It’s week 6 of training for the Berlin marathon, and things are looking up. That is, the temperature and my weekly mileage at least. I’m up to 52 miles for the week. In this week’s marathon training update, I’ll fill you in on what goes into all 52 miles of a typical marathon training week and how I stay fueled for the longer runs.
Here’s last week’s marathon training update in case you missed it!
Let’s breakdown a typical marathon training week
There are dozens of training methodologies out there, and there’s certainly no magic bullet training regimen for everyone. I’ve tried plenty of different strategies. From low-mileage to high-mileage training (hello, injury), doing 1, 2 or 3 workouts a week, taking rest days, skipping rest days, cross training more than running, the list goes on.
As of now, at week 6 of marathon training under my coach’s guidelines, I’m glad to take an approach that builds weekly mileage slowly but surely. This approach also focuses on one faster track session a week and one long run, often with faster pick-ups in it. I’m also doing a day of cross training and one day off every week. While the day off can include yoga or light swimming, it doesn’t have to. This approach to marathon training is both reassuring, as I can see my fitness improving in my times on the track, and freeing in that I have flexibility to listen to my body and take rest without feeling guilty about missing a day of running.
The track session
Of the two more “serious” training days each week (every day is important, of course, rest days included), the track workout is the most taxing, but also the most interesting. These days usually add up to 12 to 13 miles at this point in my marathon training cycle. The miles fly by because they include intervals of all different speeds. I’m a morning runner, and I like to get these track days in especially early because the track can turn into a giant red frying pan within just a few hours of sunrise.
On a typical track day, I warm up by running over to one of the two tracks near-ish my apartment in Boston. I either head to the MIT or Harvard track, and by the time I arrive I’m plenty warm and ready to go. This, along with the cooldown back home, also helps break up the total miles of the day.
This week’s track workout turned out to be the longest of the cycle so far. It may even be the longest track session I’ve ever done! It added up to over 5.5 miles on the track, broken into a ladder of 1 km, 2 km, 3 km, 2 km, and 1 km. Even though I ran distance in college, competing in my fair share of 5ks and even a few 10k track races, it’s certainly been a while since I completed 7.5 consecutive laps on a track…
One of the great things about marathon training, especially when you have a background of racing shorter distances, is that paces feel a lot slower than, say, fighting for fast 400’s to train for the mile. Marathon training laps, though slower than the speedy intervals I went after in college, are still mentally draining simply because of their volume. Track workouts like today’s are great not only for building physical endurance, but mental strength as well.
The long run
After the mid-week track session, the weekend long run is the second high-intensity day of marathon training each week. At week 6 of marathon training, I’m up to an 18 miles long run with several faster pick-ups in the middle. As you might imagine, these days are great for simulating race day. As my long runs lengthen, it’s important to stay fueled to avoid hitting the dreaded wall.
There are many different options when it comes to mid-run fueling. From gels to drinks to gummies to straight-up candy, the goal is essentially to consume simple carbohydrates. Your body digests these sugars quickly and turns them into energy for your fatiguing muscles. I’m not super picky when it comes to what I’ll consume to fuel during my long runs. I often have a store at home of free gels and gus I’ve grabbed from previous races. However, I’m not a huge fan of actually chewing while running. I avoid gummies and candy, preferring the smoother gels, which actually taste pretty good.
The best gel I’ve found comes from Huma. They make gels from natural ingredients like chia seeds. A lot of other gel options contain synthetic compounds. I’ve found Huma gels taste great, digest easily and prevent the feared “bonk”. They can be a little runnier than other gels, however, which can get sticky if they spill.
I take one gel to fuel during long runs under 20 miles, and might do two if I go over 20. During a marathon, I’ll probably take 4 gels to keep me fueled at a constant rate throughout the race. It’s best to train with less fuel than you’ll race with to prepare your body for carb depletion while maintaining endurance. It’s also definitely a good idea, as with everything, to not try any new gels on race day. They can affect everyone differently, so get to know your gels before you pack them for the marathon!
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