What Changes Should I Make to my Running Training Program

by Murthy
(Bangalore, India)

Running the Cauvery River Trail - India

Running the Cauvery River Trail - India

I want to improve my arathon time to under 4:45 hours. Given the details below. What changes can I make to achieve this?

I have been training and participating in 10k, half, and full marathons for the past two years and see some improvments in performance in my 10k and half marathon but am looking for more improvements in the full marathon.

My last marathon was last Sunday and I am planning to run the Rotterdam marathon in about three months' time. I Would be grateful for your expert advice.

More info:

  • I started running two years ago, at a late age of 49. I was 78kg then. I am now 75kg.

  • To date I have participated in 2 10k, 2 25k, 2 half marathons, and 2 full marathons. Trained for all of them.

  • Performance improvements over 2 years:
    - my 10k timing has improved from 56min(May-2009) to 54min(May-2010)
    - my 5k timing has improved from 0:30:00 (Mar-2009) to 0:24:40 (Aug-2010)
    - my half marathon has improved from 2:22(Nov-2009) to 2:02 (Nov-2010)
    - my full marathon has improved from 5:40(Feb-2010) to 5:18 (Jan-2011)

    - The training program broadly consisted of Monday and Thursday as rest days, Tue for slow run 30 to 50 minutes, Wed speed workout for an hour including warm up run for about 10min, Fri cross training
    - for Speed workouts I start with 100m repeats (6-8times) and over weeks progress to 400m repeats (6-8 times), fartlek, sometimes hill repeats.
    - for x-training, I swim for about 30 to 40 minutes and sometimes I do squats with light weights (5-10kg) about 200 in all - in sets of 50.

    My diet: I am vegetarian (no meat, no fish, no eggs) I eat rice, bread, lentils, veggies, fruits and drink plenty of water.

    Answer by Dominique:

    Hi there,
    Thanks for your question about your marathon running program.

    Well, it looks like you are making very good improvements in all of your distances. Now you want to go from 5:18 to 4:45 or faster. Making a half hour improvement in only three months' time is quite a bit, it will be a challenge, after all it would require you to run about 50 seconds faster per km, the whole marathon through.

    It should be within your ability, I think, but improvement does take time.

    In addition to that, you have just run a marathon which has got a major impact on your body. Ideally you would take it easy with your running for a few weeks.

    Having said that, after you have had some rest and are ready for full training again, there are some improvements you can make.

    Putting your times in the race conversion calculator provides an interesting picture:

    * Based on your 5k time you should be able to run a marathon within 4 hrs.

    * Based on your 10k time your predicted marathon time would be just below 4:10.

    * Based on your half marathon time your predicted marathon time is just over 4:10.

    These times are quite well aligned, well at least they are in the same ballpark. But you are running the marathon considerably slower at the moment because your training does not appear to be sufficient for a marathon.

    Looking at your schedule, I am a little confused about what happens in the weekend. Do you run Saturdays and Sundays as well? If not, then one of the elements I would change is start running on those days as well.

    If not at all possible, then I would remove a rest day and start running on at least one of the rest days, considering that Saturday and Sunday would be rest days already.

    Ideally you'd be running four days a week at least.

    Regardless of whether you run on Saturdays + Sundays, I am not sure if, at this point in time, your current speed sessions will help you to much faster times. There are two reasons:

    1) Ideally, marathon speed training is more geared towards longer distances, e.g. mile repeats, not 100m-400m repeats.

    2) For a marathon you need to be able to cover distances first and foremost. I would much rather see you focus on increasing the time spent running, than on speed sessions. When trying to increase the time you run, please check out my page about increasing mileage safely.

    Also consider a run/walk as alternative for the traditional long distance run. I'd recommend 70% of running, 30% of walking which still provides you with the training benefits of a long run, but leaves you less exhausted.

    Given the results of the race conversion calculator I would focus much of my marathon training on building your base.

    It takes a long time to build a base and during that time you will continue to see the improvements from doing base running alone.

    As a last piece of advice, in case your April attempt to go sub-4:45 does not work out, I would recommend focusing on the shorter distances first.

    Do some more solid base running and work towards faster times on the 5k/10k/half marathon first. Then when you have got some more training under your belt, try again for another marathon in 2012. The chances of a sensational improvement are much higher then.

    I hope this provides some food for thought. Wishing you all the best in the Rotterdam marathon.

    Kind regards,

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