So you’re 8 weeks out from your race and you’re starting to freak out.
Here are some tips for making the most out of your next 8 weeks.
Understanding Building Endurance
There is a reason we long run and track our weekly mileage. It's important to understand that reason so you can ensure that you’re hitting that intention rather than overworking or not fulfilling the purpose:
Long Runs - Long runs are meant to stress your endurance property of your muscles so you will be strong throughout the end of your race. They are meant to be long not fast (fast stresses your muscles strength). Find out more on “Targeted Workouts”
Weekly Mileage - It’s important to slowly increase your weekly KMs so that your body gets used to running more distance in a week. You want to increase your weekly distance much higher than your race distance so that when you taper, the race distance will feel manageable.
Reassess Where You’re At
Be honest with yourself. How much have you been following your plan? For people running their first or second half or full marathon I like to look at two factors to assess how their training is going:
How long has your longest long run been? Are you on track with your plan or have you fallen behind. It’s ok to be behind, it happens to all of us. Life comes up, now is the point to be honest with yourself and readjust.
Are you on track with your weekly mileage? Have you been doing all your weekly runs? If not, how high was your weekly distance last week and the week before?
Set New Targets
Ideally you’d be on track and not have to make any adjustments. But life comes up and rarely do we have a training build where runs are not missed and we fall behind. That's just life.
Taper - After a full training build, a training plan has a period of weeks that you decrease your training to reduce the stress on your muscles and allow them to grow and adapt.
Taper can be anywhere from 2-4 weeks. 2 weeks for more advanced runners. You should notice in your training plan a certain week when your long runs and weekly KMs start to decrease and continue to decrease to race day.
First off, at the end of your long runs, it should be your hips, glutes and core that are aching, not your breathing or quads or calves that are hurting. When we push too fast on the long runs, we stress our entire body and miss the intention of the run which is to stress your endurance muscles.
If you have to nap after your long runs, you’re running them too fast.
Each week you can safely increase your long run distance by 5-10% depending on your past experience. Map out where you are at, when your plan has you tapering and see how close your long run you can get.
If you’re struggling to get out and complete your weekly mileage totals, start to think about what's stopping you. A lot of the time, we run our easy and long runs too hard and we become exhausted for the rest of the week. Slow down! You only need one speed workout a week (if that) for your first or second half or full race.
It’s more important to go slow and enjoy the running than to go too fast, get exhausted and miss runs. Increasing your weekly distance is going to create fatigue in your body anyways, so you’ll probably need to go extra slow as residual fatigue means your regular easy pace is slower than normal. Remember to run by effort rather than by your watch.
The main thing that happens as we get deep into a training cycle is that the fatigue starts to build up over time. That's ok, that's part of training and part of the reason we taper. It’s important to go easy on yourself when this happens and not beat yourself up for not keeping the paces you would normally do when you have fresh legs.
As you run more half and full marathons, your body will build a base foundation of endurance and get used to this fatigue cycle and you’ll be able to push harder and deeper into the end of your training cycle. But if you’re feeling tired or drained right now, it’s important to ease up (effort) and enjoy your long and easy pace runs. One speed workout a week for first or second time half and full runners is more than enough. The rest is just adding endurance stress onto the body.
Slow down! It’s more important to increase your long runs and weekly distance than it is to go fast. The longer your race, the more important it is to get time on your feet rather than getting hard, fast runs in.
Listen to your body and run by effort. As you get deeper into your training, there is residual fatigue that builds up, so none of your runs will feel like they're ‘the best’. That's part of the training cycle.
A lot of the time we miss runs. That's ok, running isn’t our top priority. So know where you’re at, reassess what you can do and be kind with yourself. You’ll get better at the training cycle the more you do it.