This Saturday a completely outta shape me will run a marathon, the first of many this season. I don’t expect to do well at my first attempt as I haven’t trained properly since breaking my arm over three months ago. But being placed is neither my aim nor motivation for this race. Put simply, I’m running the first of a series of Trailscape races as part of my training for something bigger next year because I found that the more I ran in the build up to the Marathon des Sables, the more capable I was of running faster for longer. And up until now, this school of thought goes slightly against the grain of most marathon training methods.
Indeed, take a glance at that 16-week training plan and you’ll find that the longest distance suggests it the golden 20 miles. And if you’re training six days out of seven, one well-known plan reduces this magic number to just 16 miles (with a few longer runs during the week). This particular method has worked extremely well for some runners but for me personally, I felt the fittest and most in control when I adopted “training marathons” into my plans.
Maybe it was about having that confidence to know what my pace was or how I could push it after increasing my mileage but I found the more I ran and trained in terms of distances, the easier running, racing, adventuring whatever you want to call this sport I’m passionate about became. At one point, I was running a marathon on a weekly basis and starting all over again on the Monday morning. I was a serial marathoner and absolutely loving it.
So I wasn’t really surprised when I saw a Wall Street Journal article posted by a fellow runner on Facebook about training for a marathon by running a marathon. Apparently, more distance runners are opting for this crazy method and, according to the article, 15.8% of marathon participants tracked by Active Network had taken part in more than one marathon in 2015 compared with just 2.3% in 2010. And in a way, it kind of makes sense.
Now hear me out. If you’ve run a pre-marathon marathon then you have a feel for what it’s like to do that distance. Call it a rehearsal run. What’s more, you’re more mentally prepared for the wall. Your body has the chance to experience what it feels like before the main race so it doesn’t come as a complete shock to the system.
Of course, and here comes the slight caveat to this training method, you have to be dedicated to the cause. As anyone who has trained for a marathon will tell you, it’s a slice of the week you need to make time for. You also need to be in pretty good nick to subject your body to so much mileage. The WSJ says it suits those who are lean and slight or well-built for maraFUN-ing. While I’m not exactly physically a typical long-distance runner, I do have thighs of steel. Once you enter the realms of ultras, it’s a whole different story. However, a pre-race marathon can actually be the right path for some.
And no, it’s not something everything can do. Beginners are better off sticking to a training plan. But if you’ve run a couple and want to reach your goal, consider this growing running trend. You may well surprise yourself and come out feeling stronger, fitter and ready to beat your PB.
Do you follow a specific marathon training plan? Let me know what you think of my crazy marathon shenanighans below…