Aug 20, 2009

The Marathon Paced Workout

I have quite a bit to say about today's run so I'll skip any anecdote at the beginning and get into the meat of the workout.

Two and a half weeks into my 4 week speedwork period and I wanted to get an assessment of my fitness. For me the best way to do this is by doing a marathon pace (MP) run. For this workout I'll warm up with two easy miles and then speed up to the 7:10-7:15 range. These are the meat and potatoes of my marathon training. Dare I say it, at least as important as my long runs. I'll complete two of these each week usually with 10-11 miles at MP. A friend once told me (he read/heard it somewhere) that if you can complete 2/3 to 3/4 of your race distance in an untapered workout you should be able to complete the whole race at that pace. For me that would be about 18 miles at that pace. Yikes! I've never gotten beyond 12 miles at MP. Maybe that's why my marathons are run at about a 7:35 pace instead of 7:15.

Still I think these workouts are so beneficial because with only three runs per week, a long run plus two of these, I'm able to run a pretty good marathon. This was my training plan leading up to Myrtle Beach in February and with it I qualified for Boston and missed a PB by less than 2 minutes. I occasionally did a fourth workout that was a short, easy run but more often it was a swim or bike ride (with an eye towards my June half iron triathlon).

I divide these workouts into two groups, short ones and long ones. The short ones are 6-8 miles and long ones are 9+. This is an arbitrary distinction based only on the fact that running 9 miles at that pace makes it over an hour. I build up through the short ones and into the long ones throughout a 2-3 month build up before a marathon. The more and longer the long ones I can do the better trained I am. So with all that in mind, I embarked on a MP run to test myself.

I was hoping to get into the range of long ones but more expecting to do 7-8 miles at that pace. What makes me stop? Usually fatigue and my HR. If it is too high too long then I know I'll have a long recovery and my later workouts in the week will suffer. I felt good getting started, the pace was easy; must be the payoff from my recent speed sessions. After six and then seven miles though I could feel the fatigue and my HR was becoming elevated. I know I could have pushed and completed an 8th mile but a 9th (and therefore a long workout) would have been too tough. So I called it quits there and did a mile warm down. Seven miles at 7:08 is probably about right and looking at my build up for Myrtle Beach I'm in exactly the same place. Maybe that's not bad not having done that workout for about a month and when I enter that portion of my training in September I'll still have 6 solid weeks to push the distance.

So let me know if you have any thoughts on this. I'm toying with the idea of intentionally keeping one of these workout in the short range each week in order to maximize the distance I could do in the second one.

All in, today was 10 miles at 7:49 pace.


Beth said...

Thanks for visiting my blog. I enjoyed reading your post and will keep checking in to see how your Marine Corps training is going. Good luck!

lindsay said...

i like your thoughts and approach to mp runs. very interesting info about 2/3 to 3/4 of the race distance - i don't know if i could make myself get 18 miles at mp either! well, maybe if i ran a race during a training run to help keep me going i guess. do you wonder if you had held back a bit and ran closer to a 7:15 that you could've ran another mile or two? 7:08 is quite impressive! do you do this type of run weekly or every-other week?

AZ said...


I do this type of run twice a week. I build into getting both of them in the longer range of 9+ miles. Once I get through my speed phase (one more week) I`ll get started on this phase. Very likely I would have done one more mile if I went 7:15 per mile, possibly two. I guess I`m trying at doing these runs at a little faster pace in order to do the full marathon at 7:15 pace.


Glenn Jones said...

Interesting workout. I'm currently using the Pfitzinger plan (24/55), and was reading somewhere that one of the critiques about the plan is the lack of miles spent at MP. And I can see why. There are a couple of 14 milers at MP, but nothing longer. I can see the difficulty stepping up on race day and not having the muscle and psychological memory to maintaining a race pace for almost twice the distance of any training run.

And thanks for the words about ZZ Top. The concert was EPIC only because it was in a small, intimate setting (House of Blues). I wish more big groups would play in the smaller venues - clubs etc. I actually have seen some major groups at college gyms. Heck, I even once saw Elvis Costello at a local high school! It's tough to go to a mega concert after seeing things like that.

Mel Ashline said...

Thanks for the blog comments! Love reading them & I really like your blog! Good luck with Marine Corps, I look forward to reading about your experience!

Marlene said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog!

These workouts/paces are away outta my league, but I still enjoy reading about them. Sounds like your training is coming along well.

Looking forward to reading about MC!