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 Marathon Training discusion
Runworks 2005 5M Racer
Joined: 09 Dec 2004
Posts: 222

Marathon Training discusion Posted: Tue Mar 01, 2005 1:29 pm 

I know there seems to be as many training philosophies out there is runners. But I was wondering what others have found to be what they prefer. For long runs, I know some training programs never have you exceed 20 miles, like Higdon. Others even say 16 like Brooks/Hanson's. Many have you get up into the 21,22 even 24 range. I think you have to look at the whole week and of course the whole program. For example Higdon cancels out topping off at a few 20's by adding the medium long run on the day before the long run, where ones that get up to 24 have an easy day the day before the long run and have the medium long run earlier in the week. I remember reading about the B/H approach pointing out that most traditional long runs are run fresh, but where their 16 mile long run simulates more closely running the last 16 miles of the marathon then it does the first sixteen so you're just as, if not more, prepared for the distance on race day.

Any thoughts? I know my examples just touch on one aspect of the training, but it's a broader question about training philosophy preference that Im throwing out there...

Runworks 2005 5M Racer
Kansas, OK
Joined: 14 Dec 2004
Posts: 100

Re: Marathon Training discusion Posted: Wed Mar 02, 2005 9:10 am 

I won't run my first marathon until OKC on April 24th, so keep that in mind when you evaluate anything I have to say about marathons! Anyway, I read an article recently where a fellow made a pretty strong case why 16 miles was best and prepares you for running the 26.2 without overtraining you. However, the conclusion of his article was the opposite of what he had been arguing, namely, that you should run 20 as your longest. He said that while 16 will prepare you physically to compete, you cannot underestimate the mental toughness it will take to do the 26.2 and doing a 20 will help you mentally prepare for the marathon. It sounded right to me anyway. Conveniently enough, my longest run is already scheduled to be 20 so I don't have to change anything. I have to do 18 this saturday anyway, so I don't think that 20 will kill me. Plus where I train is pretty hilly and OKC is pretty flat.

Runworks 2005 5M Racer
Rochester, NY
Joined: 28 Nov 2004
Posts: 262

Re: Marathon Training discusion Posted: Wed Mar 02, 2005 9:20 am 

I've never run further than 21 in the past during training, but the logic you describe for the B/H approach of running 16 after a hard workout the day before seems hard to argue with. What, specifically, does the B/H approach recommend, ie. how much running would you have done on the day before your 16-miler? As Pretender said, though, there's a great amount of psychological training that goes on during those 20+ mile runs that I'm not sure you'd get out of a 16 mile run, no matter how tired you were beforehand.

I think I'll probably try to include a 23 mile run in this training cycle (just because I never have before, and maybe it will help), and will definitely focus on increasing pace in the latter miles of my long runs. I can do it just fine when I'm having a good day, but where I need work is maintaining a strong pace when I'm having a bad day. I'm a pretty weak runner psychologically, and have a hard time making myself push hard in those late marathon miles when your whole body hurts so much and you're trying to remember why you even care what your time is.

Runworks 2005 5M Racer
San Francisco, CA
Joined: 26 Nov 2004
Posts: 1157

Re: Marathon Training discusion Posted: Wed Mar 02, 2005 1:33 pm 

This is an interesting question. I don't think anybody has the single best marathon training plan, and it's an area where people are still doing research and testing different approaches. Smart people like Jack Daniels are actually using their sports science training to come up with ever better training approaches. I think it's exciting that this is still an "open" field of study.

As far as the max distance of the long run, something like 20-22 does seem to be the most common. The reasoning is usually that anything less doesn't prepare you adequately enough, but anything more is too taxing for the body.

I would believe that a 16 mile run under the right conditions can provide a similar or better physical stimulus for improvement than a 20 mile run. In fact, Daniels plans call for a lot of 16 milers with tempo intervals during the long run. So it makes sense to me to replace some of your 20+ milers with this type of run, especially for more experienced runners. However, as others have said, there's a very important psychological benefit from running 20+ miles in training that shouldn't be overlooked. Because endurance running is as much mental as physical, I would definitely still include at least some 20+ mile runs in any marathon schedule.

On the other extreme are those who advocate doing training runs of 26 miles or more. After all, runners at all other race distances do training runs longer than their goal race, so why do marathoners typically run no more than 20-22 miles in training? I'm not sure if the "it's too tiring" argument really holds up. After all, ultra-runners who do 100 mile races will do training runs of 30 miles or more, so it's not as if the body can't do it. I think it's more that it's simply too inconvenient for most people to do a 26+ mile training run. It takes a large fraction of a day, and is exhausting for anyone who's training isn't so stellar. But the more I think about it, if you're an accomplished high mileage runner and you have the time for it, I think doing 26+ mile training runs at an easy pace makes perfect sense. It's the closest you'll get to the "real thing" during training, and that has to count for a lot.

Runworks 2005 5M Racer
Joined: 09 Dec 2004
Posts: 222

Re: Marathon Training discusion Posted: Wed Mar 02, 2005 2:01 pm 

I agree, I love how marathon training continues to evolve. I'm doing my best to get my arms around all the theories out there. Personally, right now, I'm following Higdon's advanced program (substituting tempo runs for hill workouts here in flat chicago). I chose it, becasue on paper it looked to me like the natural progression on my way to a Pfitzger or a Daniels. In this plan he tops out at three twenty mile long runs. However, the day before each of these is a 10 mile run. His is designed for a saturday-sunday approach, but I like doing my longruns on saturday so i do a friday-saturday version of this. my weekday runs are in the evening though, so i'm looking at running 30 miles in roughly an 18 hour window. While I'm ambivalent about that many miles in that amount of time, if I can handle it, I'm confident it will prepare me at least as much, if not more, as doing one 24 miler for example. I think the B/H approach is similar, but has a lot more high-intensity workouts in the middle of the week than Higdon. I just finished reading Advanced Marathoning and am getting ready to start Daniel's Running Formula. I also picked up Salazar's book the other day. There seem to be a lot of common elements, but also a lot of variation.


South Orange, New Jersey
Joined: 19 Dec 2004
Posts: 367

Re: Marathon Training discusion Posted: Wed Mar 02, 2005 6:46 pm 

Personally, I think the reason there are so many different marathon training programs is because there are so many different types of people. We come in all sizes and shapes and I think it's reasonable to assume that no two people have the exact same physiology. So what works for one person won't have the exact same results for another; either less than expected results or perhaps better than expected results. So the trick is to figure out how your body responds best to various training methods.

So, rather than read about or listen to each "experts" personal advice on how to train for a marathon. I would much prefer to know how, for example, I should best monitor my training to identify what's the best workouts for my body type without having to spend years trying dozens of different training plans.

Is there anyone out there doing this specific type of research? I'm talking about other than just taking blood samples and determining what effect different workouts have on your performance. This isn't a feasible approach for most of us. I'd like to know how someone who's 6' and 200 lbs and has a BMI of X should train versus someone who is 5'10 and 160 lbs with a BMI of Y. I'm pretty certain if these two people had the exact same VO2Max (same starting fitness level) and followed the exact same training plan for 6 months they would end up with DIFFERENT results.

Runworks 2005 5M Racer
Joined: 09 Dec 2004
Posts: 222

Re: Marathon Training discusion Posted: Thu Mar 03, 2005 8:29 am 

That's a great way of looking at it. Needless to say a Paul Tergat responds differently to things than a John Bingham.

I actually experienced pretty darn close to that exact scenario. A freind of mine from college and I both trained seperately for Chicago last year, both our first marathon. We both followed the exact same beginners training program and we both did our long runs at the same pace. I think I ran my weekday mileage faster, but not exceedingly so. He also trained in a much hillier city. He was/is about 6' and 210-215 pounds. I was/am 5'8" 155-160 pounds. We came into the race, figuring we'd both run about the same time based on the fact that we both trained so similarly. Our prediction was 3:45. I ran a surprising 3:37 and he ran and equally surprising 4:03.

I personally just attributed it to the fact that i had to carry less baggage for that many miles. one thing worth noting is that he had a big head start in training and base fitness early in the year but seemed to plateau into the training. i was much more of a beginner and was losing weight in the first part of the year, but my imrovement curve was much steeper and seemed to keep going through race day.


Joined: 16 Jan 2005
Posts: 27

Re: Marathon Training discusion Posted: Sun Mar 13, 2005 10:49 pm 

I enjoyed the comments about 16 miles being the best preparation for marathons. When I ran marathons at age 46-47, I ran 15 mile long runs year around (Massachusetts) at 7 minute miles. During the summer before my fall marathons I lengthened the long runs out to 20 miles (doing 20 just once). I started each marathon at 8:30 pace and finished with an average of about 9:00. Even though I could maintain my 7minute pace up to about 18 miles during my weekly long runs, I ran out of steam at 20+ in the marathon and walked jogged the last few miles. I think I needed more runs at 20+ miles to push the wall out past 26.2 miles, so to speak.

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