought I would make a quick post on what the heck you should do if you have a marathon coming up very quickly and you've not trained for it.
This post is assuming you are reasonably fit and able to go out and jog an easy mile fairly comfortable.
Keep in mind
Race Week Plan
The Day Before the Race
Race Day Pacing
I've read thousands of articles related to running, nutrition, entrepreneurship, etc.
One that has always stayed in my mind was on the subject of the aggregation of small marginal gains.
Specifically, this article talked about a pro cycling team who hired someone whose job was to improve little things, a little bit. Imagine if you upgraded five things by just 1%, that is a small change but can lead to big growth over time!
Now imagine if you improved everything related to your running, or just one thing even, 1%? That's not hard to do, but 1% over a year, 3 years, a decade? That's going to have a huge impact!
Imagine if you upgraded five #running related things by just 1% - Click to Tweet!
Below are five small things you can do to drastically improve your running They're little things that will make a difference!
Which one are you going to work on this week?
I’ve talked about this in the past, but an arbitrary time goal does not matter.
If you’re a 18:55 5ker trying to break 18, a 26:00 5ker trying to break 24, or a 17:45 5k’er trying to go 16:59, you still:
Run as much as you can.
But not too much.
Eat plenty of protein.
Do daily strength & mobility.
Take unloading weeks.
Run easy days most of the time.
Run hard once in a while.
Follow some sort of training schedule.
No matter if you’re trying to do a sub20 5k or a sub 4 marathon, you still need to do this – Click to Tweet!
10 minutes worth of me answering a few questions about running. Hopefully, you find something helpful!
How long should the long run be?!?
This is a super hot topic that many feel very passionate about.
For more advanced runners I’ll often have them top out in the 20-22 or 3-hour range. The reason for this is any longer and it’s simply a lot of time on their feet that is likely going beyond the point of diminishing returns. Long runs that are too long take too much out of you and require extra recovery time.
For the average (4:30 marathon) or slower runners, it gets tricky because if they want to run 20 miles for the long run, a very important mileage threshold, it’s getting into the 4-hour run range. Mentally it will likely be worth it to at least his 20+ once during training, but going over 3-hours too often, even for 4-5 hour marathoners, is not necessary in my opinion.
I was asked on Twitter if it was normal for legs to feel like jello after a run.
My response was "yes", but there's a different between normal and good! It's normal for legs to feel like jello (very fatigued) after a long or hard run. However even in those cases it's often best to end the run before the legs get to this point of fatigue.
For long runs I think it's normal/ok for the legs to be quite tired at the end, but for most other runs they should never be so long or hard to make the legs feel like this. Reaching this level of fatigue too often will increase the amount of rest/recovery you need between hard workouts. If you go 95% instead of 99% during your tempo/track runs, you'll require less easy/recovery days between hard workouts and you'll feel better!
Uphill hill workouts get all the glory, but are they overrated? – Click to Tweet
While running hard uphill is something you should do, I think performing downhill hill workouts can be more beneficial.
Chances are you’ve done an event with a great deal of downhill running, and felt it for a few days afterward. Running downhill, especially fast, puts a lot of eccentric loading on your muscles. This means they are lengthening and tightening at the same time, which cause a great deal of muscle damage. While running hard uphill may FEEL very difficult, running hard downhill is doing the most damage. This is why you should do downhill workouts in training, to prepare for the hard downhills in races.
“But my race isn’t a net downhill” you may think. Yes, that’s true. But even a looped course is half downhill!
Uphill workouts don’t let you run as fast as you’re likely going to be doing in a race setting and they are not quite as hard on the muscles since you’re not hitting the ground as hard, lengthening your stride as much, etc. Hard hill workouts can be too intense as well, which works the anaerobic system (not necessary for most runners).
So, uphill workouts may not be as important as you think because:
1) They are too slow (not close enough to race pace)
2) They may be too intense and not focus on the correct energy pathway
On the other hand, doing workouts on a slight decline serve to:
1) Work on your leg turnover rate
2) Help you run at a faster pace
3) Prepare your body for hard downhills during events
4) Stimulate the leg muscles to strengthen.
Remember: Because downhill workouts and running is so damaging, it’s incredibly important to be very very progressive with them and ease into them. I’ll often start my athletes with doing simple thirty-second downhill strides during regular easy runs. That can progress into a once monthly (or so) downhill workout of increasing length.
How to do them:
This is simple. You may really take any track type workout and do that on a downhill. I will do my warm up with an easy two or three mile climb and then start the downhill reps at the top. Run hard downhill for 800m and then do a 400m easy uphill recovery.
You don’t need something very steep, preferably it’s only a slight downhill grade. Too much of a downhill will not let you run faster.
The 10% rule dictates that you should never increase your weekly running volume more than 10% week by week. This is a good guideline for runners who are upping their volume but it’s only half of the mileage equation.
The 10% rule of increasing mileage is only half of the story – Click to Tweet
It is crucial to take unloading weeks as well! Increasing and increasing volume (stress) does not make you stronger, the periods of unloading and rest are when this occurs. Not only are rest/easy days necessary but if you’re running towards the upper end of your abilities than rest/easy weeks are also key to keeping you physically and mentally healthy.
With my own athletes and myself what I’ll often do is leave the long runs the same but reduce or cut out the midweek volume and workouts. In essence, you’re only taking an unloading work-week, but for busy working adults this is a nice relief physically, mentally, and with their work/life schedule.
Performing a track workout, such as 4 x (400m hard + 400m easy) may seem like common sense for most runners, but we all started from scratch at some point without any knowledge on what the heck 4x400m/400m actually is!
For those of us that live in the parts of the world which receive snow and ice during the winter, performing effective training sessions outdoors can be difficult.
During the summer I would simply run to the track and perform 10 x 800m roughly at 5k race pace with 200-400m jogging recovery.
However, during the winter went the outdoor track is completely covered in snow this workout becomes impossible to exactly replicate.
What I would instead recommend for this workout would be to simply perform the run on as cleanly paved of a path as possible.
In my neck of the woods Rapid City typically does a great job keeping the bike path clean. I’ll do 90% of my quality workouts on the bike path when there is snow on the ground. I’ve also noticed that the steepest roads in town are the best plowed. This
With the 800m repetition workout, you have a couple options. You can either use your GPS to track 800m or .5mile and use it as you would a track to do a distance repetition. Another option (and my preferred) is to simply determine how long the repetitions would normally take you and run at a hard perceived exertion for that duration. Recently instead of doing 15x1k hard + 1:00 jog I did 15 x 4:00 hard + 1:00 jog, for example.
I’ve also noticed that the steepest roads in town are the best plowed. This makes doing hill workouts in the winter quite easy, actually!