Several months before the US Olympic Marathon Trials I decided to try to qualify for this competitive race. As I had never run a marathon before I turned to past coaches, dug into research and collected as much information as I could from other elite runners. Six weeks before the marathon trials in Houston, I qualified for the Olympic Trials!
For your enjoyment, below are three workouts that helped me get into the best shape of my life so I could run with the best in the nation. They are based on my research and a decade of personal experience. As you read through the workouts, please note that you will likely need to adjust them to fit your fitness level and goals. Be sure to consult a medical professional before you start any training or marathon plan.
1. The 10-Mile Drop-Down Run
Run the first two miles of this workout at an easy and relaxing pace to make sure your muscles are properly warmed up. After the second mile slowly begin to increase your pace. Aim to increase your pace every mile by 5 to 10 seconds per mile. For example, if your first two miles are run in 8min. 30sec. per mile then aim to make mile 3 around 8:25 pace and mile 4 around 8:20 pace and so on. Try to make the last mile a little quicker than your goal race pace. The key to this workout is to pace yourself so that you are not burned out by mile 7. Note: if you are not up to a 10 miler, then start with a shorter distance, say 5 miles–you will still gain strength!
2. Two-Mile Repeats
This workout is to help you maintain some speed and turnover as you prepare for your marathon. First, warm up (this often includes one to two miles of light joggling). Next, run three sets of two miles with three to five minutes of rest between sets. Your per mile pace should be 10 to 20 seconds below your goal marathon race pace. For example, if you are hoping to run your next marathon at 8 minute mile pace, run your two miles between 7:40 and 7:50 per mile pace. If you are really ambitious follow the Brooks-Hansons lead and do three 5Ks instead of three sets of two miles!
3. The Fartlek Long Run
The next time you are out for a long run, try this twist. Instead of maintaining a steady pace, make your long run a Fartlek run! Before you start laughing, “Fartlek” is a Swedish term for “speed play”. It involves intervals of increasing and decreasing your speed as you run. This allows you to get in a few minutes (or miles) of race pace running without feeling like you just trashed your legs. As always, make sure you get in a good warm up before doing any speed work. After a warm up jog (the first few minutes of your long run), have a little fun with some speed play. For example, you could do sets of 5 minutes of race pace running, then 4 minutes, then 3, then 2, then 1 with a 3 minute jog in between each set. Or you could rotate: one mile at race pace, one mile slow jog. Get creative and have fun with your Fartlek intervals. It will help keep your long runs interesting and will help you develop strength and endurance.
Good luck and happy training! Have a workout that works for you? Post a comment below.