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

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