The Road to Paris - On a Plateau - Asics Target 26.2 Training

The highs, lows (and everything in between) of my 16 week Paris Marathon training plan.

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19/12/2012 at 23:41

NY day off and hangover would be rude not to make the most of it and give this part of my training the full commitment it's the only one allowed in the next 16 weeks! 

Christmas Day on the otherhand.looks like it will be spent plodding the least this will stop me from getting in the way and ruining Christmas dinner. 

Rest day tomorrow. I really struggle with rest days. I know they're needed and an essential part of recovery, but it's hard to break the mentality that it's a day of training missed. 

Time to catch some zzzzzzzzzzzz...........I look forward to more debating tomorrow.....amd I'll definitely be catching up tomorrow evening.......that's a bonified promise! 

20/12/2012 at 07:30
I've always enjoyed my Christmas Day runs, the streets are always so quiet and the people who are out are always really smiley and cheerful. The weathers always been nice aswell (for the last few christmas's since I started running), you will enjoy it!

I can't believe how much you guys have to write on here...I really do think I would have struggled to keep up on some days!

Think its going to be a rest day for me too (and last day at work for 10 days-can't wait) - long run tomorrow though! Hope you have an enjoyable rest day.
20/12/2012 at 09:09

Malcs - Definitely would say that a 1.34 half shows that a 3.30 is achievable. I'm just surprised that you haven't run closer to it before. It's tricky to give individual advice given that I don't know your training history, how much you were doing, what sort of sessions but would agree that increasing frequency/distance would be the way to go (assuming you weren't doing much mileage before). I'd also mix in some high quality long runs with the long steady runs to improve ability to sustain pace over prolonged period. I coached a guy earlier this year who had run 3.50 as PB but his half was 1.31! He finished Loch Ness in 3.12...

Minni - I do agree that you have to keep pushing the boundaries to achieve your potential and that will SOMETIMES mean raising mileage. But often breakthroughs can be achieved through quality not quantity. It's difficult to find that 'sweet spot' of mileage where you are getting the most out yourself, but not overdoing it. And unfortunately finding out where it is often involves going beyond it and having to deal with the consequences ... injury, burnout, exhaustion etc.

20/12/2012 at 09:13

Oh yes, and Dave - the revised plan has an additional 20-mile run you'll be relieved to hear.  And the mileage is a bit higher. But that'll all be relieved as we go along. Please disregard what was iniitally posted.

Ady, I believe your plan says Rest OR non impact cross training so feel free to hit the pool, bike, Pilates class. 

20/12/2012 at 09:25

Very interesting debate on here about mileage. I think we all have to find out for ourselves what works, and some people will thrive on lots of miles whereas for others they will just burn out. I maxed at around 55 when I did sub 3.30 first time around (malcs, off a 1.34 half BTW ), but a lot of those miles were very easy. Personally I think it's more about how you structure the quality sessions (intervals, tempos, threashold etc) and the recovery from those, rather than the total number of miles.

I prefer more long runs too - 5 or 6 over 20 miles really...I think it's good for the mind as much as anything - when you know you can run for over 3 hours and it still feels OK at the end, the actual marathon won't be a problem. I just think the first time you do 20 in your training schedule it is very unlikely to feel nice after about 16 or 17 miles, whereas the 5th or 6th time you do it is no problem. 

Sam - the half to full conversion is a funny thing...on the sub 3.30 thread we have had a lot of banter about the difference between men and most of the men on the thread have faster HMs than the women (several sub 1.30), but a lot of them have much poorer full marathon times. So the men seem to have more speed than endurance, whereas the women may be slower over shoter distances but have much better conversion (of course).  What's your experience of that overall?

20/12/2012 at 09:31

Thanks Sam. I was running 3-4 days a week last year. One speed session of 3-5 and one easy of a similar distance with  long runs building to 20miles and alternating weekends of 20mile/13mile LSRs x 3 before taper. I think there was way too little outside the long run. Picked up quite a few niggles as a result.

I also seem to have trouble when it gets hot. Every race I have struggled with either cramps or nausea. All the signs of dehydration I know but I chug down plenty of water and take gels and salt tabs. I should mention that when it's cold I've run 20 milers with little water and no salt tabs. 

Wow, that's quite a result for your 3:50 guy - is this a sales pitch?

20/12/2012 at 09:41

Freemers - that's a very interesting comparison. My wife says that she can do 3 or 4 runs at exactly the same time whereas I can only manage one  

Seriously though - I tend to agree about more longer runs making you feel progressivelty more comfortable. I definitely found that. However, I think I've done them off a weak base and so I've ended up with overuse issues.

20/12/2012 at 09:44

Ha ha, no sales pitching at the moment - got my hands quite full ! It just shows that the right sort of training was all that was needed for him to get the result he was capable of.

I do often find that men struggle with keeping their long runs/easy runs at the right pace. Women tend to be better at this. Perhspa this has an effect on their half maras being good but it not translating so well to full maras?

20/12/2012 at 10:43

Here here agree with that point..........interval session for me the rain lovely....

20/12/2012 at 10:58

So far, I feel my runs at a designated speed haven't gone too badly.....maybe this just shows I have more of a feminine side than I previously thought. It will be interesting to see if I can maintain a set pace for my longer runs.

Personally (which means it could be wrong!), I think whether you do one 20 miler or more before the marathon, it's how strong you are mentally that will be a huge factor in how you cope doing the full marathon distance.

As I know I've done it before, and done it comfortably, then it has put me in a much more positive mindset. This year from August to November, I used 3 marathons and an ultra as slower paced training runs to prepare myself mentally to do the distance this Spring before starting proper, varied marathon training. Doing these fairly comfortably, and especially doing the ultra, means the marathon distance isn't something that daunts me now, or niggles away at my mind.

It was also good practice to test out different gels and energy replenishment tactics. I tink the most important thing I learnt here, was that just because they have it free at the aid stations, it doesn't mean you should try and eat the full variety on offer!

Sam: You are quite correct, I had mixed up my proper 'rest' day with a rest day where I can cross train.........I'll get on the bike now tonight!

20/12/2012 at 11:28

Good stuff Ady, don't get blown away!

seren nos    pirate
20/12/2012 at 11:38

i read a few days ago an article of half times compared to full times.can't remember where........but the woman did so much better on the marathon times in average than men did off the same half times...and this followed through for a wide range of times........

I really d#struggled for years to get a full time to reflect my half was only after doing ultras that my marathon time and all my other times came down..............just proves how different we all are

My hubby prefers to just run slow and do about 10 runs of 18-22 miles in training......that would be way too many for me......but has a good marathon time

20/12/2012 at 12:12

Off the top of my head there are 5 main ways you can improve from marathon to marathon:

1)      Adjust quality (volume / type / frequency)

2)      Increase easy volume (or you can combine 1 and 2 or course)

3)      Decrease volume in the hope this addresses previous issues around recovery and / or because the change in quality and  / or injury history forces your hand to keep the runner healthy.

4)      Do the same everything and trust that gradual improvement continues before old age and the spouse’s nagging kicks in.

5)      Keep everything the same but improve all the non-running stuff (sleep / diet / weight / fuelling / lifestyle changes / alcohol / pace smarter).

Shady_Ady has run 15 marathons in the past suggesting a significant running history and still doesn’t have a particularly good conversion from his shorter times.  His shorter times suggest 3:30 won’t happen (given his conversion) unless he gets quicker which is why Sam very sensibly starts off with a 3:36 ballpark looking to adjust if he gets the shorter distance results in which case 3:30 becomes a possibility. 

So the obvious questions are:

-          What does Sam see as Shady’s major weakness/ areas that needs to be addressed in this schedule to improve on his previous times.

-          Which of 1 thru 4 above is the ‘strategy’ for improvement?  (We’ll take 5 as given!).

-          How does this training plan address that area of improvement compared to his previous marathon attempts?

-          What did Shady’s PB campaign look like in terms of 20 milers and overall mileage?  If Shady was stuck on 3:50 on one or two 20 milers and introduced 5 when he PB’d it would be madness to go back to one or two – but if the opposite happened it would make a lot more sense!

In my opinion the above information would provide much needed context behind the overall direction of the plan which would help frame the discussions.

With regards to the number of 20 milers.....I declare my hand in the ‘more is better camp’.  Having just 1 or 2 20+ milers seems like ticking a box more than anything (“erm we’re missing a fartlek, kenyan hills, a set of 400s and a long run, where shall we put them?”).  If one believes in their value why would one only do one?  Is it because after one run the benefits are now in the area of diminishing returns?  How will you measure diminishing returns if you only do 1 or 2?  How will you measure whether the desired fitness / psychological impact of one run has occured without doing another?  If 20 milers aren’t really necessary why do any at all?

Of course, 20 milers can really unbalance a week.  We talk about injury prevention but a good way of introducing risk is doing more than 50% of your weekly volume in just one run – it creates an unbalanced schedule.  So, perhaps that’s the answer..... believe in decent mileage and 20 milers or you believe in neither!

Edited: 20/12/2012 at 12:13
20/12/2012 at 13:08
SamMurphyRuns wrote (see)

I would call 50-60 pretty high Minni. All my most recent marathons have been sub 3.30 (last 3 sub 3.23) and I have never run that sort of distance. Some people are fine on it, of course, but the majority, in my experience, get injured. In my view the best mileage is the least you can get away with whilst still making gains. The gains you get beyond around 40 miles a week are much smaller than those you get when going from, say, 30 to 40 mpw. 


Hi Sam,

I'm intrigued by your comment that I've highlighted above.

My questions are:

a) If you've never run 50-60 miles per week are you really in a position to judge one way or the other whether it is excessive for the task at hand?

b) When you say that in your experience the majority get injured. what do you mean? The majority of runners with weekly mileages over 50 miles get injured? When and how often? More so than those doing less mileage?

Lets be honest about it, 50-60 miles per week really isnt that much at all for marathon training - so to be labelling it as excessive as a sweeping statement deserves a bit more analysis.

In my book, it is the cumulative easy miles which create the injury proofing not the injuries - connective tissues grow in strength and robustness through plenty easy mileage.

'As little mileage as you can get away with' sounds a bit baffling - people here are taking on life long challenges and hoping to do the best they can. Surely that means giving it your best shot to feel proud in your achievement, not looking for the minimal effort approach?

Best of luck, Ady, - I'm pretty sure you have a sub 3:30 in you and will be very interested to see how the low mileage approach pans out.


20/12/2012 at 13:17

Malcs - I think the fitter you are the better you cope with the heat.  Do you think the cramps could have been cause with trying to run a bit too fast in the conditions?  I've suffered from cramp in the past, although never in a marathon, and I'm sure it was due to trying to sustain a pace that was too fast for me on the day/at that time.  10ks used to be the worst!

20/12/2012 at 13:36

Never had cramps in any race but have only done two marathons both were in hot conditions and the latter half of the race I am sure the heat blew me out or maybe a lack of long runs was the issue. I have tended to only do about three runs around and over 20miles per training schedule. Think that strength training is the way forward with more gym work, core stuff to improve along with another one or two long runs in the mix. Interesting comments on here and hence why we all enjoy running I guess, its a complex science with no black and white answers and I am sure that Sam and Steve S dont have or would claim to have, all the definitive answers to our questions. Steve S certainly has the experience and results to speak with freedom from his experience and opinion and Sam too of course. Just back from a lovely interval session in driving rain and wind, cant beat it winter running.


20/12/2012 at 13:43

I've known dozens of runners of all abilities over the last twelve years and am struggling to think of one who got slower over the marathon by adding in more miles (caveat - if added sensibly).  In other words, on soft surfaces where possible, at an easy pace as parkrunfan says and wearing lightweight shoes (I note from Sam Murphy's website that he offers coaching in barefoot / running techniques).

On the other hand I have known plenty who have tried to get away with the least amount of training possible and come a bad cropper.

Having said that, it's not all about 20 milers.  I ran my best marathon off a longest run of 18.6 miles.  However, most weeks in the build-up contained two runs of 15-18 miles with a strong aerobic 10 in the middle and a long slow 2-2 1/2 hours on a Sunday.  However that was to address my area of specific weakness of aerobic endurance, rather than endurance per se having done many LSRs (my conversion from HM to marathon was 74.xx to 2:49 at the time).  As Moraghan has analysed, Ady's weakness is in his conversion from shorter distances to marathon distances.

I too am intrigued by the approach being taken here when many experienced runners seem to be advocating a higher mileage approach.  It will be very interesting to see how it unfolds.

20/12/2012 at 13:56

Sam is a she by the way Barnsley Runner.

20/12/2012 at 13:58

Minni - I don't think I did go too fast for the conditions. It wasn't that hot, just hot compared to what I'd been training in. I guess that's a problem with winter training, everything is done in the cold but your race is invariably much warmer.

Also, on my last two I'd dropped my start pace because of worries over niggles carried into the race. In VLM this year I was running slower than in some of my training runs.

Could well be a conditioning thing. The idea of getting a good base sounds sensible to me. I've never done that before. I'm one of those over 50% of mileage for the long run types with my smaller runs being easy or fast - not much in between.

Great to see such interesting discussion. Sorry to swamp your thread Ady, though I know you enjoy talking about this stuff.

Edited: 20/12/2012 at 13:58
20/12/2012 at 14:04

malcs - you'd learn a lot from the guys (and more from the girls ) on the sub 3:30 thread.   Shady has popped in there too so I'm sure he wouldn't mind.   By the way I ran 3:28 off a 1:36 half last year, with about 4 20s.  This year I ran a 3:20 off 1:32 with 7 20s.




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