Marathon number two - Mixing up your training

Marathon number two

I decided to do the Dublin marathon after finishing my Paris marathon in April. The atmosphere and adrenaline I felt was amazing and couldn’t wait to do it again.

However, training took up so much of my time for Paris and alongside my physical job and home life, I did find it quite a struggle. So I went in a lot more relaxed with Dublin and not really having much of a break in between each race I thought I would tackle Dublin with a whole different approach, “my approach.” Surely the knowledge I had behind me I knew what I was doing and surely it could work?

I decided I would only do two runs a week – one being a tempo run – this is to train my body how to use my oxygen stores correctly, Pushing the point at which my body fatigues at a certain pace - increasing my lactate threshold, which basically makes me go faster for longer. The other, my long run, upping my mileage each week for improving my “Vo2” max.

In between this I would do Kettlebells to help build strength and a Metafit® to help with my strength and stamina. Metafit® uses plyometric exercises such as squat jumps, explosive jacks, burpees etc. Many articles on running performance sings its praises and say runners should be including plyometric as part of their strength and conditioning training, so it made sense to add it to my training plan. Plus, it was only a 30-minute workout, making it easy to fit into my day, instead of going running for 1-2 hours. I read one study (Paavolainen et al., 1999) on well trained endurance athletes found that replacing one-third of their normal running with plyometric exercises improved their 5k race times. The 18 runners in the study underwent the same total training volume over a nine-week period but 10 of them had 32% of the running replaced with plyometric training. Following the nine weeks, the 5K time of these 10 runners improved whereas no changes were observed in the other 8.

As I am quite competitive I did want to try and beat my Paris time of 4.32, so with the information I was sure doing Metafit® would really help me to achieve this.

Kettlebells; The most important consideration when adding kettlebells to your running training is choosing running-specific exercises. That means focusing on movements that target the “power generator” of the running stride – the hips, glutes and hamstrings. So Dead-lifts, Swings etc would be perfect. Kettlebells are fantastic for building core strength, which helps us to become a stronger and faster runner. A stronger core helps with our posture, making us able to stand tall and carry us forward, helping with our arm drive. So much of running comes from the core like any exercise.

I worked out my pace for me to achieve the time of 4.10, which was around 9.10 mins/ per mile. Aim big right, I was looking at 4.10 for Paris until I hurt my foot so thought I could aim for this again right? I had been running my runs before this at a fast pace of 8 min/ per mile so I thought this should be a nice easy steady pace I could maintain.

With this all in mind I told myself “Less is more will surely work?” It will make running easier and it will also limit over training and burning out. With several days of cross-training, it should cut my injury-risk substantially?? Due to already feeling I couldn’t maintain the training I was doing for Paris.

At the beginning I was doing fine and felt great, but as the mileage started to get over 13-14 miles I did start to struggle, I found myself stopping quite regularly and on a few occasions not actually hitting the miles I was supposed to. It did start to dawn on me that this was because I was not working my aerobic energy system as much as I may have needed, I was more working my Anaerobic system, this involves shorter, higher-intensity workouts. Weightlifting, speed training, etc.

To exercise our bodies, we need to break down sugar and convert it to glycogen, so it is used for energy or fuel. When the body has an adequate supply of oxygen for this process, we call it aerobic respiration. Aerobic running or respiration occurs when your body has sufficient oxygen- when you run your easy miles- (middle run.) Each time you breathe in, your body efficiently uses all the oxygen it needs to power the muscles, and you exhale out what the body does not need.

AEROBIC RUNNING IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT to your training, why did I forget this? (remember we need to work out for around 1 – 1.30 hours to be working our aerobic system)

Because I was using my Anaerobic energy system more than my Aerobic, I was not giving my muscles enough oxygen to create the energy my body was demanding. So me going at a faster pace for my long runs was not going well for me, as my body was not able to sustain it, resulting in me stopping or to struggle.

With this information just dawning on me, I knew I needed that middle mile run in the middle of my training plan and desperately tried to add it in to my last weeks of training. However, I was very worried this was not enough and had to tell myself I needed to go slower, from this point on I knew I would have to run Dublin at around 9.30-10 min/per mile if I wanted to get past that finish line. I too had to put behind me, “I will do better than Paris” and just go and enjoy the race and experience.

I did finish Dublin marathon and at a quicker time then Paris… 4.31.55! a whole 5 seconds quicker! J I did feel physically stronger this marathon and could feel this in moments of struggle, so I would still highly recommend Kettlebells and Metafit® to people training for any distance.

The things that I have learned in this experience is:

  • Next time I will continue to incorporate Kettlebells and Metafit® into my training plan but maybe alternate it with three runs a week.
  • I was still able to finish the marathon and in a good time without so much training, but the right training is key for what outcome you want.
  • Aerobic exercise is very important for distances – endurance.
  • Trainng properly is important, not just for our physical health but mentally too. (due to my bad runs during training I did mentally worry and think I may not be ready for this) Running a marathon people say is 90% mental and 10% physical! So being mentally prepared is just as important.
  • I will now will have to run another marathon to get my PB of 4.10!

Which one is next???