Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Fast Finish Workouts

So you've trained all summer for that fall marathon and now it's right around the corner.  You've followed your canned training plan to a tee, including keeping the mileage low and the speed slow.  In fact, all of your long runs have been about a minute to minute & a half slower than your projected marathon pace.  And now all you have to do is run further than you've ever ran, faster than you've ever ran it ... well good luck with that!  I've just never had much success with that approach.

I know every marathoner is different, and depending on your personal goals, we all somewhat tailor our plans to fit our specific needs.  But I've noticed that there is a growing trend in most of the running publications I read pushing toward running more and more miles at your projected marathon pace during your training cycle.  In fact, Renato Canova - renowned Italian running coach, and current coach of U.S. Olympic marathoner Ryan Hall - uses this as the basis of his training method.  The idea is to get your body used to what your marathon pace feels like, even when you're legs tired and your mind is wandering.

So this summer, I've made a conscious effort to spend more time at or below the pace that I want to settle into on race day.  For example, for every other long run, I'll go out slow like many marathon training plans recommend, but a little over half way through, when my legs are getting a little fatigued, I'll ramp up to my projected marathon pace for the remainder of the run.  I've even been applying this method to my Tempo Runs, by finishing the last mile or two significantly faster than the rest.

For example, here are the splits from my Tempo Run with a fast finish on Monday ...
8:05,   7:30,   6:27,   6:22,   6:28,   6:19,   6:27,   6:21,   6:05,   8:30
My splits weren't quite as even as I would have liked (I kept losing my Garmin signal through the trees), but I was able to "fast finish" mile 9 - the last of the 7 mile Tempo run - at 6:05. It wasn't easy, and I really had to focus, but I felt like it put a great cap on a solid workout.

And here are the splits from a recent long run using the fast finish approach.  Actually, the "fast finish" miles were more in the middle, but the same philosophy applies ...
Miles 1-8 ... 8:18,   7:55,   7:50,   7:38,   7:32,   7:31,   7:23,   7:24
Miles 9-16 ... 7:13,   7:00,   7:00,   6:55,   6:55,   6:59,   6:58,   6:57
Miles 17-20 ... 7:55,   7:57,   8:30,   8:38

The simplistic point of the fast finish and running more miles at or below your marathon pace is to train your legs and mind to keep pace and respond when you're tired.  You obviously can't run 20 miles every day, so the shorter faster runs with a fast finish do their best to simulate race fatigue.  Is it working?  Well, I guess we'll find out at Chicago.  But I can tell you that overall I feel GREAT!  My legs feel a lot fresher with the reduction of miles this summer, and all of the fast finishes have given me confidence when I ramp up to my projected race pace.  Hopefully finishing workouts strong and fast will make for a new PR and awesome race.  Hope your training is going well too!
... be great today!


  1. I believe that the "training plan" is there as a template for us. Just something to work with and manipulate as we need. Looks like what you are doing is working out for you. So stick with it. I think you will do well in Chicago!

  2. I totally agree with this approach. I just could never understand how you can train at a really slow speed and expect to run significantly faster over a further distance. But having said that, I'm training to just finish. I'm not aiming for a time because finishing is enough for me at the moment.

  3. I always thought the long slow runs were just to get you to be able to run for an extend period of time - it conditions your metabolism on an enzymatic level, but on a practical level it never does make sense to me, either.

  4. I get's just SO hard to make the legs go that fast at the end. My legs anyway...

    For me, it works best to throw in a random speedy mile here and there to remind me what good (or less bad)form is supposed to look like ;)

  5. I've only been running a little over a year, but after reading McMillan's new book - You (only faster)- I decided to write my own training plan. One that made sense to ME.
    My new plan ditched the tempo run for a race pace run that gets progressively longer. I just started half marathon training this week, so my first "race pace run" was only 3 miles, but will be increasing to around 7 by my goal race. Meanwhile, I am aiming for a long run that is only around 30 to 45 seconds slower than race pace rather than the recommended minute+ Who knows if this will work, but as a newbie I'm not "fine tuning" anything. I'm just trying to continue growing as a runner - and this is what makes sense to me!


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