Building a well-thought out training schedule gives you time to work towards your goals and stay consistent. But how do you adapt and what should you consider if you’re running a specific race?
By: Eric Bang
Set The Date
Regardless of whether this is your first marathon or tenth, make your program specific to your goal race. If you are going to do a 16-week program or 12-week program, make sure that the timing of your race works out with your chosen schedule, so that you can get the full program of training complete.
In an ideal situation you won’t have to adapt your schedule too much and you will have a smooth Marathon build. That being said, it is very rare in life that anything goes exactly according to plan, so allow some flexibility with your program. If you find that you are sidelined by a minor injury or that work/life/etc. has thrown off your training a little bit, don’t panic! Keep in mind that you can’t make up for lost training or mileage, so don’t try to cram in what you may have missed. That’s where further injury can come into play. Focus on working yourself slowly back on track and into your training. Remember that you don’t gain fitness overnight, and you don’t lose it overnight either.
It can be extremely helpful to have a training log. Keep track of your workouts and results from each day. Look at the progress that you have made so far. Have you improved your paces since you started? Are workouts going easier? How much mileage have you increased since you started? Not only will this help you see how far you’ve come but you’ll also get a boost of confidence from seeing your progress of working towards your goal. Be proud of your efforts!
Do you live in the city where you will be racing? If so, take this into account in your training. The biggest advantage you’ll have is that you can run portions of the race course in advance. Take a look at the course map and become familiar with it. I have done Scotiabank twice now, and since I call Toronto home, race day is always that much more exciting! If you live in Toronto and are doing Scotiabank this year, I would highly recommend running the East End portion of the route on one of your long runs. Being familiar with the course will make you feel that much more prepared and mentally strong come race day.
Two major marathons this Fall are the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon and the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. Since they are only two weeks apart, the training schedules should be similar. This means you may be more likely to find a crew that you can train with. While your peak weeks and some larger workouts might be different, for the most part you will be doing very similar things. Find a friend or running pack to make your training that much more enjoyable, while also keeping you accountable.
Looking to Chicago
I am in the midst of training for Chicago, which means I just passed the halfway mark in my 16-week program. If you’re in the same boat, congrats and high five! Chicago will be a completely new experience for me so I’ve been taking that into consideration for my physical and mental training. I’ve found it so inspiring to watch clips of Paula Radcliffe running the 2002 Chicago marathon where she set the World Record (she went on to lower her record in 2003 at the London Marathon). Everyone that has ever been to Chicago talks about how great the course and crowds are. Since this will be the first World Major Marathon that I have ever run, I am very excited to get to the start line.
If you are planning on running either Scotiabank or Chicago this Fall, you should hopefully by this point, have strung together several weeks of consistent training and built up your mileage. Workouts might still be feeling hard but that’s okay, they are supposed to! You are working hard and your body is tired. Everything will feel so much easier once you have tapered. Even though you are demanding a lot out of your body right now, make sure you’re taking care of yourself and that you get yourself to the race start line, healthy.
Bonus Training Tip
When you want to attempt a new distance on your long run, how should you best prepare?
If you look at the first long run of your training plan vs. the long run during the peak week of your training plan, you should notice that the distance has increased significantly. For example, the first long run of my build is normally around 19 km, and my longest run ends up being around 36 km. After your first cycle, you’ll probably think to yourself, how will I possibly reach my peak? The answer is to do the best you can to consistently get in every long run so that your body can adapt over time, as your runs get longer and longer. And remember, you’re only in week 1!
I will normally increase my long runs by 5-10 minutes each week, which converts to about 2-3 km more each week. Week-to-week this isn’t a very big increase. But after a couple of weeks my long runs will be significantly longer than when I first started. I.e.) 19 km – 22 km – 25 km – 28 km – 31 km. As you can see, the increase week-to-week isn’t a lot, but the increase over time is rather significant. By the time you get to your peak week you will have put in a lot of work, given your body time to adapt and grow strong, and by association, feel confident that you will make it through.