So maybe you’ve been considering making the switch from marathons to triathlons. One of the things to consider with this switch is whether this change will have an effect on your running times. Doing a side-by-side comparison of the top 20 male runners in the 2014 New York Marathon and the top 20 male triathletes in the 2014 Ironman World Championships , you will see that the in most cases, the top triathletes’ run splits are nearing the three-hour mark. The top marathoners are barely over 2 hours.
Don’t let the difference in run times alarm you. This is because the triathlete competing in the Ironman competition is running a marathon after swimming 2.4 miles in rough water and cycling 112 miles. With your current training regimen, could you do that and still make your best marathon time? Both athletes require a strong physique, strong endurance and speed. However, the triathlete needs to have even more.
Think training for a marathon is tough?
While a marathon runner will primarily focus on building their core and lower body strength to prepare them for races, a triathlete needs to concentrate on building up their entire body. A triathlete in training for the Ironman may spend between 18 to over 30 hours training each week, seven months prior to the big race. The average training distance they may put in weekly could be seven miles swimming, 232 miles cycling and 48 miles running.
Besides the additional training, the nutritional needs of a triathlete can be greater than that of a marathon runner; therefore, they need to eat more food and more often. This helps add to their endurance because their body has more fuel to fall back on. When it comes to swimming, the triathlete needs to have more body fat to assist with buoyancy and maintaining body temperature. This is contrast to most marathoners’ preference for a leaner body carrying less body fat.
Will cross-training make me a faster runner?
Okay, so maybe you don’t want to go all in and become an Ironman. You want to stick to running a marathon because swimming and biking are just not your thing. However, adopting some of the training techniques that a triathlete uses to build total body strength can benefit you. This will make you stronger and build endurance as you work muscles you wouldn’t normally use when you run. Adding triathlon training to your routine will make you a better athlete.
While you may run less when you add swimming and biking into the mix, you are building up your aerobic strength, which will really help you with running. The other benefit is that as you're gaining strength from these zero-impact activities, your body is taking less of a beating as you become less prone to injuries.
So take a tip from the triathlete training and improve your running speed and endurance. Remember, you don’t have to be a triathlete to workout like one, but you can still reap similar benefits.