Part Two of following the Legion in their preparation for the Boston Marathon dealt with their training in general. Part Three now looks to the cornerstone of marathon training – the long run or the mid-build up race. Many runners choose to ‘check in’ on their fitness by simulating what they are going to do on Marathon Monday either by way of a planned long run or through a shorter distance race. This way they can practice their preparation, get in the marathon mindset and see if any adjustments need to be made in the final weeks. Now, in their words….
Sanca at the Boston Marathon. Photo by Scott Mason.
In the third and final phase of my marathon block, I’ve focused on hitting some key long runs in preparation for the marathon. I’m a firm believer that during marathon training, any long run should have a purpose. It’s no longer ‘just go and run 20 miles at 7 min pace’. That may be ok during the very early stages of general base building, but not during the specific marathon phase. In addition, I also believe that there must be some type of variation of the long runs in order to stimulate different training systems. Below are some recent long runs since my last Level update:
Saturday March 20: Progressive Long Run on the Boston Marathon course. I wanted to start this run around 85% marathon pace and drop down to about 90%. For me, that’s going from about 6 min per mile to 5:30 pace. This was a nice run! I started from Framingham with the first hour at 5:55 pace, then picked it up to 5:45 pace from the Wellesley Hills to Heartbreak and finished the last miles into Copley at 5:30 pace. I covered the last 20 miles of the course in 1 hour and 55 minutes (and yes, I crossed the finish line!).
Sunday March 29: Spedding Fartlek Long Run. I mapped out a hilly road (River Rd) going from Lowell to Tewksbury, Lawrence and back to Lowell. This is a hilly run and it mimics the Boston course to an extent. I wanted to make this a tough run where I had to use different paces through the run. The Spedding Long Run was invented by the man himself, Charlie Spedding (a British 2:08 marathoner back in the day). The run consists of the following segments: 5min-1min-2min-4min-1min-3min, repeated with 5 minutes of ‘steady’ running in between the intervals. The steady running is still around 85% marathon pace, which for me is about 5:50’s to 6 minutes. Having done this run in the past in 1 hr 55 minutes and 1 hr 53 minutes, I was really hoping to run somewhere around 1 hr 55 minutes or faster. I started this run with a quick 6:00 flat first mile and then progressed throughout the run. When I got to mile 10, temperature was high 20’s and it had started snowing with a mix of rain. Conditions were really tough as my clothes were completely soaked. However, I tried to stay focused on each mile and use it as preparation for a possible unexpected weather scenario Boston. As I crested the last hill on route 133, I sped up and closed the last mile in 4:59 to give me a 1:50:58 split for 20 miles. I was really pumped after this run as it was about 3 minutes faster than I had ever done it.
Sunday April 5: 30K Marathon Specific Run. This workout is straight out of Renato Canova’s training. This was my last ‘hard’ long run before Boston. I wanted this run to go well to get that extra confidence boost, but also didn’t to run myself into the ground either. In order to make getting splits with my GPS watch easier, I changed this run from 30k (18.6 miles) to just 18 miles. The workout was the following: first 10 miles at fundamental pace (about 90% marathon pace), with the next 3 miles alternating 1 minute fast and 1 minute slow. The fast sections would be around 4:50’s and the ‘slow’ sections around 5:20’s. The next 3 miles would be run back at the fundamental pace and the final 3 miles would be run at whatever is left in the tank. Typically, it’s very hard to get back to marathon pace in the last 3 miles.
I chose a fair loop, out and back on the Lowell boulevard and ran the first 6 miles in 32:27. I then did the 1 min fast/1min slow section of the next 3 miles in 15:42, which as extremely good for me considering it was pretty windy out. The next 3 miles were run again at fundamental pace in 16:17. The final 6 miles were probably going to be the fastest as I had to drop the pace in the middle of the run again. I surprisingly felt very good dropping down from 5:20’s to 5:12. I ran the next 3 mile section in 15:34 and was in shock about how great it felt, but I knew the toughest part of the workout was coming up: the final 3 miles.
From past experiences, Nate Jenkins, had informed me that usually it’s very hard to get down to even marathon pace for the last portion of this workout. I tried to maintain my form and hit the next mile in 5:15, which is about my marathon race pace. The 17th mile was pretty much a huge hill and I knew the race pace adjustment there would be about 10 seconds slower. On that mile I hit 5:21 and then I pushed a bit more and closed the final ‘flatter’ mile in 5:04 to finish 18 miles in 1hr 35 minutes and 43 seconds. I was extremely pleased after this workout.
Looking back at those three long runs, I feel that they touched up and strengthened many systems that will play a major roll at my run in Boston. These workouts also tested my mental endurance as they were done completely solo – no pacers or coach, no water breaks, no stops. The ability to train this hard alone can sometimes be harder than matching the pace on race day. I’ve generally struggled to do workouts alone but somehow always try to do my ‘best effort’ on any specific day. Having these workouts go progressively smoother has given me an extra boost of confidence for race day. You never really know what to expect on race day, but training to do the longer workouts close to race pace can put the mind at easy when race day comes.