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Marathon Running: A Practical Overview (Part 2)

Neil running

This is part 2 of 3 of Dr. Feldman’s Marathon Training Practical Overview. Part 1 emphasized choosing a realistic goal, appropriate course and training intensity measurement. Click here to review. 


  1. Most all training plans call for building up your mileage week to week and throughout the training block for a marathon; typically, over 4-5 months.  The objective is to build a base level of fitness, then develop strength and endurance, perhaps speed and finally a 3-week taper to the day of the race.  Too many people run at either too consistent a pace for ALL their runs, or they run too fast too soon, aren’t fueling properly/at all or are doing unnecessary speed work.  Ideally, each training block will build on the next. I like to base training blocks on a 3-week build, 1-week recovery cycle.  The 1st 2 blocks should be specific to aerobic base level of fitness, i.e. easy running.  If you want to add in a 5k, and race it, at the end of each recovery week, that is a perfect time to test how well each block has worked. 

  2. If you are older (over 40) or coming off injury, space your longer runs 10 days apart rather than the typical 7-day plan. It does make for logistical challenges with work and family, but when the long runs start extending over 2 hours and approach 3+ hours, it allows your body greater recovery and lessens the risk of overload injuries (too much, too soon).

  3. Speaking of older, as well as experienced marathoners, speed work does not have to be performed on a track nor does it have to be done for long periods of time. With automobiles, there is an expression; “speed kills.”  In running, I say “speed hurts!” Your body can handle a certain pace for a certain period of time…and then it can’t.  You do NOT want to push past your body’s limits by unnecessarily running hard when the return for the efforts may not come.  Think risk vs. reward.  If you keep the faster running to training blocks closer to the race, and keep the efforts limited to the 5k races discussed above as well as short interval repeats of 1-3 minutes once or twice a week, that is often as effective as longer 800 meter and mile repeats that are so often a part of training plans for beginner and intermediate runners.  In my opinion, runners that aren’t close to BQ’s (Boston qualifying times) or looking to go faster than 4 hours aren’t likely helping themselves with speedwork. It can be fun however to run hard from time to time.  If you keep it short and make sure your body is feeling good and fully recovered from the longer efforts, they can be safe and effective.

  4. Run! Sounds silly but running most days is a really good way to stay fit for running. I’ve run marathons on as little as 90 miles total training, 3 day a week run plans and run plans that average 20 miles a week. While it can be done, there is usually a bit of suffering that goes into race day that needn’t happen.  I now try and supplement the “off days” with 10-15 minutes of easy running.  These “recovery” runs help my body recovery while still going through running motions.  My definition of a recovery run is one in which I go very easy (doesn’t mean slow, but the effort is very easy), keep my cadence to right around the same as marathon cadence (steps per minute) and feel better, looser and happier AFTER the run than I did before. 

  5. Strength train. As a former coach and mentor once told me, strength training is the glue that holds you together.  I believe that!  I also believe that we, as individuals, need individualized strength programs that are geared towards our needs.  Power lifting and running are not good matches.  The muscles you develop through lifting heavy weights impair running performance and require more fuel to feed the extra muscle, not to mention the additional load to the feet the extra weight muscle provides.  While body builders CAN be runners, one does not need to strength train like a body builder.  As little as 30 minutes, twice a week can be very effective in keeping your core, glutes and hamstrings doing what they need to do to help you train for the race without injury and improve performance.


That’s it for part 2. Next week, we will discuss other ways to get your body ready to race that don’t involve running! Have a wonderful week and as always, comment, post, share and ask any questions that come up. Happy running and Keep moving! Neil

Dr. Neil Feldman Dr. Neil Feldman is a Podiatrist at Central Massachusetts Podiatry, in Worcester and Westborough. As an ultramarathoner, runner and triathlete, he loves to help his patients remain consistent with their regular activities, assist in getting patients back to health and dedicates himself to patients achieving their goal events and races from walking the Camino de Santiago, to a first 5k run, to Ironman to a 250 mile run…and yes, that’s a thing!!

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