Sunday, 16 March 2014

What does it take to be a marathoner?

I thought it might be useful to include some practical advice for anyone else who thinks running long distances is a good idea. I will include actual training plans in the future but for now I just wanted to give an outline of what myself, and many other marathon runners do on a weekly basis. Its not just endless, mind-numbing miles of bitumen pounding, there is a method to the madness of a marathon runner. And if you think you can't run, just do this quick inventory to see if are qualified/equipped to run.
1. A left foot
2. A right foot
3. A heart beat
4. Determination/desire
5. A plan

Now I assure you, people have completed marathons with less than these 5 things. You really only need the last 3 things to run. Check out the amazing Chris Moon. A double amputee after an accident defusing landmines in Cambodia, this guy runs some of the most hard-core ultras on the planet and he only has 1 arm and 1 leg. Have a look at his website. He's a motivational speaker now (obviously!)

Here are the bare bones of a marathoner's (i.e. me) week. Keep in mind, it is the basic outline. I will spend more time pulling apart training plans etc. Its a starting point
You need to have 3 different types of runs in your week. I will talk at length about the types later.
1. Long run - Do this once a week. I start my long runs about 16 weeks out from a marathon at about 20kms and build up by 10% a week. Do these runs slow. Experiment with race day outfits, shoes, socks, undies, gels, etc. It is a dress rehearsal. It builds mental toughness, patience and gets you used to being on your legs for a long time. Find ways to enjoy these runs. Loads of people hate the long because it takes so long, but that is what I love about them. Loose yourself, let your mind wander, de-stress, explore trails/roads that you've never been on.
2. Tempo runs - You'll need to do a couple of these runs a week. They are at or near your desired marathon pace/race pace and should vary between 10 kms and 15 kms.
3. Speed work - Once or twice a week is more than enough. Speed work takes numerous forms: fartleks (excuse me!), intervals, kilometre repeats.... so many different types. I used to think speed work was a waste of time but it turns out it very valuable, even to the runners that just want to finish. Speed sessions improve many aspects of your fitness!
Some people like to do a 4th type of run, the recover run. That is, a slow easy short run (5 - 7kms). There is some merit in these types of runs but I am a bigger believer in simply resting... and resting hard! Get loads of rest! Eat well on your days off and put your feet up.

So that is pretty much it, as I said before I will go into more detail about each type of run later. Until then
Happy Running
Runner Dan