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, 8:30My 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!