Summer Training Tips for Your Fall Marathon

21 10 2011

 By Patrick McCrann
Marathon Nation

Before you get too excited about zipping around in your shorts and feeling the wind and sun on your legs this summer, let’s take a moment to remember what all of your focus and training is for—a solid fall marathon performance.

Sure you love to run, but you also love to race. And when it comes time to judge your season, you won’t look back to the nice run you had in the summer, you’ll remember the finishing time of your marathon.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at why you mentally need to use summer training tips for your best possible fall marathon.


Good Marathons Don’t Just Happen

We all know that marathonsaren’t easy; 26.2 miles are no joke. And yet, when it comes time to get ready to race, so many of us have a very cavalier approach. Without going into too much detail, most marathon plans basically boil down to: “Go that way as fast as you think you can handle, and hold on hoping to reach the finishing line.”

Sometimes this works. Most of the time, it doesn’t. Regardless, we all know of friends who report to have lucked out and had a good marathon finish time. But a good marathon is like making a great dessert; it takes the right ingredients, proper preparation, and total precision in the kitchen. A marathon is no different–luck only favors the prepared.

Here are our top tips to begin your fall marathon planning process and start your journey off on the right foot.


A Good Marathon Takes…Perspective

Thinking about a fast marathon is easy; running a fast marathon is another story. (In this case, “fast” is totally relative; it just means faster than you have run before). Before you dream up your next finishing time, take a moment to reflect back on your most recent race. Whether it was a full marathon or a half, you’ll still have had a bad patch, and that’s exactly what you need to put into your head. Remember that time in the race when the world went dark, when your legs wanted to stop, when your arms got tired and when your brain threatened to call it a day. It’s from that place that you need to plan your next race, because that moment will come again and it will be even harder to handle the faster you go.

Instead of making up a finishing time, run a test workout and extrapolate your fitness from there. Inside Marathon Nation we use a 5K road race as a benchmark.


A Good Marathon Takes…Patience

I recommend that you pick a race that’s at least six months away. This will give you ample time to get your house in order before it’s time to lay down the long runs that build your ultimate marathon performance. Yes, six months seem like a long time, but it will go by quickly.

In addition to planning time to train, you need to build your long running fitness over time. Don’t start out on day one with a plan to run the same long, slow, steady pace in every session. The only variety in this approach comes from adding more mileage each week—this stimulus is really insufficient to build fitness (it makes you more durable, not more fit).

The best way to build your running fitness is to break your six months into three distinct phases:  speed, recovery, and distance.

During the speed phase, your training is focused on a 5K or 10K. During this time your only goal is to build up the speed to run either event to the best of your ability. You can check out more advice on speed training for marathons from a past article.

At the end of this session, you’ll need one or perhaps two weeks to recover from the work. This is called the recovery phase; it’s a great time to do some alternate core or functional strength training to keep your mind focused while your shoes collect some dust.

With the proper rest behind you, now is the time to begin the distance phase of your training. During this time, you’ll cut down on the fast running to just one official session per week. The emphasis of your workouts now shifts from speed to adding distance in your mid-week and weekend long run sessions.

Since you have already boosted your speed, your long runs will be faster by default, and you can continue to challenge your body by dialing your training intensity down and adding more time.


A Good Marathon Takes…Planning

With so much time to go until the fall, it’s easy to skip the actual planning for your race. After all, it’s months away and who knows what could happen between now and then, right?  I can tell you that if you fail to plan, you won’t be able to run at the goal pace required to have the finishing time you want.
Don’t get intimidated…get smart, and get to work!

Think long and hard about the time you want to run in five or six months, and start building your fitness now to match that benchmark. If you want to run a 3:30 marathon, you’ll have to hold approximately 8-minute miles to reach your goal.

If you are in the speed phase, a 3:30 marathon equates to a 22:01 5K time (you can use this vDOT pacing website to identify race pace equivalents). Armed with this knowledge, you can start working towards that 5K time. This could include half-mile and mile repeats of (3:37/mile and 7:05/mile pace respectively).

You can download the Marathon Nation free race planner worksheet from Facebook to plot what your race should look like.



If you can think far enough ahead this early in the game, you can truly begin to lay the foundation for a great fall marathon. Remember, it’s never too early to begin getting your running house in order.  You’ll be standing on the starting line ready to chase your dreams for 26.2 miles before you know it.

Marathon Nation is the home of Coach Patrick and his real-world,pace-based marathon training system. Download one of our free resources, findyour personal marathon training schedule or share your training and racing with our growing community of runners. Find more quality articles and video analysis resources online at Marathon Nation:

Training for a marathon? Download our free PDF guide that will walk you through the most critical parts of the pre-marathon experience. You can register to download it from Marathon Nation.

Looking to improve your overall running? Download a free copy of our 29 Tips to Transform Your Running eBook.




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