In this guest blog post, R.L. shares how he has found “running more” to equal better finishing times.
If you’ve made the climb, why not stay on that plateau or climb even higher?
The “climb” is the elevating of your fitness level while following a marathon training program. It gets you in shape for that 26.2-mile odyssey on race day. But what happens after the marathon is over?
What I Used to Do
I’ve run many marathons (31 to be exact). I often think about how much work I put in just to be ready for one race day. Often I would welcome a break from training in the weeks after the marathon was over. But without a training program to keep me motivated, my mileage went down along with my fitness level that I had worked so hard to achieve.
It really isn’t that logical. I think the following plan makes better sense . . .
Why Perpetual Marathon Training is a Good Idea
I’ve always contended that while training for race day is the main reason to start a training program, a larger reason to have a program in place is to keep you motivated. With no training program, I might only go 3 or 4 miles. With a program in place, I always run the distance listed in my program unless there are icy conditions, whether it calls for runs of 6 or 8 or 10 miles or long runs between 15 and 20 miles.
People amaze me who just go to the gym to work out with no goal other than to stay in shape. I don’t know how they stay motivated. That wouldn’t work for me. I could have a program at the gym, but if there isn’t that carrot of a race waiting at the end, it would be harder for me.
With four marathons behind me this year, I’ve basically been in marathon training since October 2012. This means I’ve done huge mileage numbers. But it has paid off. I earned a 15-year PR at the Tobacco Road Marathon in March. Then, I surpassed that PR by 3 minutes with a 3:30:33 at the Outer Banks Marathon in November.
I also ran what I consider the best race of my life last month -a 3:37 marathon and the 50-and-older (Grandmaster) award at the relentlessly hilly Asheville Citizen-Times City Marathon!
How long was my break after that marathon? Two days. The marathon was on a Saturday, and I walked (and hated walking) on Sunday and Monday before running 4 miles on Tuesday. I was back to 8 miles on Wednesday with no issues and well on my way to being ready for Outer Banks.
After Outer Banks, I walked one day, then progressed during the week from a run of 3 miles on Tuesday to 4 on Wednesday, 5 on Thursday and 6 on Friday.
Do We Need 20 Milers?
There seems to be a debate in the running community about minimalist routes to marathon success. The long run of 20 miles isn’t really needed, some contend. One school of thought is that this is true of runners who finish slower than 3:45 or 3:50. With a lot of talk in that regard, I’ve clearly gone the other way.
I still think that 20-milers are essential training for a marathon, and it also gives you a confirmation that you are either in good shape or not quite there. You don’t want to find out at mile 20 of a marathon that you really didn’t train well enough.
Perpetual training also has created a first for me: Running 2,000+ miles in a year. I passed the 2,000 mile mark on Nov. 22 with obviously plenty of 2013 running to go.
It takes dedication to keep training week after week, but it has rewards. In addition to breaking my marathon PR twice this year, I also earned a PR at the Greensboro Half Marathon even though it was a hilly course on a 32-degree day.
There is likely a clear correlation between running all of those miles and earning those PRs.
The four marathons this year tied a personal high, and I’m contemplating a fifth on Dec. 29. Between now and then, I’ll be putting in the miles as I have been all year.
If I’ve got the fitness level to run good times, why throw that away by slacking off after race day?
I’m totally in agreement with you that having a race on the calender makes you exercise more. Without a goal . . . I fall apart. And I think it makes sense to keep your momentum after a marathon.
Some people might find that their times get slower as the stack on more marathons. Angie has found this to be the case for her. Everyone needs to find the sweet spot in their training.
Thanks for sharing!
I appreciate the positive advice given in this article and I agree that staying motivated to train can be difficult without an end goal. Sometimes the idea of a long run can be daunting but just getting out there as often as you can without negative self judgment is very beneficial for the runners brain. If it’s very cold outside or I’m feeling stiff from a previous workout I just tell myself I will go out and run with no judgement. It doesn’t matter if the run ends up being 4 miles or 10 miles, the point is that I got out there and did it.
I would like to add that I am personally motivated by cross-training. I run 3 days a week and cross train 3 days a week. I find this helps me to really push myself on my run days since I know the next day will be filled with biking, yoga, or rock climbing.
I’ll be trying to keep it going later this month and hoping for another PR at the Dec. 29 Jacksonville Bank Marathon. I just hope that the temperatures won’t be too warm considering I’ve dealt with temperatures in the 20s and 30s for my recent runs!
I’ve run 2 20-mile training runs since the Outer Banks Marathon in early November, and I wouldn’t have run that long without the Jacksonville race added to my race schedule.