Workout Spotlight, Part 1

Marathon Pace Work: The Squeeze

Thus begins a new feature which I hope to continue periodically on this blog. My plan is to feature a workout along with some thoughts on when to incorporate it and what is to be gained from that type of workout. First up we will spotlight a Marathon Pace Workout. Marathon pace workouts are the bread and butter of marathon training and as such they should not only be a frequent part of your training cycle but also a primary focus in your week.

These workouts should also evolve as the training cycle progresses such that as race day approaches, they become as close a mimic of race day challenges and scenarios as possible. Obviously you won’t be running 26 miles at goal pace in training, in fact you won’t typically run 26 miles at any pace in a marathon training cycle, so a Marathon Pace Workout has to prepare you in other ways.

One way to maximize and capitalize on your Marathon Pace Work is to ensure your weekly mileage volume is high enough that your legs are a bit fatigued. That doesn’t mean constant, consistently dead and run down legs throughout. However, if you’re running marathon workouts on fresh legs every week in training, you’re not doing yourself any favors in terms of race day preparation. It’s always good to run and train fast, that is a skill applicable to any race of any distance. But the trick of the marathon lies not in getting through the first 16-18 miles, it’s in holding your pace well past the halfway point when your legs are tired, you want to stop, and you’ve lost that easy pop and fast turnover.

The other way to utilize Marathon Pace Work to emulate late race stress is through pace changes. That is intentionally tiring your legs out by forcing them to run faster than goal marathon pace. This can be done in a variety of ways. One way is through what we call negative splitting. That is speeding up for the second half or at the end of your workout. This is challenging yourself to increase your turnover late when your natural inclination will be to slow down. But you can also utilize pace changes in the complete opposite way. By working with a positive splitting technique, you can make race pace feel easier. An example of that would be going out at half marathon or 10k pace first then settling into your goal marathon pace at the end. Personally I favor the first method because one of the primary mistakes of marathoning is going out too fast, and so as a rule I generally try to avoid practicing the positive split skill, but I do think there is a place for it. Canova Ks are one such workout that I often rely on and prescribe and it is based on running faster first then slower.

Now that I’ve outlined the function and goals of a Marathon Pace Workout, allow me to detail one specific version. I call this workout The Squeeze. The Squeeze uses lots of pace changes but in order for it to be a challenge similar to those later stages of the marathon, I recommend doing this workout in a high volume week, and because it is a rather beefy workout, you’ll want to deploy this in the later stages of your training cycle.

The basics:

  1. Easy Warmup – for me this is at least 2 miles because I need that amount of time to shake the stiffness out of my legs, but feel free to do less
  2. Three Sets of 3 Miles (9 Miles total) with 4-5 minutes standing rest between Sets
    • Mile 1: Comfortably Hard, RPE Level 8 – HMP
    • Mile 2: Take the Edge Off, RPE Level 7 – GMP
    • Mile 3: Hard, RPE Level 8 to 9 – try to match or be faster than Mile 1
      • Secondary Goal: Do not slowdown your average between sets and try to increase your speed slightly if you can. For example, RPE increases by 0.5 across the board OR roughly 5-10 seconds in pace
  3. Easy Cooldown – for me same as my warmup

Now let’s look at what transpired when I ran this today for the first time – you’ll see my garmin splits and detail pictured below. You’ll note I was not 100% successful in every facet but I am 100% proud of my effort regardless because I know this is good marathon training, even if I didn’t nail every pace.

If you want to try The Squeeze but a modified shorter version, you can easily keep it to 2 sets rather than 3. Most importantly if you do give it a try, let me know.

Happy Training!

Target Paces: HMP 6:30 / GMP 6:50

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