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Countdown to the London Marathon

Countdown to the London Marathon

Published April 05, 2018, Author Paul Larkins

Countdown to a world major – Virgin London Marathon

As race day looms ever nearer, runners of every standard be they world record holders looking to add a major race win to their portfolio or first timers hoping to finish are faced with the same dilemma. Just how much training should I do?

And while the numbers will be a little different for each and every individual, the process of fine-tuning those last six weeks before the biggest race of your year is exactly the same. 

“I always tell my athletes that the six weeks before a marathon are the most important six weeks of the training programme,” says national marathon coach Bud Baldaro, a man who has guided athletes to Olympic finals, Commonwealth medals and a host of stunning times.

Basically, it’s a time to realistically assess what you have done over the preceding two months, set yourself a definitive race day goal, start to think of race specific elements such as the shoes you are going to wear, your race socks and the energy gels you’ll use in finer details and above all to be confident with you what you’d done, be that 120 miles a week or 12. Because do you know what? While there’s not much time to get any stronger or faster, there’s more than enough to ruin any fitness you have accumulated!

As any good sports psychologist will tell you, this is the time to think about the positive things in your training and start to create a race plan accordingly. It’s about looking back and saying, ‘ok I have done three runs more than 10 miles, good; that means I need to really relax early on’, rather than ‘oh no, I haven’t done enough long runs, I need to do more and quickly!’ Sorry to tell you, it’s too late for that, rather than panic train in the last six weeks you need to work to your current strengths. In that way, you’ll really go well on race day.

Marathon running requires not only a consistent training background, it needs a good dose of commonsense. The best performances, be that a winning time of 2hr 05min or a finish under 4hrs come to those who look at their training and devise a race goal from what they see.

“When I won London,” says Eamonn Martin, the last Briton to do so back in 1993, “I was in fantastic short distance shape (Eamonn was the British record holder for 10,000m with 27min 23sec), but I knew I couldn’t just hare off in the early miles. It was a case of waiting and waiting and using my speed in the closing stages. My training in the weeks prior to the marathon told me that.”

Of course every runner is different; some will benefit from a fast half marathon in those last six weeks, while others will draw strength from a couple of very long runs, the key is to be realistic. “I didn’t do many really long runs because I had years and years of 20-milers behind me, so I knew I didn’t need to go mad and try and see if I could cover the race distance,” says Eamonn. “However, you may need a little confidence boost about six weeks out if you haven’t done any more than say 15 miles. If so, try a 22-miler but make sure you build in loads and loads of recovery time afterwards because it can take about a month to recover from something that long.”

So in a nutshell, think of the last six weeks like this: your job is done in terms of the endurance, you now need to work on the strength you have created. It’s not about doing loads more work, it’s about tinkering with what is essentially a finished engine. Less is most definitely more, oh and one other thing, get this right and you’ll have the race of your life!

 

London Marathon Training Schedule

Six weeks from your greatest race ever. Make sure you're eating, drinking and getting enough sleep - whatever your standard!

6 weeks to go 

Wear your race day shoes for a long run and also your race socks, shorts and running vest

Run your last hard race or last really long run

Experiment with the energy gels you want to use on race day - check out our Race Day hydration article.

5 weeks to go

Start to use race day drinks in your runs, practicing drinking on the move

Really start to think about your daily diet and how much carbohydrate you are taking in each day; increase it slowly

4 weeks to go

Run your last really hard workout

Start to come away from every run with the thought ‘was that it’?

3 weeks to go

Start to consciously drink more energy-type drinks during the day

Think seriously about race pace and discover exactly how that feels in a workout

Really think about any tight muscles you have and get them sorted by a masseur if necessary

2 weeks to go

Get together old warm kit to stand about in before the race that you won’t mind throwing away on the start line

If any doubt with a run, miss it

1 week to go

Don’t be worried if you feel sluggish; that’s a natural reaction

Pack your kit bag a few days beforehand and work to a list of essentials such as gels, old warm-up kit to throw away at the start, racing shoes, racing socks, racing singlet, dry tracksuit for afterwards and so on

 

The Schedules

Looking for a time?

This is the last six weeks for a runner who has consistently training three to five times a week for eight weeks, has at least four 90min runs in the bank and has raced once or twice in the build-up. 

 

Week 1

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: Warm up 10min, 3x8min at half marathon race pace with 2min rest, cool down 10min

Wednesday: Easy 30min

Thursday: Easy 45min

Friday: Rest

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: Race half marathon; cool down 3 or 4 miles to make it a good long day

 

Week 2

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: Rest

Wednesday: Rest 

Thursday: 45min easy run

Friday: 45min easy run

Saturday: 30min, running the last 10min at marathon race pace

Sunday: Last really long run up to 2hrs

 

Week 3

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: Rest

Wednesday: Fast run; warm up 20min, run 20min at marathon pace, cool down 20min

Thursday: 45min-1hr easy run

Friday: Rest

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: Long run of around 90min

 

Week 4

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: Warm up 10min, run 15min, take 2min rest then 4x1min with 1min rest, then 15min hard, cool down 10min

Wednesday: 30min very easy run

Thursday: 30min run

Friday: Rest

Saturday: Easy 45min run

Sunday: Long run of around 90min

 

Week 5

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: Warm up 10min, 3x3min at half marathon pace with 1min rest, cool down 10min

Wednesday: 45min easy run

Thursday: 45min easy run

Friday: Rest

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: Long run of around an hour; very easy for first 45min, but if you feel relaxed, pick it up to race pace for the last 10min or so

 

Week 6

Monday: Easy 20min jog

Tuesday: Warm up 5min, run 3x1min at marathon pace, cool down 5min

Wednesday: Rest

Thursday: Rest

Friday: Rest or jog 2 miles very, very slowly

Saturday: Rest or jog 2 miles very, very slowly

Sunday: Race Day

 

Just getting around

This is the last six weeks for a runner who has put together eight reasonable weeks with perhaps three runs a week, building up to two or three longer runs of around 90min. Maybe you’ve missed a bit, but there’s a reasonable level of fitness!

 

Week 1

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: Warm up 5min, run 20min at a sustained pace, cool down 5min

Wednesday: 30min easy run

Thursday: Rest

Friday: Rest

Saturday: 30min easy run

Sunday: Long run up to 2hr 30min

 

Week 2

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: Rest

Wednesday: Rest

Thursday: 30min easy run

Friday: Rest

Saturday: 20min easy run

Sunday: Long run up to 2hr

 

Week 3

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: Warm up 5min, run 20min at a sustained pace, cool down 5min

Wednesday: Rest

Thursday: 45min easy run

Friday: Rest

Saturday: 30min easy run

Sunday: Long run up to 90min

 

Week 4

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: 45min run, slowly building up the pace for the last 10min

Wednesday: Rest

Thursday: 30min easy run

Friday: Rest

Saturday: 20min jog

Sunday: Long run up to 1hr

 

Week 5

Monday: 30min run

Tuesday: Rest

Wednesday: Rest

Thursday: 30min run

Friday: Rest

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: Very, very easy 45min run

 

Week 6

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: Jog 20min

Wednesday: Rest

Thursday: Rest

Friday: Jog 10min

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: Race Day

 

Key Exercises

It’s not uncommon for marathon runners to suffer from tight calf muscles. The good news is that if you feel a problem in your calf in these last six weeks, the chances are it’s because it is tightening as a reaction to all those miles on unforgiving surfaces such as road rather than a pull. A few simple exercises every day (and the correct running shoes with no more than three months or 600 miles wear) will help ward off this tightness enormously.

  1. Stand on a step so that your heel hangs over the edge and simply lower your heel down to stretch out the calf muscle.
  2. Standing up, push into a wall that is about a metre away (similar to a push-up but standing), keeping your legs straight. This will work your calf muscle.
  3. Repeat 2 but bend your knees to work a slightly different set of muscles.
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