The hay is in the barn. It is October 28 and I just ran the last key workout for the Savannah Marathon. That leaves 10 days between today and race day. It takes a full 10 days to see the full benefit of any particular workout, so this is a logical stopping point. I will not get any faster. Through rest and easy running, however, I will keep my speed and increase my health. The little bumps and bruises, the sore parts, the cramps, strains and all of that, those things need time to heal. They need to be gone by race day. Fresh legs with no soreness but all of the speed I have earned through a thoughtful and hard-fought process of training. Yes, 10 days ought to do the trick.
Getting to This Point
Much of my summer was focused on track meets and developing raw speed. It was in mid-July that I first started sprinkling in some marathon-specific workouts. I still had a few track meets left as well as a half-iron distance triathlon, so I was not fully devoted to marathon until later. My long runs began to get longer and I sprinkled in some tempo runs here and there.
In August, my monthly mileage gradually went from somewhere in the twenties to somewhere in the thirties. Throughout September, I averaged 41 miles per week. Through experience, I have learned this is the sweet spot for my marathon training. I make the most progress at about 40-44 miles per week. Some people can handle a lot more. This is me. I have stayed right around there through the first 3 weeks of October, too.
My longest runs are every other week. At first I was measuring by miles, but after 16 miles I start measuring by time. My long runs went from two hours and twenty minutes, to two hours and forty minutes. I completed two 3-hour long runs. The Sundays between these very long runs were in the 10 to 12 mile range.
My training paces have changed over the months as well. In July and part of August, I was doing a lot of short (200 meters to 800 meters) intervals at 5:40 pace or faster. I gradually decreased time at those ridiculously fast paces while increasing time and distances at paces ranging from 6:30 to 6:50. These are the paces that I want to run during the marathon, so I have run a lot of mile repeats and tempo runs in this pace range. No, I do not plan to average 6:30 miles in the marathon. I would like to average in the 6:50 range. I have to plan for time to walk through water stations and take a potty break. Hence, I practiced 6:30’s and 6:40’s to aim for an average in the 6:50’s.
I have done races along the way, but I considered them all to be training runs for the marathon. I wanted to maintain two to three key workouts per week. That meant that I could not afford to rest up to really kill any races along the way. So, they were just training at a good pace.
The 10 Days of Taper
So here we are, 3.5 months after the first marathon-specific workout. The hay is in the barn. I will take it easy. All runs will be at 8:00 pace or slower except for a few strides now and then. This is enough effort to maintain my speed but easy enough to heal completely in 10 days. My scheduled miles for this week add up to 26. Next week, I will run 9 to 12 miles before race day on Saturday.
Not only am I going for a personal record (PR) at the Savannah Marathon, but it also the one year anniversary of our wedding. Muna and I got married on the way to the race last year. It will be a great day no matter how the race turns out. Gotta keep things in perspective.
“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”
— P. Mark Taylor
Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running: