Did I Screw Up My Marathon Training?

As someone who absolutely hates using marathon training plans, I’m pretty willy nilly when it comes to my running schedule while preparing for a race.

I know I need to get in a certain amount of miles per week, and that I need to do some regular long runs to get ready for a marathon. I’ve also learned from experience that I HAVE to get in a run of at least 22 miles prior to running my race. I’m not at all sure how people can be ready for a full 26.2 miles when the longest you’ve run to date is only 20 miles?!?!

Oh, it’s because your training plan said to only do a 20 miler. Have fun on race day, bud.

(For the record, I’ve heard many people that are much faster than I am say that when all things are considered, the half way point of a marathon is 20 miles. After doing 3 marathons, an admittedly small sample size, I tend to agree.)

Now that I just word vomited all over your marathon training plan, let me get back on topic.

Sorry about the detour folks.


Image by J Horsfjord via Flickr

Last weekend, I took a break from my long run routine to run in the Aching Quad series of races hosted by the Lakeland Runners Club. The series consisted of 4 races in 24 hours, and I ended up running over 17 miles in that 24 hour window, after including race mileage plus warm ups/cool downs.

So, in actuality, it was almost the same distance as a long run, I just spread it out over 4 smaller runs instead of one big run.

But was there a benefit to running the Aching Quad in terms of my marathon training? Or, heaven forbid, could racing have hampered my training?

Two things to consider before passing judgment–

  • I’ve gone over 20 miles on a single day (two runs due to poor scheduling), as well as long runs of 16.25 miles and 14.75 miles in the last 3 weeks.
  • I still had 6 weeks left until my race.

I’ve had a few people question why I would enter a race series so close to the date of the marathon, and especially such short races where my pace was predictably much faster than my marathon pace.

I understand, to a point, their concern.

But I wasn’t running the Aching Quad to make myself stronger/faster specifically for the marathon. I ran it as a speed workout and a change of pace while in the middle of marathon training.

And I think there were some legitimate benefits to running these races.

  • Speed Training

Speed work for marathon training serves a different purpose than speed work for 5k training. When you’re training for a 5k, you’re really focusing on improving your VO2 max. In marathon training, you’re really not trying to approach your VO2 max number as much as you’re looking to improve your aerobic capacity.

So my “speed workout” of running the Aching Quad was really more like a series of tempo runs over the course of 24 hours.

Speed training also makes runners stronger, which is a benefit no matter the length of the race. Again, I wasn’t running any of the races “all out”, but I was pushing a lot harder than I would have been just doing a training run. So I’m confident my level of cardiovascular fitness did improve.

  • Cumulative Fatigue

There is one marathon training plan that I am admittedly intrigued by and that I could actually see myself trying in the future. It is the Hanson Method, and what makes it different from almost every other marathon training plan out there is that it focuses on the principle of cumulative fatigue instead of building up endurance by running long on a semi-regular basis.

While I haven’t studied the training ins and outs in detail, from the limited information I have seen about it, cumulative fatigue focuses on running your hard workouts when your legs are still somewhat fatigued from your workout the day before. In it’s simplest terms, this means that you don’t have to run as far (say 20+ miles) for your long runs, because you are pushing tired legs harder for shorter distances.

LIke I said, I’m not following this method right now, and I’m not an expert on it, but the Aching Quad series is an absolutely perfect example of cumulative fatigue training. I ran twice on Thursday before the series started, so my legs were not fresh from the start. And then with the 3 races on Saturday, I was continually pushing on legs that didn’t want to be pushed. I think (hope?) that this will make me stronger long term.

At least it sounds good.

  • Something Different

If nothing else, the Aching Quad was just a chance to break up the schedule of regularly running longer every weekend in preparation for the race. Part of training for a marathon is dealing with the mental fatigue that sets in, and breaking it up with a competitive and fun race event was a great refresher for me mentally.


Image by Daikreig el Jevi via Flickr

Not everyone may agree with breaking up their marathon training to run in a race series, but I feel like it was the right choice for me.

Training for running a marathon is a huge undertaking, and it can get monotonous if you let it. But by breaking up your training by running shorter races or going willy nilly with your training can help to alleviate some of that monotony.

Who knows how the effects of running the races will effect me long term, but as for now I think it was good for me. I’ll find out for sure on October 27th.

Stay tuned…

Do You Think I’m Crazy for Deciding to Run the Aching Quad in the Home Stretch of My Marathon Training?

Have You Ever Flown in the Face of Convention While Training for a Race?

2 replies
  1. Bill
    Bill says:

    I know this is an older post, but I’m curious how you look at this situation now. The race is over and the healing is done. Would you do the same thing again or do you think it hurt you in some way? I have two marathons and 8 halfs on my calendar, plus a handful of 5k-10 milers and I have just made my training calendar to fit around these races. Yeah, I’m kinda new to this and I don’t know what I don’t know, but I have goals (Dopey, among others) so I keep some spacing between races. If you think the Aching Quad hurt you in the long run then I may need to re-think.

    • Denny
      Denny says:

      I loved doing the Aching Quad, and might run it again this year.

      As for your question, I don’t think it hurt me at all. Though to be clear, the timing was right for me. I had 6 weeks from the AQ to my marathon, so I was still in the window where hard workouts were advised. And according to most plans (that I still refuse to follow) 6 weeks out you should be getting into 18-20 mile territory. Knowing the time frame, I had touched some longer distances before the race, ran a 22 miler the week after, and then started tapering for the race (might have tapered a little too much!). As for the race, it was a small PR, but a PR none the less. I faded hard on the last 10k, but I don’t attribute that to the AQ at all.

      I think for the Dopey especially, you just need to make sure you’re getting in plenty of miles and maybe something like the AQ would be good for you, since you’d be running multiple races in a shorter window, though 2 5ks, a 1 miler and a 2 miler are hardly the same as the Dopey!


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *