/ Marathon training advice: feasibiltiy and training pace

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James1982 on 10 Jul 2014 - []
Hello all. Am looking for some advice on marathon training.

Brief history: been running for years but for the last year or so I've been upped it to 4-5 times a week supplemented with 1-2 Bikram yoga session. Generally I run between 5km and 10km and on average do 30-40km per week. I've ran 3 half marathons in my life (2 races, 1 training) the last of which was about 5 weeks ago in 1:48. I have gone sub 22 mins at 5km and sub 45 mins at 10km this year.

I am signed up to the Thames Meander Marathon on 1st November and last week started the Hal Higdon Intermediate 2 training plan. My target is sub 4 hours but aspirationally would love to get close to 3:30. At the minute this feels ambitious because historically I have neglected the longer distances which is probably reflected in the disconnect between my 10km and half marathon times (I think my half marathon should be closer to 1:35-1:40).

First question is given this background am I pushing it by doing a training plan which involves a number of weeks at 40-50 miles? Obviously I'll listen to my body but interested to know if people think for a first marathon I should lower my expectations a little.

Secondly and more importantly everything I read suggests the majority of training runs be done at below marathon pace. I am finding it very hard doing a midweek 5m run for example below marathon pace as my mind tells me that surely it's beneficial to go above that pace so that when it comes to the long runs / marathon it'll be nice and easy to go slower.

So can anyone briefly explain the reasoning behind this and does anyone do something different? Also can anyone give any advice on what pace they personally train at in relation to their marathon pace? For example currently I would run 3-5 miles at around 7:30ish pace, 8-10 miles at 8:00 per mile pace and anything above around 8:15-8:30 (at these longer distances always setting off faster but slowing by the end).

I guess my key issue is endurance so advice on the best way to address that in the context of the training plan and the pace issues would be very gratefully appreciated.

The New NickB - on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to James1982:

A sub 45 minute 10k suggests that a sub 3:30 marathon is possible, but as you say a relatively weak ½ in comparison suggests you are poor on endurance and at the end of the day, endurance is what the marathon is about.

25 miles a week isn’t a bad base mileage for someone starting a marathon programme at the level you are trying to achieve, I assume you are currently running 4-5 days a week. With a couple of your usual runs extended, I am sure you won’t struggle to get your mileage up to the required amount.

I struggle with too much structure and also too much slow running, but some slow running has its place. Personally I have always found a 10 miler at target marathon pace a good hard session that enjoyed and it helped my endurance. Your long run can be slow, but I would advise trying to build up to 20 miles fairly quickly, as the more you do the easier they get and it is good to have a few spare weeks in your programme, as life gets in the way and it is also sometimes good to have an easier week.
Irk the Purist - on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to James1982:

I think your target mileage is too high. Consistent mileage is the key for a first marathon. Avereage mileage over the 12 weeks previous is a good indicator of performance. 25-30 mile a week should be plenty with one long run and one faster session a week, as long as you do it week in week out. Build up the mileage to 3-4 20mile + sessions and make this your focus as endurance is key. 3.5 hours isn't exactly fast running, it's about running reasonably quickly for a long time.

Mark Torrance on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to James1982:

I used that plan for my first marathon, with a target time of 3:30 (which I managed with a bit to spare). I probably had slightly higher mileage than you before starting the program, with more long runs, but it takes it gently in the first few weeks and never seemed that taxing.

I don't see why 40 to 50 mile weeks, if you build to them slowly, should be any problem, and I don't see any basis for "first marathon = lower weekly mileage". Don't listen too hard to your body, though. They like to mutter away at you, but half they time they don't know what they're talking about.
Banned User 77 - on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to James1982:

My marathon pace is about 6 mim milling.. I never train at that pace apart from weekly sessions when getting my body used to it.

Normally its 30s-1 minute off marathon pace.. relaxed pace runs are around 7:30 pace..

I di x in Y runs, where X is at marathon pace, so 3 miles steady, 4 miles mp, 3 miles steady.. when training for marathons. In my long runs I'll also finish the last 3-4 miles towards marathon pace.

Most people pick a marathon pace too slow.. if you think you can run quicker pick a quicker time, just add the long runs to provide the endurance.

I think November is far enough out to go up to 40-50 miles...
Liam M - on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to James1982:

One of the main purposes of long runs is to improve your ability to burn fat during exercise and raise your lactate threshold. If you run too fast during long runs you do two things - you still largely operate on glycogen, so don't stimulate the physiological response to use fat as well, and you do more muscular damage.

So not only are you not achieving the desired aim of the session, you're increasing the time before you can be sufficiently recovered to make the most of the next session, whether that's a long session or a fast one.

I haven't raced more than 10k for the last year or so (I recognised I wasn't going to be fast over long distance if I wasn't reasonably so over short distance), but have found that most improvement came when I slowed my average pace down. I have a 5k pace of just over 6min/mile and a 10k pace about 12-15s/mile slower but about 90% of my overall volume and 80% at peak intensity is slower than 8.20min/mile.

The remaining volume is done very hard though.
Banned User 77 - on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to Liam M:

i think its important to finish key long runs, your main 4-5 close to goal pace as it teaches you to run quick when tired, but general aerobic runs need not be, right now I'm putting in an aerobic base again so anything 7-8 mm is fine..
Ste Brom - on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to IainRUK:

Thank god, I was after a pint of your blood with a 6min/mile marathon pace.

Only advice would be to up the mileage slowly (10%) per week, unless you want to be screaming at your calves and them screaming at you come race day.
Which is what I seem to be doing constantly these days.
Banned User 77 - on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to Ste Brom:

I like to go up stepwise.. so increase by 10% then hold for 2-3 weeks to allow your body to respond, if its too much you'll get pain after a few weeks then you can hold it until you are comfortable at that load, then up..

The other thing is increase quality or quantity.. not both at the same time.
John Gillott - on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to IainRUK:

I'm in the middle of a spell of marathon training, and perhaps I'm doing it wrongly / poorly?

I'm following a basic programme (partly based on memory of something I read a good few years ago), but I thought an OK one, but maybe not...

4 runs per week: one long one, two short ones at around 30% of the long one (time on feet), one medium one at around 50% of the long one (time on feet).

Long one and two short ones at marathon pace, medium one a bit faster ('tempo').

My reasoning is / was that I could cope with the speed of the running because I'm not running the full marathon distance in training.

Is this all wrong? Or, if I'm not breaking down in training should I aim for / am I in effect training for a quicker time for the full distance on the day?
Banned User 77 - on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to John Gillott:

what are you classing as short medium and long and what are you paces and your goal marathon pace?
John Gillott - on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to IainRUK:

It's a (roughly) fixed percentage, so as I build up distance of long run I build up distance of everything else.

I'm starting up again after a couple of weeks off. Last block of training topped out at 2hrs 15 for the long run. Pace varies as I mix flat with undulating and the odd hilly run, but if on flat the basic pace is around 5min/k (8min/mile) on the long run and the two short runs, 4min 45secs/k on the medium run.

Aim to top out the long run at 3 hours or a bit more over the next six weeks (the target marathon is a hilly one so more effort than a flat one). If it were a flat one I had imagined that I would have been targeting 3hrs 30 (ie my basic 5min/k speed on the majority of my training runs).
John Foster - on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to James1982:


I ran my first marathon last year on 22 Dec and my previous times, mileage and target times were virtually identical to yours.

I printed off the 'Advanced Marathon Training Plan' from the Running Bug website and followed it almost to the letter throughout. The thing I liked about this plan was it measured runs in time rather than distance - i.e. the weekly long run built up from 70 minutes at the start to 2.5 hours at its height. It was a 16 week plan.

Also, aside from the long run, most of the other sessions were very similar to the runs I was already doing routinely (steady runs, tempo intervals, 800m reps etc). The only real difference was the weekly long run, at which I would consciously reduce my pace; I never measured anything, just ran the times required according to the plan. I expect the max distance I ran in training was about 18 miles, but these were quite hilly and on gravel tracks not all road.

I also did loads on the running machine, which I found to be great for anything apart from the long run. Regarding pace, I would always aim to be at 7.30 pace for a steady run on the machine (30-60 mins) as I reckoned that this would equate to 8 min mile pace outside. So I paced carefully inside, but just went with the flow on outdoor runs.

Weekly mileage built from 30 to not more than 55, but mainly about 40-45. All of that enabled me to aim for 8 minute mile pace on the day. This was not quite achieved, but I was not that far off.

For me, fantastic success would have been 3.30, failure would have been 4+. On the day I got 3.41. Based on my experience, your stated plans (pace, mileage, ambition) seem pretty close to what mine were - so entirely realistic.

Finally, listening to your body is admittedly important, but so is the discipline to get out 6 days a week. That's what got me through the last 6 miles!

Good luck,

James1982 on 15 Jul 2014 - []
Thanks all for the advice, appreciate the input.

Will give another update when I'm further into the training plan once I've seen what works best for me - some great insight and tips to help in the meantime.

On Sunday I finished week 2 with an 11 miler in 1:27 which felt pretty comfortable - think I'll need to slow that down for the longer runs.
Banned User 77 - on 15 Jul 2014
In reply to James1982:

See.. you often slow less than you think.

I do most of my training runs at a similar pace.. around 6:30-7:00.. but also don't mind them being slower, especially in the heat.

In the summer it can be a bit deflating as you are a lot slower but training in the heat is similar to altitude training in benefits you get. So you'll run quicker in November than you will in the heat of the summer.

I reckon it's at least 20 seconds/mile for me, round me in Philly, it's 30-35C and humid most days, if I can run sub 7 at the moment I'm happy. When I was training for Boston in TX one year I really struggled confidence wise but a coach and also 2 x olympic marathoner said just ignore pace in the heat.. hit regular 2 hour runs and just run on effort and have faith..

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