Our ASICS Target 26.2 coaches offer their training tips for the month ahead.
Sam Murphy's tips
Run an assessment race
February is a great time for an assessment race. It's been long enough for you to have made a discernible difference to your fitness level, but it's still far away from the big day for you to be able to put your all into a 10K, 10 miler or half marathon and get a realistic gauge of how you have progressed. I recommend tapering for a few days before your assessment race so you go into it fresh. Use online predictor tools to see what your result says about your marathon potential. Do you need to upgrade or downgrade your target finish time?
Up the pace
If you've focused on long slow runs up to now, it's time to try a more challenging session in which you run at your goal race pace for some of the time. Place this bout of race pace near the end of the long run, when you are starting to get tired, and you'll be replicating the challenge of race day - having to maintain race pace on tired legs. As an example, if you were running 15 miles, you could run the first 10 miles 30-60 seconds slower than goal pace and the last 5 miles at race pace.
Take cutback weeks
Take cutback weeks. You can't go on and on putting your mileage up, week on week, without accumulating fatigue and mental burnout. It's better both mentally and physically to cut your mileage back every few weeks. Aim to reduce it by around a third of your current average. This allows any niggles to resolve and recharges your batteries for the next bout of training.
Steve Smythe's tips
Build mileage slowly
It's very important to build up mileage gradually. Even if the schedule suggests 50 miles a week and something has held you back to 35 up to that point, don't jump straight to 50. Consistent mileage is important than one very high week followed by two poor ones because you have niggles and are run down, so err on the side of caution. In these high mileage weeks, make sure you spread the important sessions out - don't try and run very fast the day after a very long run.
Also note that while it is important to up the mileage the totals are not as important as the key individual sessions in that period . Therefore, it may be best to miss the odd recovery run or short run if it means you carry out the key long runs or speed sessions to a higher standard rather than be too tired or run them too slow.
Build in speed work
Hopefully in February, Spring is on its way and the average temperatures are edging upwards so don't neglect faster-paced running. Even a marathoner needs a bit of speed in his legs rather than just continual long slow runs and post-marathon, once recovered, you don't want the speed for the hopefully upcoming shorter races to come as a shock to the system.
Add in rest days
If you've been training hard through January, February can be a hard time as you are still building mileage and the April spring marathon seems a long way off. If you are fatigued, physically or mentally don't be afraid to have a few easy days, an easier week, or even an extra day of complete rest. At the beginning of February, there are well over 60 days left to your target race, so missing one day is not going to have a huge effect on your marathon preparation as a whole.