Can you prepare for a Marathon in 14 weeks (part two)

As promised, part two of the series in preparing for a full 42.2km Marathon run event, and I now sit 5 weeks out from “Race Day”. Training overall is going well – its consistent, its gradual and its measured. All of which are key ingredients in ensuring a preparation for an endurance event goes as well as it could and according to plan.

Training for me each week now looks like this:
Monday – leg weights and a gentle 2km walk
Tuesday – “tempo run” of 10-12km
Wednesday – upper body weights day
Thursday – interval running session of 8-12km
Friday – long walk of 10km
Saturday – long run day! Now building up more than 30km each week
Sunday – rest and recover

Let’s discuss each of these days in a little bit more detail and rationale behind the days.

Monday, leg day. The old saying of never skip leg day rings true, even when preparing for an endurance event. We need strength in the muscles in our legs to support the joints required to carry us for all 42km of the Marathon. By putting them under stress, as far out from the long run as possible (ie 5 days prior), gives the body the chance to repair from the training effect of the gym session. The focus of these sessions are big, fundamental movements of the muscles most required to support us during running. Squats, deadlifts, leg press, lunges and calf raises are all staple parts of the diet on leg day. This focusses on the quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteal and calf muscles and for most exercises 4 sets of 10-12 repetitions is the norm. Then we run.

Tuesday – tempo day. A “tempo” run is that which is a set pace, usually just faster than your planned race pace. It is a shorter run, and in the marathon prep for me this time around, I am running 8-12km on a Tuesday at between 4:40 and 4:50 per kilometre. After a long run on the weekend, its also a good chance to get the body moving again but I often feel like this is the hardest run of the week. My body is recovering from a leg weights session the day before, so feel very heavy, plus it is the first run since the weekend.

Wednesday – upper body weights. The purpose of this session is to maintain core and trunk stability and strength while running. Oft forgotten, the upper body is crucial when running. We generate power with our arms while they swing, we need good expansion of our ribs and thoracic spine to get air in, plus core strength to provide the link between our torso and lower body. By leaving the legs alone for the day, it also provides me the chance to rest them prior to running again on a Thursday.

Thursday – interval session. This can be the most interesting run of the week for me currently. It varies between timed and distance-based intervals depending on the week and what I’ve planned out. A typical session might look something like 6 x 1km runs, with a 2-minute jog between each effort. This allows my body to adjust to running at a higher speed than race-pace and the rest time between efforts allows time for recovery and also increase the total volume of the session.

Friday – walk day. I have found this to be a nice way of heading into the weekend long run. It doesn’t exhaust the muscles I plan to use the next day and also forms a mini-recovery from the week’s running sessions. I also find it beneficial to get my legs moving, even if gently, the day before a long run. The pace is not strenuous or effortful, but a nice way to lead into the following day.

Saturday – long run. This is where the real endurance comes into effect. At this stage of the preparation, I am consistently hitting more than 30km per long run. Each week I have increased by 2km, with a 1 week “deload” period where the long run goes back to 15km. I will complete 30, 32, 34, 36 and 38km efforts over a 6-week period before a final taper two weeks out from the Marathon. I am confident this will give me more than enough time to completely recovery from a heavy training load and feel as fresh as possible for the Marathon itself. The long runs I always complete with someone else. This ensures I keep my mind off the aching muscles that usually kick in around 25km. The other crucial component to this run is fuel. I have 2 bananas before I run, and then high concentrate glucose gels every 10km to ensure I don’t “hit the wall” and literally run out of energy.

Sunday – rest day. As simple as it sounds. Take it easy, rehydrate and refuel for the week ahead and prepare for another week of training. I will complete some gentle static stretches, use the foam roller and massage ball and generally recovery from the long run the day before.

That’s a typical week and training load for me currently. I feel prepared at this stage and my body is in good shape (for now). I feel balanced, measured and calculated in my approach to the run ahead. I look forward to providing another update (part 3) post event!

For further reading, please see part one, or visit our website and speak to one of our Physios.

Can you prepare for a Marathon in 14 weeks? Our Director, Matt, is going to find out! (Part One)

Syndesmosis injuries explained

Can you prepare for a Marathon in 14 weeks (part two)