Training for more (or less) than the “main event”

A friend of mine is training for the New York Marathon, and while I’m not planning on running it, I am training with him. This in general has involved increasing the distance we’re running by about 2 miles every other week, and last week we finally hit 12 miles, nearly half a marathon.

Two things strike me about most training plans for marathons:

  • Your training doesn’t usually include distances more than the main event. This is unusual – usually it makes sense to train at levels worse than the main event. if I was training for a 5k, I would definitely run more than 5k, along with time trials over the actual distance. Marathon training plans generally max-out at training runs of about 22 miles however. I guess marathons take so much time and are so hard, you actually want them to be single events, otherwise you’d wear yourself out.
  • I can see the “train for less than the event” effect in my running times. I’ve been running about 10 miles every weekend for the past month. Each time I’ve finished, I’ve felt pretty tired, but good. This Sunday when I ran 12 miles, I could see that I wasn’t used to running more than 10: after 10 miles, my speed dropped off significantly, even though I was on a slight downhill. Likewise, my wife (who usually runs 4 miles) ran 6 miles, and slowed down right at about the 4.5 mile marker.

* Tracked using google MyTracks

This is tough – when training for an extreme event, you might not want to train as much, or even more than the main event because it can be so wearing. But it’s almost guaranteed that when go past your training distance, you’ll find the remainder of your run much more challenging.

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