Marathon Panic Training

They say there is always something new to learn, and this past Sunday I learnt about a whole new type of marathon training during my local running club’s LSD – PANIC TRAINING!

This type of training is very popular in the final few weeks before race day amongst runners who have entered a marathon, but haven’t actually trained for a marathon…yet. While this training modality does a lot to ease marathon fears, it will unfortunately do only a little to make you better prepared and in fact could leave you worse prepared.

Here are some important factors to take into consideration: 

- It takes 48 - 72 hours to adequately recover from a hard training run, and even longer for some sessions especially very long long runs which can sit in your legs for up to 2 weeks.

- It takes up to 10 days for the benefits of hard training sessions to kick in. 

- You need 12 weeks of consistent training to make significant shifts in your fitness. 

So, if you suddenly start piling on the training in the final few weeks, you will only be setting yourself up for landing at the bottom of the pit of fatigue. And possibly even injured or ill. This is entirely the opposite of where you want to be at the start line for a successful marathon, which is feeling fresh, full of energy, free of aches and pains, bouncy and hungry to run.

So what can you do?  If you have not been training at all, or if the last time you ran 20km or more was more than 3 months ago (or never!), then I recommend postponing to the following year. If you have have been running regularly, are okay running 20km, but just have missed out on those really long long runs (30km or 3 hour plus), or have been inconsistent with your weekend long runs then here are some non panic tips to help you: 

1. 4 and 3 Weeks before race day 
- Keep your training in the week the same except one of your runs. Take your longest midweek run and - slow the pace down and add 30 minutes in duration. Your pace must be slow enough that adding 30 minutes feels very doable, almost easy. I suggest running with a watch that is showing only time. You don't want to be going mental over pace and distance. You want to complete the extra duration.

- On the weekend, simulate the time you are expecting to spend on your feet during your marathon (be conservative, you have not trained remember!) over a 24 hour period.  This is not necessarily all running. One run will be a long run that is your most recent (14 days) longest run plus 10-15%. The rest can be made up with short runs and brisk walks or hikes. Very important - simulate time not distance. 

2. 2 weeks before race day
Return to your pre-marathon cram volume of training, but reduce each run by 10 minutes. 

3. 1 Week before race day
Run the same number of days you have been running all along-1, and only 50% of the duration you would normally run. 

4. Implement a run/walk strategy
While you might by aerobically fit enough to complete the marathon, your muscles and joints are not adequately conditioned to taking so many repetitive steps. You can get around this by breaking the run up into run/walk. A good strategy is to walk for 1 - 2 minutes approximately every 3 kilometers. This just changes your movement pattern up a bit changing the stress on your muscles and joints which will help you go longer. 

Finally - because you are increasing the stress on your body over a short period of time, it is very important that you get plenty of quality sleep, up the nutrition stakes and reduce all stressors as much as possible.

I hope this was helpful! 

Next marathon - sign up for our Trainsmart coaching package 12 to 18 weeks before race day to take the guesswork out of training and to have the backing and accountability of a professional coach.

Onwards and upwards!

Coach Kathleen

Professional running coach

Cape Town, South Africa