Sep 21, 2010

Running a marathon as a training run

This might sound crazy but at some point you feel comfortable with the marathon distance and start running that distance  (or even longer) during training runs. So, why not run a marathon as a training run and get a t-shirt for your already overflowing closet? This is certainly not a new idea and many seasoned runners do it regularly.

Caveat: As with everything in running, attempt it only if you feel comfortable with idea and if your current level of fitness will permit. Level of fitness includes your current training volume and the recovery time needed for long distances. Ideally, you should be a high mileage runner (>> 50mpw).

With that out the way, here are a few tips to run a training marathon:

1. Plan well: Schedule this well in advance so you'll have sufficient time to recover for your goal race. 'Sufficient' depends on your fitness levels. A minimum of 3-5 weeks should be reasonable.

2. Keep the goal in mind: In the training marathon, the goal is not the finish line of that marathon but your goal race. So, avoid exerting too much when you don't have to and run it according your training goals. For instance if you're trying to achieve a certain pace or split try to replicate it as faithfully as possible but over a shorter distance.

3. Dress rehearsal: Run with the same running gear as you plan to use in your goal marathon. This would also be a good time to test something new and see if it agrees with you.

4. Start slow: This should hold for your goal race too but it's very important to not run too hard in the first few miles. Keep in mind that every mile you run hard requires a certain period of recovery. Typical long distance runs for marathons are lesser than 26 miles. So, plan to go very easy for the excess miles or even walk it off.

5. Ignore everyone: Remember a training run is not competitive. This is your training run. Don't get carried away in the marathon atmosphere and let someone else set the pace for you.

6. No taper: There should not be any taper period for the training marathon. Treat this as a regular long run except take a day off before and after to compensate for the extra distance, if required.

7. Recovery: Practice good recovery routines. This goes for any run you do but especially important for training marathons. Running 26.2 has its toll on the body irrespective of the pace you set. Eat well before and after and sleep well.

8. Be prepared to DNF: Listen to your body. If you don't feel good stop! This is just a training run. While doing a DNF before a goal race might sound bad it's really a confidence booster. When you ask yourself "What if .." and imagine the worst case and be prepared for it, all nervousness should go away.

9. Enjoy your run: Take advantage of the social setting, talk to people while running and have a good time. Otherwise you might as well run alone and save some money.

Of course, this applies to all distances and not just marathons except longer the distance more the recovery time needed.


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