‘The answer is always yes because that’s what we’ve trained for…When it’s time to say yes, hopefully that’s enough to put myself in it to where we’re going down Boylston & I’m going for something’ — Kellyn Taylor.
I have this quote pinned to the top of my Twitter feed because it’s something that always comes to mind at the end of races.
In that last mile in London I knew I had to keep saying yes, I had to keep pushing so when I turned that final corner there was nothing more to give. I knew in that final mile that my original goal was gone, it wasn’t going to happen. I’d already missed the splits and I was dead on my feet. To risk being dramatic, I think my soul left my body at mile 22 along with my hip flexors! But I still knew that last mile was special. In the last mile of any race your senses come back to you, that feeling of occasion and achievement starts to kick in and even if it’s not going quite how you envisaged you still want to give every last ounce in your quest to reach the finish line.
So how do you train your body to keep saying yes? You have to practice it — you have to take your body and mind through that final mile so come race day you can hit it. Most of my long runs act as sessions, (or workouts for you guys across the pond!) run with a specific focus on the second half being strong and as close to, or faster than, marathon pace to try and train my body to remain strong at the business end come race day. However, marathon training isn’t all about that long run — you need pace in your locker. The faster you are over the shorter stuff the more comfortable you will feel at race pace. This session is focused on getting faster on tired legs. You deplete the system early on with some sustained running and then you go hard but with control. It’s about tuning in and cranking up the gears; saying «yes!» when your legs are tired.
3 miles @ half marathon race pace,
2 miles @ 10-15 seconds per mile faster than half marathon race pace,
3x1mile hard — building speed with each one. The last one should be the fastest.
Recovery is a 2-minute slow jog between each effort.
How to do it:
Find a flat loop (trail or road) of at least 2-3 miles. Jog really easy for 5-10 minutes (you don’t need much warm-up for this session as the first effort is gradual and the total volume is quite large especially if you’re training for a half marathon). Once you’ve done that stop, go to the loo (if you’re like me and running seems to wake your bladder up about halfway through the first mile of EVERY run!), stretch and then get ready to roll!
The first effort (3 miles) is at HM race pace, so work your way into that pace over the first mile and then settle, be consistent, be relaxed and don’t get too excited. Just focus on feeling strong at race pace. This is not the rep to overcook it and see what’s in the tank. Trust me. Hold back. You need to feel how you want to feel early in the race.
2-minute easy jog and I mean easy. Marathon shuffle.
The second effort (2 miles) is slightly faster than race pace between 10-15 seconds per mile — no more! Keep it relaxed and strong; As my coach says before a marathon «you want to get bored before you get tired».
2-minute easy jog like before.
Now… the business end of the session. 3 x 1mile. The key here is not to do the first one so hard you start praying or wishing you’d never started. It’s controlled pain (Sort of). Start 5 seconds per mile faster than the pace you had for the 2-mile effort. Then work your way down from there aiming to run a few seconds faster each one. The last one should be the fastest and you shouldn’t want to do another one after it but could if your life depended on it or someone was paying you in cake. You want to finish the session knowing you said «Yes» when it hurt and when it mattered.
One last mile. Make it the best!
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