Q+A: Marathon training is slowing my other times..

Our experts answer real-life questions

Posted: 9 September 2002
by Bud Baldaro

Q In the last 18 months, I’ve run three marathons. As a result, though, my times have gone backwards for 10K and half-marathon. I thought that all the training I’ve been doing would make me faster – what am I doing wrong?

A Firstly, you need to ask yourself whether you’ve fully recovered from all the marathon running you’ve been doing in the last year and a half. The marathon asks a lot of even elite runners, which is why they limit themselves to only a few each year.

You need at least four to six weeks to recover fully from a marathon. And in that time, don’t feel that you have to continue training at the same level. I don’t think that there would be any harm in cutting back on running during this period and trying some alternative training – get on your bike, go swimming or head to the gym. Use different muscles from the ones you’ve been training for the marathon – that’ll give the others time to recover.

Once your marathon is out of the way and you’re fully recovered, why not set a completely different goal at the opposite end of the spectrum – a 5K perhaps. The stamina is there, so you just need to work on the speed.

If you’re not training for a marathon, you don’t need any more three-hour Sunday runs – especially if you want to improve your times at shorter distances. Your long runs don’t need to be longer than 10-12 miles. Shorter runs should become more prominent in your weekly schedule, especially tempo runs at around 80-85 per cent of your maximum heart rate over two or three miles. Try and fit one of these in at least every 10 days.

I’d also recommend training on the track. Try hard intervals over as little as 200-400m, up to 1K. Shorter repetitions will help improve your pure speed and help you kick at the end of races. Longer repetitions will increase your speed endurance – allowing you run harder for longer. And just as the endurance training you’ve gained from marathons will help you over the shorter distances, so this faster training will help when you return to marathon running.

Bud Baldaro, coach and RW Contributing Editor

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marathon misc, specificity, training general

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Observation: since I have introduced long runs in my weekly training (been doing them since beginning of year, and in preparation for the marathon), I have noticed that the other weekly sessions (reps, tempo runs, ...) have all been suffering in terms of time (i.e. got slower over smaller distances).

I am fairly happy with the long runs themselves, but I am slightly concerned with the rest of the sessions. Am I right to be? Anybody else experiencing the same thing?

Posted: 08/02/2003 at 12:02

happens every year with me until your body starts to adapt to the extra distance
do not forget you are running on tired legs
if you need to take a day off it is suprising what effect this can have
i always run to how my body feels
what distance are you doing on long runs
my present schedule is
18 mile Sunday 8- 8.30 mile pace
6-7 mile recovery Monday
10-11 mile Tuesday 7.30 mile pace
7mile Wednesday easy
8mile Thursday intervals
10-11 mile Friday 7.45-8min
my training partner has one of those satalite training watchs
hope this helps

Posted: 08/02/2003 at 16:36

If it's only your recovery runs that are suffering I wouldn't worry about it too much but try to make sure your quality sessions don't suffer too much. Now that my long run is up to 20 miles (8M warm up at 8'miles, 10 miles at 6'15"/6'30" pace, 2M warm down) I tend to have a day off on Monday or a very easy 40k bike ride as I'm normally pretty tired. I run intervals on Tuesdays and tempo on Thursdays with total mileage about 55 - 60 running and 150 miles biking (mainly very easy, recovery rides) per week. Now that I'm getting older I find I don't recover as quickly as I used to and if I'm feeling really tired I feel it is better to do nothing than to do rubbish miles just for the sake of it. I also have a very easy week one week in four when I halve my mileage and only do easy aerobic work. Sometimes less is more. Try taking a break for 4 or 5 days and see how you feel afterwards.
Posted: 08/02/2003 at 18:32

Woaw, a lot of stuff to chew on there. Thank you all.

Long runs: they are up to 20-odd miles now. I never know the distances. I tend to judge them by how long it takes me to do them. I am always baffled at people saying things like 'I've done 10 miles today in 1h10m37s' !!

Rest days: I have 2 rest days a week. One usually the day after the long run. I agree with the comment about 'junk mileage'. I tend not to do that.

Well, since I posted the first message, I've thought of something else. By the end of my long runs, I am usually well spent. This would mean I would have thought that I was running at marathon pace at least. Again, this is something I am quite ignorant about - this pacing business. Like someone said, I tend to go with how I feel.

Supposing I am right, is it a good or bad idea to do my long runs at marathon (or even faster since distance slightly shorter) pace?

Posted: 08/02/2003 at 22:11

You should do at least a substantial chunk of your long run at your predicted marathon pace to get used to running at that speed. Do, say, 10 miles at an easy pace as warm-up, then run 8 miles at marathon pace followed by a 2 mile warm down. I normally build my marathon pace chunk up to 12 miles within a total run distance of 22 miles. If you are running other quality sessions during the week such as intervals and tempo any more than 12 miles can be very tiring. That's only my view, though, anyone else got any thoughts?
Posted: 09/02/2003 at 09:45

Thanks for your input GT. Just got back from my long run (20-odd miles), the same distance I've been doing for the last 4 weeks. I (consciously) tried to do it in a slightly slower time (I am terrible at judging my pace), and I managed to do it 3mins slower. Not sure whether this is enough to make any difference to the rest of the weekly sessions. We'll just have to wait and see.

Posted: 09/02/2003 at 11:51

Would Ginger Tom consider doing his marathon pace run at a half marathon, say?

I'd like to do 2-45 at London after doing a 2-54 and 2-51 last year. My current 1/2 marathon pace is 76-25. I would find it hard to do what you suggest as once I get into a pace on a run I can't seem to speed up or slow down. It's a case of `7 min miling today and that's it'.

The problem I have coming up are 5 races on consecutive Sundays - 5,9,20,13,13 milers. Would it be a good idea to do a 6 mile warm up before the 2nd half marathon and then run it at marathon pace? (BTW I have to do all of them for club championship purposes).
Posted: 09/02/2003 at 22:41

Hi to all,I have read the above with great interest and it has left me wandering wether what I'm doing is good or not good enough.I myself didn't get a place for the FLM but my running partner did (this will be her 5th).I have agreed to do all of her training with her.
It goes something like this(well this was last weeks milage anyway)
sun:18 miles
tue:easy 4 miles
wed:as above
thur:hard 6 miles
fri:hard 4 then staight to gym for 1hr session
sat:steady 12
sun:easy 8
I tend to do alot of the 4 milers due to the fact that most of my running is done at 7a.m.I sometimes swap a 4 miler for a hill session.We are doing Fleet 1/2 in March and I would be v.grateful for any training advice bearing in mind I have to fit in 2 kids and a v.understanding husband.If I want I can run a 8.5 min mile,I have only been running for a year so I am still a novice.Cheers.

Posted: 10/02/2003 at 16:37

Most training schedules suggest your weekly long run is at least a minute per mile slower than race pace. This is to get used to time on your feet and train your body in the efficient use of fuel. I would then suggest a tempo run mid-week, at marathon pace and gradually build that up to somewhere near 18 miles...
Posted: 10/02/2003 at 16:50

Debbie, 2 points I'd like to make:

1. I notice you have almost the hard sessions back to back (and the same with the easy/rest days). Perhaps better to alternate.

2. I am sure you are aware that you'll need to go longer than 18 miles. Remember the harder you work now the easier the event itself will be for you (well, for your friend!).

Now that I've started ... Here's another point: I notice there is no speed session in your schedule. I don't it's a must (I didn't do any speed sessions last year in preparation for the marathon), but I think it'd be a good idea to do those hill sessions you mentioned on a weekly basis (I did a lot of those last year).

Good luck to you (and friend) and enjoy Fleet. I did it last year so much that I'm doing it again this year!

Posted: 10/02/2003 at 20:40

Went out this morning for my usual Tuesday tempo run. Not sure whether there was any difference from weeks (given that I run my long slightly slower). Anyway, I'm gonna try to forget all this mumbo-jumbo (the more I try to understand running the more confused I get).

'Run as you feel' will be the order of the day from now on (he says with such forceful conviction!).

Happy running.

Posted: 11/02/2003 at 11:02

Meant 'difference from previous weeks', obviously!

Posted: 11/02/2003 at 11:03

I have read this thread and found it interesting if not a bit complicated.
I am training for my fisrt marathon. My training so far goes something like this -
Weekend run 14 miles (1hr 47 mins)
Runs in week - Hill running 5 miles (once / twice per week)
- 5 mile run at pace (40 mins, once per week)
- 8 mile steady (once a week)

Is this OK ? all this talk of tempo running and 8 min mile pace is alien - can anyone provide some advise please and look at what I'm doing.....please.....

Posted: 11/02/2003 at 13:05

Lee, it's all relative. Depends what you are trying to achieve.

Re - pace: you yourself said '5 mile run at at pace'. That's what I would call a tempo run (maybe I am wrong too!?).

Re - whether you are doing enough: again, difficult to judge from here without knowing what you are aiming for. However, just as I said in response to Debbie' query, I believe your long run will need to get longer in order not to suffer too much (we'll all suffer to a degree!) at the marathong.

Keep going and happy running.

Posted: 11/02/2003 at 13:18

Former Lurker M,

Thankyou for the advice,I should have said that I have participated in 'speed' training but they are few and far between.Speed isn't really that important to me ,it's just great to say that I can run.Anyway as I have never ran a marathon before and my running mate has now completed the FLM 4 times,this being her 5th, and she has done New York she believes that we do not (or she does not) need to run any further than 18 miles.Do you really think that 18 is not far enough? I have said that I am new to this so any advice is well recieved and discussed with my running buddy.
We do not belong to a club and with kids ect.ect really long long runs are hard to squeeze in.We did 18 in 2hrs 26mins so I am chuffed,could not walk on Monday but then I go out on the bike.
Hey Ho must go,bye
Posted: 11/02/2003 at 16:20

Thanks JJ.

Debbie: I didn't realise your 'running buddy' was a 'veteran' at this marathon running lark. If she says 18 is enough, then who am I to argue (I've only done one ) !?!?!

Keep going and, as JJ says, try to enjoy your running as much as you can.


Posted: 11/02/2003 at 16:42

18 miles is about when your body stops using its' carbohydrate stores and starts using its' fat stores - which it finds much harder to do hence `hitting the wall'. This can be offset by drinking carbohydrate drinks. Perhaps it would be good to see if you can do this on a longer (20+) run.

I'd hate to go into a marathon not knowing whether I could run 20+ miles. My advice is to find a 20 mile race and run in that to see how you get on. The effort of running those 20 is about the same as running the final 6 in a marathon.

For each marathon I try to get in 3x20 mile runs, 2x22 miles and one 24 mile. I reckon if can do 24 I can run the final 2 on willpower.
Posted: 11/02/2003 at 22:31

Yes, BR, that's what I thought when I first replied to Debbie's query. Her running friend though has done the marathon 4 times. So, I am sure, she worked out by this stage what works for her.

Like you BR, I will be trying to do as many long runs as possible. I think I have already done as many as I did for last year's marathon. True, I have a slightly higher target for this year's, but I think - more importantly - I am trying to make easy for myself come April 13.

Happy running whatever way you're preparing.


Posted: 12/02/2003 at 13:40

I'd say, Debbie, as most of this lot seem to be saying too, run as your body dictates, but make sure you get the mileage and some speed running in.
I'm running 14m in 2hrs 15 at the moment, but I'm planning to up the distance definitely to 20 at least once before the marathon itself. If I can come in, sub 4hrs GREAT, but otherwise, I just want to get round alive; am training and running on my own, so I'm wary of taking too much of all this chat to heart for fear of being put off!
Roll on the 14th, and that lovely massage I've booked!
Posted: 14/02/2003 at 15:48

Hi All,

Does anyone have useful advice on how to recover from a long run / marathon as quickly as possible ? I'm doing Paris on the 6th April and London the following weekend ! What's the best way to make sure I can walk, let alone run by the time I'm in Greenwich Park ?

Thanks in advance...
Posted: 14/02/2003 at 16:43

Hi Eric

Rather you than me! I met a man at London last year who was flying out to run Boston the following day as soon as he finished London. Please warm down after the race in Paris. A few hours after my long training runs, I usually go on the bike for a few miles just to try and loosen up the tight muscles and it's amazing how much better the legs feel the following morning. Other than that I would try and have a cold bath after Paris and then stay off my feet for the rest of the week. You will find London incredibly hard having already run one marathon that week but the amazing support you will receive will get you round as long as you aren't too ambitious. Hope all goes well!!!!

Posted: 14/02/2003 at 21:31

According to the queen herself (Paula R), the best thing to do is to submerge your aching body in a bath full of ice !

Don't ask me mate, I am just passing on the info!

Best of luck for Paris and London. Rather you than me!

Posted: 14/02/2003 at 22:19

F L M - Are you eating as soon as poss after your long run? This does seem to help recovery time a lot, especially if there is some protein in there (e.g. a nice big roast on Sunday with plenty of spuds and veg).
Posted: 15/02/2003 at 16:48

Yes and no! Yes because I do most of my runs first thing in the morning. So, yes I eat as soon as I am out of the shower. But not obviously the kind of food you mentioned. More breakfast than anything else.

But if the other food works for you (I couldn't) then go for it.

Good luck.

Posted: 15/02/2003 at 21:32

May be not for breakfast! Marmite on toast does it for me in the morning.
Posted: 17/02/2003 at 09:48

Thought I would continue this thread as I am wondering what the effects on the digestive system etc., (anything at all) people have experienced once they have stepped up their distance.  Stomach feels off today.

Yesterday was hot and dry and I did 18k.  The last 3k my legs hurt but upper body was fine.  Have been doing a lot of core strength and whole body exercises (burpees, star jumps, squat thrusts) to get stronger.

Posted: 27/05/2013 at 20:19

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