Finishing the Marathon Strong by Training Smarter Not Harder [6]

finishing the marathon strong

Finishing The Marathon Strong

Finishing the marathon strong comes down to improving your endurance, strength, speed and even mindset.

If you apply what you learn here through smart training, you can finally enjoy running faster marathons.

Staying injury-free is crucial if you are to develop the strength and resilience needed to finish strongly.

And to help you achieve this, you’re getting FREE access to this Foam Rolling Exercises video training!

Read Full Transcript

Mark: One thing that I always notice about marathons is the number of people who either don’t finish or are worried about not finishing…

So, is that something that you’re worried about?

I’m sure Dave has got some excellent information to cover on how you can make sure you finish the race you started…

Dave: This is one of the, as you say, common issues that come up when I’m working with anybody in the marathon running space.

I cover four areas to help people. But what I’d firstly say is… Rome wasn’t built in a day …

Mark: That’s very true.

Dave: And nor is endurance…

Marathon Endurance Training

Endurance is something that, as we all know as marathon runners, you really have to build on slowly.

It might sound a bit boring, but that is the kind of ‘bread and butter’ that will help you stay strong in the latter stages.

That ability to train your body to just stay in there is part of it.

It’s not the whole, which is why we’re going to go on to other things, but it’s the cornerstone, really.

The marathon is an endurance-based event, so it would be foolish of me to come out with jazzy tips that have nothing to do with it.

So, specifically, what you need to do is build up your Long Run to a sufficient distance and duration to cope with what your expectations are in the marathon…

So if you’re going to be running a three-and-a-half-hour marathon, your longest Long Run is not going to be just an hour!

Mark: No!

Dave: You’ve got to be realistic. There are limits here…

If you’re expecting a five-hour marathon time and you’d be very pleased with [4:59], you don’t have to crank out [4:50] Long Runs.

Mark: Yeah.

Dave: It’s just unrealistic.

That’s the Long Run side of it, but the endurance part of your training covers a lot more than just that Long Run.

So you want to spread it, also, across the Steady Runs.

There are opportunities during the week to do Steady Runs and a lot more people should take them!

Just because they’re steady and not, again, jazzy things where you do repeats and stuff doesn’t mean they’re not critically important!

And I think there’s a great opportunity to increment them up slowly as you go through the campaign…

five minutes a week, or 10 minutes a week, that kind of thing, just slightly extending how long they are.

And then the other opportunity, rather than looking at the already scheduled Steady Run…

Is to break it up further by fitting in a supplemental session as you progress, as you get stronger.

So a day that may have been a rest day, you could maybe turn into a Recovery Jog day.

Where you just get in 30-40 minutes of slow running, just to add to the ‘endurance bank’.

Or, if that’s too much, because we realise people are injury-prone sometimes if they’re doing too much running…

Make it a cross-trainer exercise.

Mark: Right, yeah.

Dave: Or a swimming exercise.

Mark: Yeah. Okay, so you have mentioned varying distance …

Dave: Yes.

Mark: and obviously that encompasses endurance and stamina.

Dave: Yes.

Marathon Strength and Stamina Training

Mark: What about strength? Does strength have anything to do with being a good marathon runner?

Dave: It’s absolutely paramount, and this will hold you in great stead in the later stages of marathons if you can supplement the development of great endurance with that kind of robustness and strength…

And a really great way to achieve that is through hill work.

Mark: Right, okay.

Dave: And if you can do this in what I call the Trail Phase (the early phase of your marathon campaign)…

And then transitioning into marathon-specific training during what I call the Steps Phase (partly because you’re literally getting more into incline running).

You could start off just doing Hilly Runs and get off the road… there’s some great hilly trails and coastal runs in the UK.

Mark: Yeah, they do go up and down those.

Dave: They do go up and down. Tell me about it… Cornwall…

There isn’t a flat area in sight, I don’t think!

So start off with Hilly Runs…

And then get a bit more specific, say, in the Steps Phase…

By finding a medium-slope hill where you can do some intervals where you’re running up the hill and then mostly jogging back down.

But you can also develop great quad strength in selected sessions or even on selected repetitions, by coming down them a little bit quicker.

And the stamina element is also developed just by varying your running at that time on different terrain, by getting off the roads and running cross-country.

That will give you the strength you need, as well, that will stand you in great stead later in the marathon campaign.

Mark: Excellent. So we’ve covered endurance, strength, and stamina.

Dave: Yes.

Mark: What’s next?

Marathon Speed Training

Dave: Yeah, perhaps not surprisingly, speed is going to really help you in the later stages of the marathon.

To develop that during your training.

It encourages faster leg turnover, obviously, if you’re doing Faster Repeats.

Or you’re doing something we call Fartlek (speed play), where you’re doing certain intervals at faster paces.

This gives you greater leg strength, which is going to keep you going for longer as the marathon draws to a close.

And it also sharpens you up, because you’re able to handle the race pace right from when the start gun goes off.

And so if you’re feeling comfortable at that pace early on, you’re correspondingly feeling better off as the race draws to a close.

So I do advocate speed work.

You’ve got to be careful though with speed work… It’s a bit like eating protein in a balanced diet.

Mark: Yeah.

Dave: It’s important, but you shouldn’t do too much of it because it will possibly injure you.

And it will take away from the endurance work balance that should be highest.

Mark: Okay, so far, we’ve been through four different areas that you would encourage people to go through in order to make sure they finish a race, basically.

Dave: Absolutely.

Mark: Are there any advanced tips that you can share that aren’t too dangerous for the novice to have a look at?

Fast-Finish Long Run

Dave: Yes, there’s an advanced workout and it’s a ‘handle-with-care’ job.

It’s called the Fast-Finish Long Run (endorsed by top U.S. coach Greg McMillan).

What you do here is, in the last third of a Long Run, you increase your speed from Long Run easy-running pace…

And you get faster and faster, basically, as the name suggests.

Mark: Yeah.

Dave: Right up to the point, as if you are racing.

If you can, you even sprint as if you’re sprinting to the line.

Now, the interesting thing about this is the average pace over the last third should be your goal marathon pace.

Mark: Right.

Dave: It’s quite a good indicator of what you’re capable of running in the marathon.

But it’s not an average in the sense that you don’t just run average marathon pace and then sprint the last 20 yards!

You do get faster and faster, and obviously, because it’s a third of the Long Run distance, you’ve got to be careful.

It’s quite a skilful session, which is why it’s advanced…

Mark: Yeah.

Dave: You’ve got to slowly crank it up, and it is challenging.

It’s very, very fatiguing.

And I absolutely recommend a rest day following it!

Mark: Okay, so in essence, then, that’s not for beginners in any way?

Dave: It’s not for beginners, but the benefit…

Before putting people off, is, by god, it makes you feel strong in the latter stages of marathons!!

Mark: Yeah, okay, and this is one of those advanced techniques that you use with your clients?

Dave: Yes, the ones that are really going for good times. I encourage them to do this.

Mark: And you’re had good results with that, I take it?

Dave: Fantastic results… People curse me at the time and then cheer up after they’ve run a great time!

Mark: Excellent!

Foam Roller Exercises

Dave: Staying injury-free is obviously a huge part of finishing strongly, so I’ve teamed up with Tonia Jones, an outstanding physical therapist, to bring you Foam Rollover Jackpot!

In this video training, Tonia takes you through a set of foam roller exercises specific to marathon training to speed your recovery from hard workouts

Like the one we’ve just discussed.

Or alleviate any minor niggling aches and pains.

So if you thought foam rolling was just for tight IT bands, think again.

Mark: So we’ve looked at five areas so far for people to be able to make sure they finish a marathon.

Anything else you want to add?

Dave: Yes. As I often do with these things, we’ve talked about a lot of quite tactical, active things that you can do.

Mindful Running

But then there’s always the mindset, and some people think this is cheesy, it might be cheesy, but it actually works…

And that is using affirmations.

Mark: Right.

Dave: Start doing this, by the way, on your training runs.

Because that’s what training is, training you for a race.

Mark: Yeah.

Dave: Start saying, “I’m feeling strong and I’m going to finish.”

Or, “I’m feeling strong and I’m going to finish well.”

It actually does (and the studies back this up).

It improves your neurology along that kind of coping way to get you through the session.

And then another slight variant (it’s still a psychological thing but it’s slightly different)…

Is you can detach a little bit from the rigours of what you’re doing by being very mindful about your stride.

Like focussing on your footfall.

And you’d be amazed how just getting into that zone takes away the fatigue that you would have been feeling more if you hadn’t been doing that.

Why not share your experiences of finishing the marathon strong (or otherwise!) in the comments below. 

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