In last week’s Feature Article How Many Weeks Before Your Marathon Should You Run Your Last Long Run?, we concluded that it is best to conduct your last long run four weeks prior to your marathon.
Without a long run during the last four weeks, won’t you lose fitness, compromising your ability to run the marathon at your true potential?
Don’t worry! These four weeks provide the opportunity to continue high quality training. As you recover from your last long run, incorporate a variety of speed workouts (assuming they were part of your training program) that will result in improving other factors that will affect marathon performance, e.g. running economy, speed and VO2max (maximum capacity of an individual's body to transport and use oxygen during exercise).
Include a weekly intensity run of 40-60 minutes to improve your lactate threshold, the running speed at which lactate begins to accumulate in your bloodstream, a marker of muscle fatigue (that burning sensation in the legs we all know too well).
The same Dutch study quoted in the earlier article found that runs up to 15 kilometers (about 9.4 miles) produced little or no muscle damage. Runs exceeding this distance produced the greatest damage to muscle fibres. Therefore, no run during the last four weeks should exceed this distance.
Three weeks prior to the marathon, conduct a short easy run not exceeding 9.4 miles/15K. Two weeks before the marathon, run 15K (9.4 miles) at race pace.
During the last two weeks leading up to the race, there is very little that you can do to improve your preparedness for the race. However, there is much that runners can do to screw things up.
If you missed workouts during your training, resist the temptation to catch up by inserting extra distance or speed workouts (other than what your program calls for during your taper). This is a mistake that dramatically increases the chance of overtraining, fatigue and (worse) injury.
Following a training program that employs these strategies will help you arrive at the starting line in peak condition, fully recovered and with an excellent chance of running your personal best marathon.
Bennett Cohen (the Savvy Runner) and Gail Gould are the Founders and Presidents of the International Association of Women Runners (IAWR). To learn more about this global community of women who share a passion for running, visit www.iawr-connect.com.