Plan 3: Run Long and Slow
Meghan Arbogast was already a successful marathoner 5 years ago, with a 2:58 to her credit. Only one problem: “I was overtraining and killing myself,” she says.
No longer. Since 1998, Arbogast has been training slower and racing faster under a program designed by Warren Finke, a well-known coach in Portland, Oregon, near Arbogast’s home. Finke believes marathoners should focus on consistent, easy-paced training runs that help them build endurance without getting hurt every couple of months. “A lot of runners train too hard, get injured, and never reach their potential,” he notes.
The Finke program emphasizes “effort-based training,” and he believes in keeping the effort modest (at 80 percent of the speed you could race the same distance) most of the time. “Most runners are probably training at about 90 percent of their race pace,” says Finke. “Running 80 percent is pretty easy, but it helps keep you injury-free.”
The program has certainly turned things around for Arbogast. Two years after beginning Finke’s effort-based training, she improved her marathon personal record to 2:45. And last June, she won the Christchurch Marathon in New Zealand with another 2:45. “I think I can keep improving,” says Arbogast. “The key is to stay healthy and keep gaining endurance.”
What you should do: Do most of your runs at 80 percent of the speed you could race the same distance. So, if you can race 10 miles at 7:30 pace, you should do your 10-mile training runs at 9:23. To convert a race pace to an 80-percent training pace, multiply the race pace by 1.25; for more details, visit Finke’s Web site: Team Oregon.
Plan 4: Make Every Workout Count
When you’ve been running marathons for 25 years and have an advanced degree in exercise physiology, you should eventually learn a thing or two about training. Exercise physiologist Bill Pierce, chair of the Health and Exercise Science department at Furman University, thinks he has. ……….
In stripping his training program to its essence, Pierce runs each of his three workouts at a specific target pace and distance. One is a long run, one is a tempo run, and one is a speed workout. “I run at a higher intensity than some others recommend, but I have found that this program has worked well for me for many years,” says Pierce. “It reduces the risk of injuries, improves long-term adherence, and still lets me enjoy the gratification that comes with intense efforts.”
What you should do: Pierce does interval training on Tuesdays, tempo training on Thursdays, and a long run on Sundays. For interval repeats, he runs 12 x 400 meters or 6 x 800 meters at slightly faster than his 5-K race pace. On tempo days, he runs 4 miles at a pace that’s 10 to 20 seconds per mile slower than 10-K race pace. On Sundays, he runs 15 miles at a pace that’s 30 seconds per mile slower than his marathon race pace. You can easily adapt these workouts to your own 5-K, 10-K, and marathon race paces.
Plan 5: Do Plyometrics
Deena Drossin had already joined the ranks of America’s all-time best female distance runners, including Joan Samuelson, Mary Slaney, and Lynn Jennings, when she first paid a visit to Zach Weatherford nearly 2 years ago. She asked Weatherford, the strength and conditioning coach at the U.S. Olympic Committee’s training facility in Chula Vista, California, if he could devise a program that would give her more leg endurance and quickness.
Drossin did jump roping, skipping drills, box jumps, and even high-knee sprints through the “rope ladder” that you often see at football training camps. And then she ran the London Marathon last April in 2:21:16, a personal record by more than 5 minutes and a new American record. “I really felt a difference in London,” says Drossin. “I’ve noticed a considerable change in my running mechanics. My feet are spending less time on the ground, and I’ve increased my stride frequency. At London, my legs did not fatigue at all during or after the marathon.”
What you should do: You could always train with your local high school football team while they work out with the rope ladder. But if that’s too intimidating, here’s a simple alternative: Instead of running strides at the end of several easy runs a week, do a “fast-feet” drill. Run just 15 to 20 yards with the shortest, quickest stride you can manage. You don’t have to lift your knees high; just lift them fast, and move forward a few inches with each stride. Pump your arms vigorously as well. Rest, then repeat six to eight times. Once or twice a week, you can also do 5 minutes of single-leg hops, two-legged bounding, and high-knee skipping, all on a soft surface such as grass or packed dirt.
Plan 6: Run Longer Tempo Runs
What you should do: Do a tempo run once a week for 8 weeks. Start with a 20-minute tempo run at 10 to 20 seconds per mile slower than 10-K race pace, and add 5 minutes to your tempo run every week. Be sure to take 1 or 2 easy days before and after tempo days.
Plan 7: Run Long and Fast
Okay, we know. This is the opposite of Plan 3. You caught us. But it works for some runners, just as the long-and-slow approach works for others. A perfect example of the “high-responders” versus “low-responders” principle.
This kind of endurance program, based on long, hard runs has been popularized the last several years by marathon world record holder Khalid Khannouchi. Khannouchi does ferocious long runs-so fast and sustained that he gets nervous for several days before them. Old school: The only thing that mattered was spending 2 to 3 hours on your feet. New school: If you want to finish strong and improve your times in the marathon, you have to run hard and fast at the end of your long runs.
What you should do: On your long runs, pick up the pace for the last 25 percent of the distance. Gradually accelerate to your marathon goal pace, or even your tempo-run pace. You don’t have to attack your long run the way Khannouchi does, and you shouldn’t collapse when you finish. But you should run hard enough at the end to accustom your body to the late-race fatigue of the marathon.