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Building Endurance for the Marathon: Train Harder, Race Easier

Unless you come from a rich family or win the lottery, chances are you will not get rich overnight. Rather the method to building wealth, as boring and as simple as it sounds, is to consistently save and invest your money. The same thing goes for marathon training or running in general. You cannot just start running one day and run a marathon the next day. It takes time. A lot of time. Training for a marathon or just getting into good physical shape is just like saving for retirement. When building endurance, you need to be disciplined and start running consistently. It is the deposits you make every single week that will slowly add up to provide you with a nice baseline and fitness level. The good news is that it will not take 30 or 40 years but rather a mere 4 to 6 months’ time to be ready for the marathon. You need to make daily deposits to your fitness level (minimum 3 days a week to start) and get your sweat on! Just like for your financial life, you decide your long-term running goals and literally take it one step at a time. No doubt about it, over time you will see a difference in your bottom line. You must be patient and chip away at it consistently and you will get there! The key is that you need to make the investment in yourself.

Your balanced training strategy, just like your balanced portfolio, will provide you with long-term dividends and gains. Your body will require rest days, good nutrition, and hydration to recover from the demands of hard workouts. It is always best to alternate hard workout days and then a rest day or easy run to give your body proper time to recover so it is charged up and ready to get back to another hard workout day. Training is hard and if a training plan is built correctly, it will be a building block of success. The foundation of your training base is key and once you have a good number of miles under your belt (preferably 500 base miles), you can start to push yourself harder with more complex workouts. The 3 key workouts to do each week include: tempo runs (a hard but controlled run usually quicker than marathon pace but slower than 5K pace), speed workouts and the long run. Layering workout after workout with each time pushing yourself a little bit harder, a little bit faster, adding one more interval, all of that will contribute to your cumulative fatigue. Even though it is hard to battle during training, the more you feel this cumulative fatigue in training, you will find your marathon to be easier and this will help you dig deep in the final miles of the marathon. Believe it or not, marathons almost always feel easier to run than training runs if you are pushing yourself hard enough during training.

Training harder will make racing easier and will yield a stronger marathon performance. You will be in control of your performance with no other external factor controlling you. I cannot begin to count the number of times I have said in training, “Thank goodness this is not a marathon day because I don’t think I could do it!” It is these days when you are tired that make-or-break marathon training. If you want to have an easier race experience or marathon, you simply must be aggressive and train harder to achieve better results. There is no way around this. You need to run at a faster speed than race pace to achieve your goals. For example, if your goal is to run a marathon at 8:45 pace, you simply must train at a pace 1-2 minutes faster than that when you are running your short and long intervals. The recommendation would be for short intervals to be in the 6:45 pace range and longer intervals (600m+) to be in the 7:15 pace range. The quicker tempo runs should aim to be in the 7:45-8:00 range. Running lots of speed workouts will make the marathon pace feel easier. Imagine how “easy” it will feel to run a marathon after putting in this hard work AND tapering?! It will be absolutely amazing. As we know the cornerstone of marathon training is the long run and that, coupled with other hard workouts such as intervals and tempo runs, will set you up for success. The fatigue that you feel after a long run, consecutive intervals and punishing tempo runs will absolutely pay off on race day when you can run almost effortlessly for the first hour or two. For those that want to race the marathon, advice that I have heard and follow for myself is to get in a couple of "slow" 20+ milers if you have the time and can space them a couple of weeks apart. The success of your marathon is always determined by the second half of the race. The marathon race really begins at mile 13.1 because that is when you start battling with your fatigue. The extent of this fatigue is always dependent upon how well you have trained your body leading up to the race. Hopefully, you can battle through it and overcome it by relaxing, taking some deep breaths and getting in the zone for the remainder of the race.

So, when you are training today, tomorrow or the next day, think about the fatigue you feel and simply just welcome it. Train hard and push yourself to your outer limits so you can reach peak performance on race day and in life! Remember though to alternate HARD workout days with EASY workout days so that you properly recover and take rest days if you have a nagging injury or pain. See below for emphasis that 30% of a marathon training cycle's workouts included rest days or recovery runs, so it needs to also be a staple in your training plan! Cherish your rest days and embrace the hard training days!

For a marathon (which yielded a 3:57:21 performance), a total of 558.8 miles were run during the 13 week training cycle. Below is a further breakdown of workout types, frequency, distribution of miles and weekly mileage volume for informational purposes. REACH YOUR PEAK RUNNING continuously analyzes and charts running data to understand how runners achieved a particular race performance and then adjusts training plans for the next cycle if clients want to reach loftier goals. For anyone who wants further insight into the detailed training plan, please contact us via the Contact Form or

Cindy McLaughlin is a RRCA Certified Coach and has been running for 35 years at countless road races and completing 30 marathons (28 states) during the past 6 years. She has extensive database, computer programming and data analytics experience that have allowed her to create a unique aggregate of dashboard running data for clients. REACH YOUR PEAK RUNNING LLC is the conduit to deliver products and services that runners are passionate about. Check out our website, our awesome REACH YOUR PEAK BOXES filled with running goodies or drop us a note anytime. We would be glad to talk with you about any of our services or products!


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