Every time I train for a marathon, I am reminded that speed workouts are my favorite. Yet speed workouts are some of the least helpful in marathon training. They absolutely still have a role- strengthening VO2 max, but the workouts that have more value for the half or full marathon are long runs, marathon paced runs and tempo runs.
Every distance training plan is built around the long runs. Most of the time the paces should be easy for long runs but advanced runners can build in a few miles at goal race pace. Harder long runs should be alternated with easy long runs.
What’s an optimal long run pace? Runner’s Connect has a fantastic article on that here.
Race pace runs
It’s not necessary to set a goal time for the first marathon. But for more experienced runners, you can set a goal time based on other races. Race calculators like the one from McMillan can help give you an idea of a goal time within your fitness level.
To run a strong marathon or half and hit goal paces, it’s crucial to spend some time running at goal marathon pace. Makes sense, right?
Race pace miles can be run in the middle of a week day run, starting with just 2 miles and building to 8-12. Race pace runs will prepare you both mentally and physically to get very familiar with what that pace feels like for race day.
Tempo runs are a tough workout that include miles run at faster than goal race pace. Tempo pace is typically between 10k and half marathon race pace, or lactate threshold, and help to make race pace feel easier as well as to push back the point at which lactic acid begins to build too quickly in your muscles.
I shared a few tempo workouts earlier that give a range of workouts, from short 2 mile tempo runs to intervals at tempo pace.
In my current training cycle, I’m trying to get a mix of all three workouts in. Every week includes a long run where I build for 2-3 weeks and then cut back to a shorter distance. I typically alternate weeks with race pace workouts or tempo workouts.
As my legs accumulate fatigue from training (like now!) it gets harder to meet those paces, but the workouts are a great indicator of how well prepared you are for race day.
Do you utilize race pace runs, long runs and tempo runs?
Do you have a favorite type of running workout?