|1986 Grandma's Marathon|
Ran 2:51:42 in hot conditions
Following Tom's Lydiard based principles of building a very large aerobic base before attempting a marathon I can honestly say those 6 marathons were the easiest I ever ran. For each and every one of those marathons I had at least 6 good months of aerobic base before attempting those marathons. Yet, I continually come across runners who want to train and compete in a marathon with 4 months or so of training, many just running 4 days a week.
I understand that men and women with children cannot run 6 or 7 days a week. But I cannot understand why aspiring marathon runners don't take the time, ie; months of building up long runs, to run a marathon. Trying to go from a 10 miles long run to a 22 mile long run in just 4 months is an invitation to injury.
When I ran my fastest marathon, I literally spent a year preparing for it. The payoff was a 9 minute PR and the easiest marathon I ever ran. I checked my old running logs and the year leading up to the race. I ran 25 runs of 16 miles or more, 8 of them were 21 miles or more. I should add that I missed an entire month early in the buildup due to a hamstring injury 10 months before the marathon and another 3 weeks of training just three months out from the race itself due to a sore achilles.
All of my long runs save one, was at 7:15 to 7:30 pace. The one was a 26 mile run done two weeks out from the marathon done at 6:55 pace with 5 water stops lasting about 2 minutes each. A lot of runners I meet feel the need to try and run their long runs at something approaching race pace. That's foolish at best and defeats the purpose of building your aerobic base.
I did plenty of speed specific training in the weeks leading up to my marathon PR. It included mile repeats, tempo runs of 6 to 10 miles where I would be at marathon pace or better for at least the last third of the run and plenty of races used to sharpen my speed.
Again, several people I see preparing for marathons seems to forsake running 5K's or 10K's ahead of their big races. That's a big mistake. Racing gets you used to using the water stations and dealing with other runners. Even experienced runners need prep races before their goal race.
My last marathon, in 2010, I was under raced and under trained. I hadn't run a marathon in 7 years due to several surgeries. In the 10 months leading up to that 2010 marathon I had only four runs of 16 miles or more. I ran only a couple of races leading up to the big race. I paid the price. I ran 3:56, my slowest marathon by 40 minutes. The last 9 miles were a difficult shuffle in extremely hot conditions. It was on the same course where 20 years earlier I had run 2:39:24 PR. A marathon without proper preparation is a humbling experiences. My half-assed training got me exactly what I deserved.
I know that most runners cannot see their way to breaking 4 hours in the marathon. But with a proper amount of base training, you can make a difficult, brutally tough race, a lot more tolerable. A marathon doesn't have to mean misery.