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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

When can I run my next marathon?

This is a question that I am asked often. Here is my best effort to provide some guidance:
It is best not to run more than 4 marathons per year, preferably fewer. Two is about right as you will gather as you read on.

Look after your body; especially the joints, which can only take so much wear and tear – look after body and it will give a lifetime of faithful service. Abuse it and your running days will be over before you know it. And let’s face it – running a marathon is tough on the body no matter how you do it!

Each marathon should be followed by a period of three to four weeks of recovery after which you start a fresh graduated build-up to the next performance peak.

After this initial period of recovery – and only after you are able to one again run freely and with energy - it is time to commence another build up to your next big event. Review your previous training schedule: Begin at about half way through where you started and where you peaked during your most recent build up of distance and speed. Gradually add a little more each week just like before, faithfully adding in your recovery weeks and do not get too far ahead of yourself by piling in too much extra training even if you happen to feel great. No big jumps please – keep progress incremental. The idea is to finish this new build up with the peak just a little higher than the previous one.

Here is what you are aiming for:
  • 12 weeks of steady increases in distance runs each week, breaking these up with some short, fast runs, including 3-10km races (no further please!)
  • 4-8 weeks if you have time of maintaining a steady mileage and competing in short distance races.
  • 6-8 weeks of gradually cutting back on total training volume while quickening the pace.
    • Keep one long relaxed run per week going of 2-3 hrs (No longer please).
    • Do one ½ marathon about the 1st week of this phase, recover for about 7-10 days with relaxed running and then get back into the training.
    • Put all of this stamina to the test by running approximately weekly 3-12km races. Do these even if you regard yourself as being a bit of a plodder. These will get you up on your toes and used to running at pace and they will toughen your body and mind. Join a club and participate actively in their training and racing programmes.
  • With 2 weeks to go to the marathon, do not any more races.
    • It is time to enter your freshening phase to peak for the big day.

So, to train properly and consistently, you need about 24 weeks, or almost 6 months of undisrupted training between each marathon. Keep this consistent and progressive training and competition pattern going for as long as you feel the inclination to do so.

As a general rule of thumb, run no more than 2 marathons per year hard out. Any extras may be taking the edge off you and you may find that you will never beat whatever time you are going for; be that a sub-4hr, sub-3.30 or under the magical time of 3hrs.

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