After Your Marathon: Ready For Anything!

For three months, you've been training for that single day. Now it's over. You've completed the marathon and achieved your goal. What now? The most likely response is 'nothing', and it's a perfectly reasonable one. After all, three or four months of hard work is enough, and now you deserve a rest. In fact, your body demands it – and what about the family, friends and social life?

Just make sure it's a short rest, however, because you now have a tremendous opportunity that you shouldn't waste. These months of hard training have built up a base of stamina and aerobic fitness which places you ideally to take on your next running goal. After a couple of weeks of rest and light running, you'll probably feel fitter than you have done for some time. The length of time you'll stay at that level will largely depend on how long you've been training and how fit you've become, but now is the time to take advantage of it.

Run another marathon? You must be joking!

If you crossed the finish line chanting the mantra 'never again', the chances are that you wouldn't put another marathon high on your list of priorities. Think again. Unless you've run yourself completely into the ground or injured yourself, you could feasibly tackle another marathon in five to eight weeks. If you're serious about the distance, you may even find yourself running faster, particularly if your pace judgment was ruined by the excitement of the day or size of the field. Remember that the tough part of the training is behind you. All you need is two to three weeks of recovery, two weeks of normal marathon training and two weeks to taper again. Here's the kind of timetable you should try to work to:

Week 1 No running for three days. Walk if you feel like it. Then try jogging for 30 minutes or walking for an hour on alternate days.
Week 2 Aim to do no more than half your normal marathon training. Have one to two days of complete rest.
Week 3 Return to normal training, but don't push yourself hard if you don't feel like it.
Week 4 You should be feeling good and able to do anything.

Run an ultra race? Are you serious?

If another marathon doesn't excite you, how about something a little longer? If you've ever wondered what ultras are like, you have the perfect training base to find out. Ultra runners actually put in little more training than the average marathon runner, so it really isn't that big a step up from what you've already been doing. Again, step one is recovery from the marathon. Step two is to continue your training, emphasising the endurance rather than the quality side of your programme. Step three is to prepare yourself mentally to be on your feet for anything from a couple of miles to 100 per cent longer than you were for the marathon.

Go short and fast

Every effective speed programme first requires a sound base of endurance. You guessed it – you have that base. Now you just need to change the emphasis of the programme to bring out the quality. After the two-week recovery period, return to training, cut down your mileage and work in two speed sessions a week. This applies whether your goal is the 10K or the half-marathon; the only difference should be the type of speedwork you do. Here's an example of what you should be doing for the road:

Day 1 5 miles brisk
Day 2 Warm up, then 3 x 1 mile at 10K pace, with 5-minute rests
Day 3 6 miles easy
Day 4 As Day 1, on a different route
Day 5 Rest
Day 6 6 x 800m OR 6 x 3 minutes, with 2-minute recoveries
Day 7 1 hour easy, off-road

If your goals are shorter, track-based distances, you obviously need to use the track for your speed sessions. Substitute a pyramid session (800-1000-1200-1000-800m) at 10K pace or faster for the routine on Day 2.

Your PBs await...