You’re at week nine of your twelve-week training plan and everything feels hard. You’re physically tired, mentally burnt out and just can’t wait for race day to come around. But you’re also meant to be banking your biggest week of training. What gives? To overcome the week nine blues (yes, that’s a real thing!), I recommend planning a race of up to 38 kilometers/23 miles into your schedule as a marathon simulator. Here’s why:
1. Make it easy: After 9 weeks of demanding training, and in the week of your maximum training load, this session would be almost impossible if you had to do it alone. But signing up for an official race makes it much easier. A pace 10 seconds per mile slower than marathon pace feels really easy as soon as you turn “race mode” on and are surrounded by other runners. You’ll feel in full control and you’ll actually need to be aware to stick strictly to your pace.
2. Give it a test run: The beauty of running a race in training is that you can give your race day routine a dry run. You can use the official drinking stations provided at the race and test your fueling strategy and drinking skills in full speed for the big day. Better make mistakes now and not in three weeks when it really counts.
3. Find fast: And most importantly you’ll run fast, even faster than race pace despite being tired from all the training. That’s the secret for growing confidence. Heading into race day you won’t have to worry about blowing up because you’ll know you are capable of a negative split!
Here’s how to do it:
First you “warm up”. This can be anything from 12-17 kilometers/7-10 miles really relaxed. Aim for your regular long run pace or slightly slower. Then you have a break of about 10 minutes to change into race gear, put your race flats on, drink something, take a gel etc. The real workout starts now because you will be running a half marathon.
Run the first 15 kilometers/9 miles at 10 seconds per kilometer/15 seconds per mile slower than your marathon race pace and then finish strong increasing the pace until you’re running at your half marathon pace. Your overall finishing time will be just two minutes outside your half way marathon split and the progressive last 10 kilometers/6 miles will even be under race pace.
Here’s an example for someone aiming for a sub-3-hour marathon:
Kilometers: 15-17km at 5:00-4:50 per km + 10 min rest + half marathon (15k/4:25/km + 6km/4:20-05/km)
Miles: 9-10 miles at 7:50 — 8 minute per mile + 10 min rest + half marathon (9 miles/7:05 minute per mile + 4 miles/7 — 6:40 minute per mile)
I’ve had a handful of special last miles during my running career and they have all had one thing in common, they didn’t hurt despite the fact I ran a big personal best, or should I say because I ran a big personal best? Of course, I ran as fast as I could and gave everything to the line but whenever I was en route to something special I didn’t feel the pain. It might not really make sense, but it does tell me a lot. It tells me that running is not only about fitness level, it’s also about the mind. And the more I think about it, this part seems to play a bigger role than expected.
When I feel good in a race my subconscious mind sends the signal there is nothing to worry about to the rest of my body. Therefore my legs stay a little more relaxed, the motion is a little more fluent and efficient, I’m confident and I get even more euphoric because I’m running much faster than expected. I should feel tired, but I can still kick the last 400 meters: call that the ‘runner’s high’. On the other hand in bad races, I have negative thoughts that actually slow me down, and make it seem a lot harder than it really is! I try to use this knowledge to keep positive even when things aren’t going as planned because as the great Kipchoge said, “If you want to break through, your mind should be able to control your body.”
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