Marathon Focused On Speed And Tobacco Road Marathon Sub Four


I want to get faster, I want better racing times and I want to lower my Personal Records (PRs).

To get there, I have to do something different. I have to run faster, I have to train harder and I have to follow a plan.  For the most part I’m a good runner. I run rain or shine, when my plan calls for me to run.  I run the number of miles my plan lays out for me to run. I’m bad at running the type of run my training requires me to run. I tend to run by feel, I don’t run at a certain training pace, I don’t run speed work and I do not do intervals. I train to get faster by bulk miles. For a while that worked. When I began to seriously train for ultra races my mileage increased and my race times decreased. During this ramp up I had a 12 month span where all of my race times went down to a point that I was setting PRs every time I toed the starting line. Since that first year of serious ultra-training my race times have plateaued. I can and do run longer, but I have not gotten any faster. Something has to change…I have to run faster.

In 2016 I want to increase my training pace and I want to run another sub four hour marathon at the Tobacco Road Marathon in Cary, NC.  In the 15+ years I’ve been running, I’ve only run one sub four hour marathon.  I’ve ran 15 marathons with finishing times all around that benchmark, but only once, at the Niagara Falls Marathon in 2013 did I cross the finish line in under four hours.  I want to once again break that marathon barrier, and truth be told I want all of my future marathons to be sub four or better.

How to I do this? I have to have a plan and have to be a faster and smarter racer…

niagarafalls1(At 3:56:57 dang I was happy with my first sub four)

My plan is to run faster…with Fartleks/Intervals, Tempo Runs, and some Yassos 800s.

Runnersworld.com has an excellent write up  on the true definition of each workout, I will be adding my own personal spin on each one of these for my “Ultra Speed” sessions.

Fartleks - Unlike tempo and interval work, fartlek is unstructured and alternates moderate-to-hard efforts with easy throughout. After a warmup, you play with speed by running at faster efforts for short periods of time (to that tree, to the sign etc.) followed by easy-effort running to recover. My Fartleks/Interval will be a little longer than the next tree or next sign. I call these longer version of speed play my “Ultra-Fartleks. My Ultra-fartleks will be part of an overall 6.5 mile training run along a 2.5 mile loop. The first 2.5 miles will be a warm up period, followed by a .50 mile pick-up session, with a .50 mile recovery then three sessions with a .30 mile pick up/.30 recovery. This will complete the second lap of my running loop (5 total miles) whereas I’ll have one more .50 pick-up/recovery session and a .30 pick-up/recovery in between to close out the 6.5 total workout. Although I’m shooting for a pace roughly 30 seconds or faster than my race pace, I view my effort in percentage of my red line. Here I want to be giving 70 to 80% of my max effort.  I plan to do this for three weeks comparing my times and then run a 5 mile time-trial on the fourth week to gauge my status.

speedworkweek3(A look at my first three weeks)

What does Fartlek mean? “speed play” in Swedish, is a training method that blends continuous training with interval training.

fort lee speed track(My Speed Work Out Loop)

Tempo Run AKA my Time-Trails – Runners World defines this type of workout as an Oreo cookie, with the warmup and cool down as the cookie, and a run at an effort at or slightly above your anaerobic threshold (the place where your body shifts to using more glycogen for energy) as the filling. This is the effort level just outside your comfort zone—you can hear your breathing, but you’re not gasping for air. My Ultra Time-Trail runs will be a bit harder. I plan to run 5 miles as hard as I can, not sprinters max effort , but 80-90% of what I’ve got to gauge if I’ve improved my long haul speed with my fartlek sessions.  I ran this type of speed test before and saw great improvements during the train up for my first marathon.  Even if they don’t help my overall fitness, they sure help my confidence.

I’ll run my 5 mile Time Trail over the above loop running a half mile warm up and 5 miles over two laps.

Yasso 800s – Running guru Bart Yasso came up with the training idea If I can get my 800s down to 2 minutes 50 seconds, I’m in 2:50 marathon shape. If I can get down to 2:40 (minuses), I can run a 2:40 marathon. “Want to run a 3:30 marathon? Then train to run a bunch of 800s in 3:30 each. Between the 800s, jog for the same number of minutes it took you to run your repeats.” Bart begins running his Yasso 800s a couple of months before his goal marathon. The first week he does four. On subsequent weeks, he adds one more lap until he reaches 10. The last workout of Yasso 800s should be completed at least 10 days before your marathon, and 14 to 17 days would probably be better. In the full disclosure I’ll admit I have never run a Yasso 800 and will have a hard time working this into my training schedule but I’m going to try. Access to a measured track will be my biggest challenge. I see the reasoning behind the workout and plan to train to get my 800 times below my marathon goal to help me reach my mark…with the idea of ”training harder than your goal pace.”

My present training schedule looks like this.

Monday – Medium run 6 – 10 miles at an easy/recovery pace

Tuesday – Short run 6 miles at easy pace

Wednesday – Speed work/Time trail

Thursday – Short run 6 miles at easy to slow pace

Friday – Normally off

Saturday – Medium run 6 – 10 miles at an medium to easy pace (Yasso days???)

Sunday – Long run 13 miles and 20+ every second week at long slow pace.

These workouts will get adjusted as race dates and physical conditions warrant. I’m not saying this is the best workout plan, but this is one I feel I can live with, will keep me focused and one that will improve my overall performance. The proof will be when I run the Tobacco Road Marathon on 13 March 2016.

Need a spring marathon, come run Tobacco Road Marathon with me, use my code burkblog to receive an discounted entry.