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Marathon Training: It’s About More Than Miles

The three types of training runs you need to be doing.

The 2013 ING New York City Marathon is 33 days away, and I’m finally getting in the zone. It’s about time. As I wrote in my last post, I had a late start. Like, an eight-weeks-into-a-16-week-training-plan kind of late start. But that’s behind me now, and I’m feeling more focused each day. One of the aspects of my training that’s really helping me stay on track is the diversity of the program. (Yeah, diversity. In marathon training. I was surprised too.)

(If you’re playing catch-up, I’m training with Team USA Endurance, the official New York City Marathon team of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) that was formed this year to help raise money to support the United States’ Olympic and Paralympic teams in the Sochi 2014 and Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games. If you want to help support Team USA—the USOC receives zero government funding—I’ve created a donation page here.)

The Art of Marathon Running>>>

I had always thought that marathon training was all about running miles and miles and miles, building up to a peak volume and then tapering off as race day approaches. Well, I had the tapering part right, but that’s about it. First off, it’s actually more about time than miles. Last week’s long run, for instance, required me to hit the road for 146 minutes. No mention of distance. I thought it was odd, but it starts to make sense when you think about it: Your legs have no idea what a mile looks like, but they know pretty damn well what an hour of exercise feels like (or in my case, two hours and 26 minutes). Then, when you introduce pace into the equation—and start increasing the duration of your runs—you begin to see that it’s all in order to get your body used to performing under varying levels of stress for increasing periods of time. The “varying levels of stress” part is important, because your body’s chemistry responds differently to certain demands (pace, duration, etc.), and by training all of these systems in the weeks leading up to your race, you’ll be better prepared when the big day arrives. The program that I’m following, developed by USOC trainers for Olympic marathoners, achieves this by rotating three different kinds of runs each week...

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