Marathon running is a popular past-time favorite for many people and continues to increase in popularity. The fitness aspect of this form of exercise entices some people to try it. However, many runners simply get a thrill and sense of accomplishment from beating their personal best marathon times and competing with others.
If you are one of these people, then you should consider these proven tips and tricks that can aid in improving marathon times through speed training. Even if you are not an advanced runner, these hacks also pertain to novices or those just starting out.
1. Terrain selection
Having a flat terrain is the most ideal for speed training and marathon preparation. This eliminates issues for the body with maneuvering running speeds between intervals. This not only keeps your body protected, but it also promotes better training and recovery for the muscles.
2. Mile Repeats
Mile repeats are a favorite of many skills runners within the distance running community. This practice is performed by running one mile at your race pace, or faster, then recovering for the next mile. Frequently repeating this set will develop your endurance strength for running long distances without becoming excessively winded.
3. Speed and distance interval training
While you may be motivated to sprint the duration of your practice runs, it is important that you are developing muscle expenditures of energy equivalent to the distance that you will be running. If you are running a great distance, it is important that you utilize rapid and numerous intervals of running within one mile of training. Not only does this develop speed for distance runs, but it also develops endurance so that your body can withstand a long race such as a marathon.
4. Fartlek intervals
Fartlek is a Swedish term for high-speed running for only a designated distance then recovering, or jogging, until the next high speed interval. These are a great training practice for beginning runners to allow their body to acclimate to running high-speed intervals with associated periods of recovery.
5. Weekly tempo running
Tempo running is beneficial for long-term endurance training. You, as the runner, begin by running comfortably for one mile, speed up significantly to just under your racing pace for the next two miles, then cool down for the remaining mile. As you practice tempo running on a more regular basis, you will find that the intervals of various speeds can be easily adjusted to better suit your developing skill set.
6. Hill training
Sprinting up hills helps to build strength and endurance across a variety of terrains that you may encounter during race days. Quickly running up one side of the hill, jogging down the other side of the hill, then repeating this practice multiple times is the best way to utilize hill training for marathon preparation.
7. Yasso 800s
Named for a widely known and successful distance runner, Yasso 800s create distance endurance abilities, much like that of mile repeats. This practice is fairly simple. The runner runs quickly for 800 meters, recovers for the same amount of time that it took them to complete the 800 meter run, then repeat. As you become more skilled and Yasso 800s become easier for you to complete, increase the number of repeats that you are doing.
8. Choose a speed day
Do not speed train every day; designate one or two days a week for speed training. This will allow your body the rest it needs that is not only important in developing muscles, but it is critical to avoiding injury. Always include a day or days each week for a break from running to allow your muscles to recover from continued strenuous exercise.
9. Stretch and warm-up before each speed session
It is important that you stretch before and after each speed training method that you intend to use. Warm up runs also allow the heart the opportunity to ease into more rapid movements without the threat of damage to such a vital bodily organ. Stretching at the end of a run allows your heart to slowly decrease the pace at which it is pumping and gives your muscles added flexibility for additional development.
10. Focus on your form
One of the most important things to pay attention to while speed training is your form. You want your movements to be as smooth as possible to avoid wasting energy. You can teach your body to run faster by concentrating on your running, breathing and stride pattern.
Speed training prior to a long race, such as a marathon or half marathon will help keep your mind focused because you are generally focusing on a goal of a specific time to beat. Runners have reported that without speed training, they focus on the distance and become surprisingly winded when the end of their race is in close proximity.
Some runners will tell you that they focus on accomplishing distance before speed, having the appropriate strength and endurance needed for a big race is best developed with speed training. Regardless of your goals, be sure to set the bar high and always remember to enjoy yourself.