Marathon training is certainly a life changing experience because it involves running miles and miles and miles. As you progressively build your weekly mileage — based on your own personal program for your level of running and goals — you can not only see and feel the difference your body’s fitness, but you also start to feel mentally stronger and feel more equipped to emotionally a handle the daily craziness that life throws at you.
I recognize training can also become a bit boring if you’re running the same routes week in and week out, especially if you always run the same pace. If this happens, your passion may flame out and your vision of successfully finishing your marathon loses its luster. One way to put some zip, energy and fun into the whole process is to change where and when you run, as well as do a variety of different workouts.
I think a good place to add some variety into your training routine is to frequently change up your running course. Granted, it’s way easier to just go out your front door and run the same course in your neighborhood, but as previously mentioned, this can become tedious and boring. Find different courses with varying terrain and/or be willing to drive to a new place to run rather than just heading out your front door.
If you run before work or school, plan to rise a little earlier for extra travel time to and from your new course. This way you can experience a new place to run, get your miles in and head into your day with a nice sense of accomplishment after getting a great workout in. Also, finding a run course that offers some rolling hills and a variety of terrain such as grass or dirt trails will add a challenge to your daily training run.
Another simple thing you can do is to change the time of day that you run. If you are usually a morning runner, try sleeping in a little bit one or two days a week, then head out on your run after work or school. Again, this is just one of many examples of how a little change in routine can add a little spice and change of pace to your running.
And here are some specific workouts you can do to “perk up” your marathon training to keep you interested, focused and enjoying the entire process.
Running strides is one of my favorite run workouts because they are so easy to incorporate into any run you do. Run the first twenty minutes of your training run at a decent pace and then throw in a series of thirty second strides. Strides are ramping up your running pace close to a 10K or 5K race pace for just thirty seconds, followed by a one to two minute easy pace jog to recover, then repeat.
Here’s an example of a nice strides workout:
- Start with a 20:00 warm-up run at an easy to normal training pace
- Follow with 0:30 X 10 reps with 1:00 easy jog in between each rep
- Finish with a 20:00 normal pace run to cool down
Try these strides one or two times a week, and as your fitness level and aerobic capacity increase, then increase the length of the strides to 60 seconds and eventually 90 seconds. Not only will running strides make your training run more interesting, but you’ll also enjoy improve your ability to run harder for longer periods.
There’s nothing mysterious about the benefits of hills. Like running strides, a hill workout will increase your running economy and strength to produce speed. Both strides and hill running will increase your oxygen capacity, which means you will not have to breath as hard when you are running hard.
Ah, the famous Swedish running workout term that makes most everyone snicker when they hear the term. My running club appreciates the term and benefits of the workout, wearing t-shirts that read: “Fartlek. It’s a running thing. You wouldn’t understand.”
A fartlek workout is one way to really change up your running routine. In his book Daniels’ Running Formula
, Dr. Jack Daniels notes about the fartlek, “This is a good workout when you feel lethargic, but want to get in some decent running. Fartlek workouts mix several types of running – easy running, hills, reps, and even threshold pace bouts, into one session.”
These are just a few suggestions to help you keep your passion and interest going strong during the many long weeks of marathon or half marathon training. There are still many other run workouts you can do for variety and to increase your overall running fitness. One book I recommend to expand your horizons on this topic is Running Tough
by Michael Sandrock, which details 75 different tough and challenging run workouts.