Whether you’re training for your first marathon or just want to pick up a new, studied approach to training for a big race, there’s always room to improve your training regimen.

In our Marathon Training 101 post, we covered the first two of seven phases of training: offseason building and endurance. Now that we’re into March, you may have moved into the next phase of your training. In this post, we’ll cover phases 3, 4, and 5: strength and speed, race preparation, and taper.

3. Strength/Speed Phase

The third phase, taking place in February and March for people running the Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon in May, is about building aerobic capacity. In this phase, you should put a focus on cross-training and strength training.

In order to build strength, consider adding hill workouts. In these workouts, you incorporate uphill segments at a faster pace during a 45-to-75-minute easy run.

To increase your speed, begin to add tempo and fartlek runs into your training schedule. A fartlek run is a 45-to-75-minute easy run with fast segments intermixed. Similarly, a tempo run is a fast-paced workout where you increase your speed to run faster than your goal race pace. We suggest doing a 45-to-90-minute easy run and intermixing 15 to 45 minutes of tempo running.

4. Race Preparation Phase

Toward the end of March and moving into April, you will be moving into the fourth phase of marathon training. The focus during this phase is to meet your goal pace. To do this, you should run a portion of your runs at goal pace. For example, marathon runners should run eight to 14 miles of their long runs at their goal pace.

Marathon runners can also incorporate a tune-up race into their training schedule. Tune-up races are races you enter for the purpose of having fun with your long run and practicing your race-day routine. Full marathon runners should plan to incorporate a half marathon tune-up race and aim to run the first 10 miles at their goal pace and then speed up for the final 3.1 miles.

5. Taper Phase

The taper phase of your training is one of the most important phases as you approach race day. During this phase, you’ll begin to reduce your weekly mileage and distance of long runs. Starting three weeks out, reduce weekly mileage by about 25% from the highest mileage you’ve run. At two weeks, reduce mileage by 40%, and finally, on the week of the race reduce mileage by 60%.

While you should reduce your mileage to allow your body to be rested for race day, it is important to maintain intensity during these runs. During your final week, incorporate dress rehearsal runs where you do a 15-minute warm-up, followed by a 20-minute run at your goal race day pace, and finishing with a 15-minute cool-down run.

Also, remember that no workout during your final week of training will improve your race-day preparedness. Listen to your body and structure your runs based on how you’re feeling.

While continuing to train for the Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon, remember there are other aspects of training to focus on, including:

The marathon experts at UPMC Sports Medicine are available to answer questions you may have during training. To ask a question of our experts, call 1-855-937-7678 to set up an appointment.

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