This program has been designed by Susan Hobson, a triple Olympian in distance running. She has a Graduate Diploma in Sports Coaching, Bachelor of Physical Education and is a Level 2 Track & Field Coach. Susan is the female record holder in the Canberra Marathon, running 2.32.57 in her debut in 1994.
An exercise circuit once or twice a week is recommended, either at home or at the gym. This should be based on exercises using your own body weight or very light weights, with 10 -20 repetitions. The exercise circuit needs to have a focus on core stability (abdominal and lower back strength), which will improve your running form and your ability to hold this form towards the end of the marathon when fatigued. If you are unsure of the sort of exercises you should be doing, an instructor at a fitness centre should be able to help you.
It is important to listen to your own body and monitor how you are coping with the training. If you are not freshening up enough during the scheduled “easy week”, back off a bit more. Alternatively, take Mondays as a second non-running day each week if you are getting excessively tired and don’t feel you are recovering adequately from the harder sessions. You may need to back off training during very stressful periods at work or at home, to avoid illness. You can schedule in the easy week at these times.
The Training Sessions
Fartlek - These speedwork sessions are less structured than trackwork and interval sessions, but are still a demanding speed session. Hard running efforts are interspersed with easier running, called a “float”. Do not run so hard in the effort that you need to walk or jog slowly in the float. A float should be equivalent to your steady running pace. You will need to build up to this, with the floats in the early part of the program a bit slower. The program asks for some fartlek work to be done on flat surfaces (bike paths or large ovals), while other sessions are on rolling hills such as forest trails. It is important to warm up and cool down with 15 minutes of easy running in these sessions.
Introductory cycle – maximum of 70 km/week
· Long run
· 1 x introductory speed session
Focus – Endurance and Strength
Maximum of 88 km/week
· 1 Long run
· 1 medium long run
· 1 x speed session
· 1 x strides
Focus – Endurance and Anaerobic Threshold
Maximum of 100 km/week
· 1 long run
· 1 medium long run
· 2 x speed sessions
· 1 x strides
Focus – Anaerobic Threshold and Race Preparation
Maximum of 100 km/week
· 1 long run
· 1 medium long run
· 2 x speed sessions
· 1 x strides
Focus - Race Preparation
· Week 1 of taper – approx 75% of biggest week
· Week 2 of taper – approx 50% of biggest week
· Week 3 of taper – approx 25% of biggest week plus rac
A training diary is recommended. In this you can record your daily training sessions and times, kilometres run daily and weekly, and how you felt. Try to get into the habit of taking your resting heart rate each morning (before you get out of bed), as this is an excellent guide to how you are coping with the workload. An elevated HR is an indication you are not recovering from previous sessions or you are getting sick. The guideline is:
2-3 bpm (beats per minute) higher than normal – OK to train normally
+ 5 bpm higher than normal – train lightly
+ 10 bpm higher than normal – have a rest day
Weighing yourself daily is also recommended to monitor hydration.
Warm up, Cool down
Ensure you do 15 minutes of easy running before you begin a speed session (hills, fartlek, tempo, intervals) and 15 minutes of easy running at the end. After the warm up run, it is a good idea to do a few easy stretches of the major running muscle groups (quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, gluteals and lower back) and 3 or 4 strides of 60 – 80 metres.
* From 25 February on, the fartlek sessions have a 20 minute warm up and cool down run.
A stretching session of 30-45 minutes 2 or 3 times each week is recommended. These sessions focus on sustained and gentle stretching of the major muscle groups used when running. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds and do not stretch to the point of pain. Give particular attention to the areas or side of the body becoming tighter than usual. A very good alternative is to attend a Yoga class once or twice a week.
If at all possible, do 10 minutes of stretching at the end of your speed sessions, after the cool down run.
Don’t skimp on your shoes. It is unwise to try and save money by getting more miles from your shoes than you should, as you often end up paying more in physio costs. Ensure you have a training shoe that suits your feet and biomechanics. A specialist running shop or podiatrist can give you the advice you need on shoe selection.
It is a good idea to have a second pair of training shoes, and this pair can be a lightweight training shoe suitable for your faster running sessions. Try and decide well before the marathon the shoes you will race in. This gives you time to trial the shoe in shorter races or speed sessions. Elite marathon runners like to wear light racing flats, but for the majority of runners a lightweight training shoe is more suitable for the marathon. It is unwise to race in a pair of shoes “straight from the box”, even if it is a model you have worn before.
You will benefit from some racing, such as fun runs, during this program. The program has suggested specific days for racing, but you may not have anything suitable in your area at these times. If you are substituting a race for a long run, ensure you freshen up a bit for the race and allow a few days recovery afterwards, so you can benefit from it. If the race is longer than 10 km, you need to allow at least 4 days before doing any hard or long running, and a full week of easy running should come after a half marathon.
Hydration, Nutrition and Recovery
This is a summer training program, so you need to be particularly careful about hydration and the times of day you train. When possible do your training in the coolest part of the day. Ensure you are drinking adequately before, during and after training. Plan your long runs so you can get water en route, or carry a water bottle around your waist.
Weighing yourself first thing each morning gives you an indication as to whether you are drinking enough. While you may gradually lose some weight because of the training you are doing, significant daily fluctuations are more likely due to inadequate hydration.
Recovery from sessions will be improved if you are adequately hydrated. There is also a need to replace fuel as soon as possible after a training session. You will recover a lot better for your next session if you can consume some carbohydrate within 30 minutes of finishing the session. This can be carbohydrate drinks (cordial, fruit juice, sports drink) or snacks high in carbohydrate such as fruit, sandwiches, muesli bars etc.
As well as having high carbohydrate and fluid demands when training for a marathon, you also need plenty of protein. Ensure you are not skimping on protein in your daily diet. It is a good idea to see a dietician if you feel your diet is not meeting your needs.
While this may seem a luxury, massage is well worth the money you spend when training hard. A good massage every 2 or 3 weeks will assist recovery, loosen tight muscle groups, and alert you to any more serious problems which may be starting to develop. Most private health funds now reimburse some of the massage costs.
The 3 Week Taper
The purpose of the taper is to freshen up sufficiently to absorb all the training you have done and be able to take advantage of your hard work during the race. The biggest mistake people make in those last few weeks before a marathon is to do too much. You will feel like you are doing hardly any training in the final week, and this is how it should feel. Enjoy it!
The last long run must be no closer than 3 weeks to the marathon, to give your body time to recover adequately. In the final 3 weeks you are maintaining the quality in your program while gradually reducing the volume. It is not uncommon to feel a bit sluggish when you start to taper, as your body adjusts to the lighter workload. This should pass after a few days, and if it doesn’t it may be a sign that you are not recovering well and need to schedule in a few more easy days (or even rest days) than what is indicated in the program.
Try to get as much rest as possible, particularly in the last 10 days, and have a couple of massages in the last few weeks. If you are not used to frequent massages, make sure your last massage is not too close to race day.
The carbohydrate depletion followed by loading diet is very rarely used now. Studies have shown a 3 day carbohydrate loading diet alone, leading into race day, is just as effective.
In the final 3 days concentrate on consuming carbohydrate rich foods and hydrating. As a guide, you need to try to consume 10g of Carbohydrate (CHO) per kg of bodyweight. A 60 kg person would be aiming for 600g of CHO on each of the 3 days before race day. Packaged foods now list the CHO content on the label. Some cookbooks or a nutrition guide will give you the CHO content of other common foods, so you can keep a tally of you CHO intake.
Try to consume good quality carbohydrate, as opposed to junk food bingeing. High carbohydrate drinks and some baby foods are a good option if you are starting to feel you cannot tolerate too much more bulky food. Avoid high fibre foods in the last 24 hours before the race.
Ensure you are drinking enough fluid in the last week, but avoid taking on too much and becoming bloated.
The Canberra Marathon will have drink stations every 5km along the course, providing sports drink, water and additional special drink tables. While many marathoners are happy to use the water and sports drink provided, the option is there for you to mix your own drink in your own bottles, and have them placed out on the course every 5km on these special drink tables.
It is common for a marathoner to dilute a commercial sports drink to about 50% and have it placed on the special drink table. The advantage of this is you are taking in a more palatable drink while running, which still provides you with enough carbohydrate during the race if you can take in 150-200mls each station. You are also able to drink out of a sipper bottle while running, rather than having to slow down to get enough fluid out of a cup without spilling most of it.
Whatever you decide to do, the following two points are important:
· Practise on some of your long training runs using the drink you plan to use in the race, to ensure you are comfortable with it.
· Take in fluid early in the race, preferably a little bit at each 5km station, to avoid dehydration in the later stages of the marathon. The inconvenience of disrupting your rhythm slightly at each drink station is well worth it.
The marathon is a very tough event mentally as well as physically. You can do much to boost your physical preparation by spending a little time on mental preparation.
When you have some quiet moments in the last few weeks, imagine yourself running strongly, relaxed and with good rhythm during the race. Pick a few focus words that you can call on during the race to remind you of this form. It is also a good idea to picture yourself going through rough patches in the race, and what you will do and say to yourself to work through these stages.
The final stages of a marathon require a lot of concentration. Focus on staying relaxed, maintaining your rhythm and form, and talking to yourself positively. When negative thoughts start entering your mind, call on those positive images. These strategies can help you push through the extreme fatigue that is setting in.
You should have worn your racing shoes a couple of times before race day, but conversely they shouldn’t be too old and worn. Similarly, the clothing and socks you plan to wear should have been trialed at least once.
Pack your race bag the day before. This should include your racing shoes and socks, vaseline, changes of clothes (including wet weather gear if necessary), drink for the last hour or so before the race, your watch, race number and pins.
Do not stress if your sleep the night before the race is restless. You will be fine provided you have slept well the preceding nights. It is a good idea to get up three hours before the race starts to have something to eat, even though this means a very early start.
You should have practised your pre race meal several times before the event. You are only really “topping up” with this light breakfast, but make sure it is food you tolerate well. Toast with honey or jam, a cup of tea and some juice or sports drink is a safe breakfast for many runners. Avoid overdoing the fluid intake in these last few hours, remembering you will be able to take in fluid during the run.
As you are used to warming up for your speed sessions, do a
modified version of this on race day. Because you start a marathon conservatively,
you only need 5-10 minutes of very easy jogging, some light stretching and 2 or
3 short strides. The
You should have decided what your realistic target time is well before race morning, and have an idea of your 5 or 10 km splits. These are only a guide, and do not get stressed if the race does not seem to be falling into place early on. It is not unusual to feel lethargic for the first 5km or so, and weather conditions can also disrupt planned split times. You are better off finding a pack to run along with in the first half of the race, even if this means going a little slower than planned.
Do not get drawn into a pack running a pace faster than you know you can maintain. The first 10 km of the race should feel very easy and as if you are holding back. If this is not the case, you are probably going out too fast. You should feel fairly comfortable until 20-25 km, after which time the race requires an increasing amount of effort and concentration.
You will likely go through stages of feeling very good and very bad during the race, and they can come and go very quickly. It is important to concentrate on your rhythm and relaxation, think positively and work through the bad spots until they pass. Avoid the temptation to pick up the pace all of a sudden because you are feeling good. Even paced running is the key to a successful marathon.
Copyright 2001 Susan Hobson