Recently, we had a live chat with our athletes and members of the Online Run Club regarding a very basic question, “what do I do now?” Most of our runners were coming off from fall marathons and many of them had simply followed the plans from Hansons Marathon Method where it was a very intensive training block. So what we did, was lay out a few things that people could do based on where they were with their running. I have discussed this topic before (Moving beyond the basics), but this will be offer a few different takes. Below I laid out what I would do given a specific circumstance.
Between now and training for Boston
This is a very specific schedule problem, but can also work for someone who runs a late spring marathon, but has a number of weeks to fill before you actually need to begin training for a marathon you know you are going to be training for in the fall. Since I am writing this after fall marathon season and people were specifically concerned about Boston, I will stick to this example. You can use the idea for whenever you find yourself in a similar situation.
Our main problem is, even if you run a late fall marathon, say New York, you still have at least a month before you need to begin training for Boston. With that, what do I do? (panicked voice).
- Don’t get too excited. What I found was people got into Boston and they were instantly motivated to run up every hill that they could find. The problem with that is I want you to be in peak fitness in April, not February! Getting too fit too soon is very common.
- How to utilize your 4-8 weeks of stagnicity? For many it is a perfect opportunity to ensure that you are fully recovered from a hard training segment. I’m not saying to just blow two months off, but rather focus on keeping mileage at a reasonable level- say 60-70% of your marathon peak. Do workouts that will maintain general fitness and allow an easy transition into marathon training. It’s a great opportunity to also add a component that you know you need work on, whether it’s strides, general strength, core, whatever you know you need to begin work on.
- The other option is based around the idea of whether you need 18 weeks to get ready for the marathon. Since you just came off a marathon training block and are going to go into another one, I don’t think there is always a need for the 18 week training block. What a lot of my athletes are doing is either a base building segment, a speed segment, or a half marathon segment that will end in early January, do a week of recovery (light running), and then jump into a dedicated marathon segment. It’s a great way to break up the winter, get different work in, but then still be in a position to go right into a 12 week marathon specific training block. Now what, we would do would depend on what the runner needed, but also a lot of it was where they were living. Trying to do a dedicated speed segment in a tough winter location is difficult and might not yield the results we are looking for.
We offer a Boston Marathon group that begins in December and is an 18 week program. However, it is set up so that we are building into that 18 weeks where the we spend several weeks gradually building fitness. This also makes it very easy for a person who is doing #3 above to jump into the group after an early January race.
Just ran your first marathon:
If you are in this group and used Hanson’s, there’s a decent chance you hated me for a little bit. Who knows, you still might. I know the program is a tough program, especially if it’s your first exposure to this type of structured training. Knowing that, I feel how you move forward from here is really important.
- Make sure you are recovered! Take the two weeks off. Take your time coming back. Here’s a super simple 4 Week Plan to help you return to running after your two weeks off. That now puts you 6 weeks post race and ready to go in whatever direction you think is best.
- Here’s what I would not do: Run another marathon right away. This is especially true if the training was particularly tough on you. Now that you’ve run the marathon, let’s focus on getting our threshold mileage (or general mileage we feel comfortable up), implementing things like general strength and core, running faster shorter races, and then return to the marathon. This will give us about 6 months of increasing our training abilities before coming back to the marathon (and crushing it)!
- Option one is to build our base mileage. Take all the pressure off of racing again for a while. Do a 6-8 week base building program to help you tolerate your running fitness. Then follow a plan for another race. Here’s a list of all our Base Building Plans
- If you’ve been bit by the racing bug, or want to return back to where you usually train and race, then by all means, follow a 5k-10k plan, or even a half marathon plan. Either way, you can get faster at shorter distances, which will ultimately help you run a faster marathon when you do return. By that time, the marathon training will be much more tolerable.
This one has come up a lot on our Facebook group and in the ORC. When someone crushes a PR, the desire is often to keep the train rolling and just keep. Chasing big times. This is where I think you really take a step back and assess where you are at and where you ultimately want to be. Here’s a perfect example: An athlete of mine had a huge breakthrough this fall in Milwaukee and ran 2:40. His ultimate goal is to run 2:30 and the first thought that came to mind was that we should just go after a 2:30 something this spring. The problem with that? When we looked at his splits, we realized he PR’d in the half, twice! Guess what we are going to do now? Right, we are going to get his half marathon time down first. Then we will come back and get after a 2:35 marathon.
- The marathon makes you very strong. Your aerobic abilities will be through the roof and you’ll be strong. That’s not going away, even after your recovery time. It makes for a perfect time to bounce back with either
- A dedicated 8-10 week speed session that will help improve your overall speed.
- Or a dedicated 10-12 week half marathon training segment.
- Either way, you’ll improve your fitness from another angle. This will ultimately take your overall fitness to a new level and this will only help you in whatever direction you go next.
- After your segment, you’ll have a choice to make. Doing another marathon segment is alright. As we talked about before, doing an 18 week segment may not be necessary. The beauty of training at a moderate mileage all the time is that you drastically cut the time you need to get ready for any race. Here’s a list of all our different marathon programs
While having a breakthrough is always better, we all suffer defeat in some fashion with the marathon. Some people will become defeated and need some time to regroup. That’s completely understandable and just fine. For these folks, just remember, that fitness you gained doesn’t just magically disappear. You can come back stronger than ever. You just have to focus on what went wrong and make adjustments. On the other hand, others will want to take revenge right away. That is tempting, and I admire wanting to keep fighting, but we have to be careful. I have had athletes attempt this and be quite successful. I have others who have suffered even greater defeats. If you attempt to bounce back right away you have to be willing to accept whatever the outcome- the good, the bad, and the ugly. The one prerequisite I would give you that is you had to have handled the training well and just fell apart or the weather didn’t allow, or whatever. If you struggled with the training and got injured or were just so completely fatigued that you fell apart, then we have to figure that out first. It will do no good to put yourself in the exact same position without figuring out what went wrong first.
How long before you race again depends on a few things.
- If you ran the whole race, you’re in the toughest spot. Despite not having the performance you wanted, you still ran 26.2 miles. You still did a fair amount of damage to your legs and need to recover from that. If you are in this boat, you’ll need to still take some down time. I would say cross train to keep your aerobic fitness high, but still allow your legs to recover. From there you will need to spend about 6 weeks of building your fitness. Your mileage may not need to be as high and you can probably get by with simply doing marathon specific work- emphasis on tempo runs and long runs. Taper for 10 days and race again. I say about 8 weeks after your first race would be a good time frame.
- Did not finish. If something happened and you just couldn’t finish, then you can follow the above, but probably scale back the recovery time to 5-7 days and then be ready to race in 4-6 weeks post first attempt.
- Did not start. This is a tough situation to be in. All that time and effort only to not even get a chance. This happened to someone in our Facebook group a few weeks ago. Their training had gone great and then, boom! They got sick two days before their race. What I recommend in this case is to try and find another race within a couple weeks. You are already super fit and all we really need to do is get your legs back underneath you. You don’t have to build your mileage. You can do a short tempo run, maybe a medium long run and then just make sure you are fresh. My optimal window here is 2-3 weeks. If you can do this, I believe you can still run a great race! If you have to extend that window much more than that, I fear you’ll end up stagnant and in no man’s land with training. The longer you have to wait, the less chance you have of running well.
There are certainly other scenarios that we could cover, like approaching a marathon after a speed segment. We have talked about these a little bit, and the biggest problem people might have is how long they should mark of for their following marathon segments. That can be highly individual and probably should be saved for another day. This is a great start!