As many of you prep for your final few workouts before a fall 1/2 or Full Marathon, Runner’s High Owner Craig Segal sits down and gives you some of his favorite workouts prior to the big day. Consider using some of these workouts before you toe the line this fall:
Workout #1: The Simulator – This is a workout that I have done routinely in my marathon build ups for the last 8 years, and it is a staple for those athletes competing for the Brooks sponsored Hanson’s Distance Project. While most people like to use a half marathon at marathon goal pace to prep for a full marathon – I still think this is a great idea – I prefer to go a little bit longer than 13.1 and add on an additional 3 miles to round out the workout at 16-miles. If you choose, find a local 1/2 marathon to get in your first 13.1 and then head out and finish up till you hit 16 miles. I generally try to do this workout about 6 weeks out from race day.
What this accomplishes: So why “The Simulator”? Well, the concept behind the workout is to simulate race-day as close as possible. I prefer to do this workout on a looped course allowing me to test out my nutrition routine – bringing plenty of bottled waters and energy gel. Locally, I’ve carved out a 2.4 mile loop at Thompson Park in Lincroft as you can see below – this equates to just under 7 full loops. Now some of you might say this is boring. Well guess what? The marathon is boring, so get used to it!!
The idea behind 16 and not 13.1? Simply put, running marathon pace for a half marathon should be easy. If it isn’t, then we are in trouble. Extending the effort a little bit longer makes it a hair more difficult. That being said, capping the workout at 16-miles still prevents the long term damaging effects that could result from a longer 18-20+ mile effort. Remember the goal is to allow your body to recover from this workout and get you to the line healthy.
Workout #2: Quarters, Quarters and More Quarters – These sets of workouts I like specifically for the half marathon distance – not so much for the full. While we are focusing on running long distances, let us also not neglect our other ‘systems’ while we build up to 13.1.
In an ideal world, I like to progressively build up the number of 400m repeats I do in three sessions over the course of six weeks – basically doing quarters every other week for six weeks. The first session includes 16 repeats, the next 20, and the last 24.
For each session I break it down into sets of 4 intervals with just about equal rest in between the intervals, and double the rest after each set. Have I lost you yet? Take this as an example…
1) 400m- 70 seconds
Rest – 75 seconds
2) 400m – 70 seconds
Rest – 75 seconds
3) 400m – 70 seconds
Rest – 75 seconds
4) 400m – 70 seconds
Rest 2 minutes 30 seconds
So for example, if you are doing your 400s in 90-seconds per interval, your rest would be just about 90 seconds after each repeat, and then 3-minutes after each of the sets. Each time you perform this workout, extend the number of sets you do by 1, adding an additional 4 intervals per workout.
What this accomplishes: I can sum up what half marathon pace should feel like pretty simply…it is a comfortably uncomfortable pace. It isn’t rocket science. This is what this type of workout teaches you. Quarter mile repeats are not long, however the pace gets you to the point of feeling uncomfortable, which is something you will need to deal with when racing 13.1 miles. Additionally, getting accustomed to a pace faster than your 1/2 goal will allow ‘race pace’ to feel that much easier come race day.
Workout #3: The Fast Finish Long Run – We all know how important the long run is throughout the build up, especially for those running the full marathon distance. A key workout that I like to do throughout the marathon build up is a fast finish long run. The key here for starters is to ask yourself this – “is the goal of the marathon to average a faster pace than I do my every day runs at?”, or is it to simply finish 26.2 miles? If the goal of the marathon is to average faster than your every day pace and long run pace, this workout is for you.
What I like to do begin my long run at a comfortable, conversational pace for the first 2/3 of the run, and then progressively pick up the pace over the last 1/3 until I am at marathon goal pace for the last 3-4 miles. For example, if your long run is 21 miles, the first 14 should be slower and comfortable. Use the next 3-4 miles to progressively approach your marathon goal pace. For the last 3-4 miles, you should be at marathon goal pace.
What this accomplishes: While we can’t go out and run marathon pace all day, every day (as much as we would love to) this type of workout allows you to run a faster pace late into a run. You have to get comfortable running marathon pace with 18, 19, 20, 21 + miles in your legs. This workout allows you to do just that.
These are just a few of the workouts that I’ve had success with in the past. That being said, some might work for you and some might not. Give some of these a test, but also keep in mind – timing is everything. I challenge you to find your own workout routine that will allow you to see success come race day!!
Craig Segal, Co-Owner of Runner’s High-Freehold has been running since his days as a youth navigating the trails at Holmdel Park. He competed at the prep level at Holmdel High School and moved on to run for Villanova University before competing for Monmouth University as a graduate student. Since graduation, he can be found on the roads, racing anything from the 5k to the marathon. He holds a half marathon best of 1:08:20 and a marathon personal record of 2:25:09. Most recently he was the top New Jersey finisher at the 2015 Boston Marathon. He is admittedly a running shoe geek.