Marathon Long Run Training Tips

Managing Marathon Training Load & Optimising Your Long Runs

With Coach Kelvin, Online Running Coach for We Run and the We Run Virtual Running Club, and 1:1 Running Coach for Leeds and surrounding areas

Hi folks, Coach Kelvin here. Today, I’m going to share some marathon training tips. We’ve received some great questions recently about marathon training and long runs in relation to other distances. I’ll summarise some of these insights in this video.

Starting Your Marathon Training Plan

When you start a marathon training plan, it’s crucial not to suddenly increase your training load. Training load increases should always be really gradual. A common mistake many runners make is adding both more volume and specific intensity at the same time, which can create a spike in training load. It’s better to ease into your plan by gradually building up volume at the beginning and then rolling into the plan if the intensity level is similar to what you’ve been doing.

Balancing Volume and Intensity

If you’ve added a volume-based base phase without much intensity or race-specific work, then it’s slightly different. You might have included some ‘easy speed’, which we call speed base. In this case, you want to build up to slightly more than your race plan, then reduce your volume a bit when you start the race plan to give you capacity to add intensity.

Global Volume Over Long-Run Distance

In marathon training, and particularly for longer events like ultras, it’s more about global volume than the actual long-run distance. While the long run is important, it’s more important to maintain consistent volume over weeks and months. Don’t focus solely on the long run. It’s also important to note that we don’t just keep building volume; we should include download or deload weeks and varied paces to target different energy systems without overwhelming any single run with too much volume, and of course to avoid overtraining.

Long Run Frequency and Intensity

For most people, a long run every other week is probably sufficient. For people running marathons on the slower side (maybe taking somewhere between five to six hours for a marathon), they may even find that a long run every three or even four weeks might be more beneficial. If you’re working on three build weeks and a deload week, schedule your long run during the first and third build weeks, with a middle-distance run possibly containing goal pace work during the second week.

Timing Your Toughest Workouts

Your most challenging workout, which for many people will be their longest run or their longest run with goal pace work, should ideally be done three to four weeks out from your race, not just two weeks before. Quite often we see people doing their most challenging workout right before the taper, and this timing risks carrying fatigue from the workout into the event itself.

Integrating Strength Training

One final thing to mention is strength work. For non-specific strength work like gym exercises (rather than running strength work like hill running sessions), we should make sure we’re tapering to at the very least a maintenance level during the peak phase of marathon training (i.e. the twelve weeks that leads up to your taper). With most runners I work with, they won’t be doing any non-specific strength work during that period at all; the running itself will be challenging enough.

I hope this is helpful, and if you have any questions about managing your marathon training load or your marathon long runs, do get in touch. Happy Running!

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