One of my favorite workouts to prepare my body to finish strong on race day is called ‘minutes’. I love it because it forces me to focus on the minute I’m in and I always go into it feeling positive. Unlike when I see long tempo runs or workouts with long repeats on my training schedule I don’t feel anxiety in the days leading up to the minutes workout. I know I’ll finish it and I can have an “off day” and still see it as a successful workout, meaning I’m mentally prepared on race day to still give it my all in the last mile even when I feel “it’s not my day.”
If you are new to running this workout is a great introduction to running fast while not feeling overwhelming. You don’t need to try to hit a target pace for each “on” repeat, though it’s fun analyzing the data afterward in Strava and seeing the paces naturally improve over the course of a training cycle. The success of the workout lies in learning how to run on effort and to push yourself when you want to slow down. I like setting up the workout in my Garmin GPS watch so that it automatically tells me when a minute is ending and the next one is starting, but you absolutely can do this workout just using a sports watch and hitting lap every minute. It’s one of those workouts that might not look fancy on paper but sometimes simple is best. Let’s go get it!
It can be any number of reps, I usually start a training cycle with 12 1-minute repeats and work my way up over the training cycle to 20 — 25 “on” minutes. The beauty of this workout is that you can also tack it onto a run depending on what you are training for.
How to do it:
Find a road, track or path and jog for 15 minutes to warm up before you get into the workout.
When you’re ready to go start alternating between 1 minute on and 1 minute off. The off minute is not a slow jog but more of an easy pace, slower than the fast minute, but still not whatever you would consider a slow pace. The fast minutes are fast but not so fast that you can’t complete the amount of repeats you need to run. This workout shouldn’t kill you, it’s not a race, it’s preparing you for race day!
Make sure to finish off with a 15-minute cool down however tired your legs feel!
In those last few miles of a marathon my mind, not my body, is the thing running me toward the finish line. After spectating the Boston Marathon in 2018 (which took place in brutally cold and wet conditions) I felt more convinced than ever that the key to success in the marathon lies not only in the training but in the preparation of the mind to handle all conditions, whether that be the weather or a physical feeling on race day. This spring, as I was preparing for the Abbott World Marathon Majors Tokyo Marathon I knew I needed to practice not giving in every time I stepped out the door, regardless of the weather conditions. That way my mind would be able to draw on that knowledge that I had in fact done this before — in rain or shine, on long runs and short runs — and that instead of slowing in the last miles, I would be able to push harder and finish strong.
I had made it no secret that day that I wanted to run a Boston Qualifying time. When I realized that I was going to miss that goal, I had two choices, give up and jog it in to the finish, or put the pedal on the gas and push as hard as I could till the bitter end. After fading off the pace a bit from miles 20 — 24 I made the choice to simply leave it all on the course. Mile 25 was 22 seconds faster than mile 24. Mile 26 was 4 seconds faster than mile 25 and my final sprint in to the finish was an average of 16 seconds per mile faster than mile 26. I may have missed my overall time goal but I gave it my all physically and emotionally, so instead of being upset with my result, I felt a huge sense of pride knowing that my last mile was one of my strongest.
I’ve run 41 marathons yet at the start line of every marathon a little voice in my head says — 26.2 miles is a very long way to run — how are you going to do this? When I give it my all in the last mile, no matter the time on my watch, or the time on the clock, that same voice whispers to me — YOU ARE STRONG & THIS IS HOW YOU DO THIS. In that moment I know that the last mile is becoming a victorious exclamation point on the end of each marathon story.
Follow Dorothy on Strava.
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