How To Extend Your Racing Season

If you're buned out from a hard running season, take a short break before resuming your training if you have other races planned. Photo: www.shutterstock.com

Table of Contents

Extending A Half-Marathon Season

While the half-marathon distance doesn’t strike fear into the hearts of runners like a marathon does, it’s still a long distance to race. Most runners underestimate the amount of recovery needed after a half-marathon and therefore struggle when trying to extend their season.

Make Sure You’re Fully Recovered
The extreme soreness that typically occurs after a full marathon is usually not present after a half-marathon, and thus it’s not uncommon for runners to feel back to “normal” after only a few days. However, while you may feel recovered, research on biological markers, such as DNA damage to leucocytes, creatinine kinase (CK) and muscle fibers, clearly shows that the body is still under repair.

RELATED: Rest, Recover And Run Injury-Free

Therefore, to prevent overtraining, don’t schedule your first hard workout post race for at least four to five days. Even then, this should be a lighter, easier workout designed to get the legs moving rather than an all-out effort. Taking the time to fully recover post race will ensure that you’re able to run hard, recover, and adapt to the few workouts you can squeeze in before your next race.

Race-specific work
With likely limited training sessions between your races, it’s important that your workouts be as race specific as possible. Don’t “waste” the few workouts you can squeeze in on 200 or 400 meter repeats. Instead, pick a few of these race specific workouts to maximize your training potential.

Maintaining A Marathon Peak

Offering generalized advice on how to maintain a peak for a marathon is a little complicated, since there are more variables to consider. Did you run hard, did you bonk (thus suggesting the race was very taxing), or are you a high mileage runner? These factors, among many others, will change exactly how you should approach your attempt to run a second marathon after the first. However, here are some helpful guidelines:

Running marathons a few weeks apart
If your second marathon is within three weeks of the first one, there is very little you can do to increase your fitness level. Instead, you should primarily focus on recovery and getting your legs as fresh as possible.

In the first few days, you want to get your legs moving to help bring fresh blood and nutrients to your damaged muscles. Sitting around and resting will only make you stiff and sore. After three or four days, your legs should start to feel more normal. At this point, you should ease back into normal running mileage.

RELATED: Marathon Recovery Time

Chuck Engle, who has won 148 marathons and is the only person to ever win 50 marathons in 50 states, suggests bringing your mileage back up to 70 percent of your weekly max. Maintain this volume for the next 10 to 14 days.

You can perform some light, marathon paced workouts. However, you don’t want to do anything too hard or too long. You can easily maintain fitness for a two- or three-week stretch without many hard workouts.

Running marathons a month or two apart
If your second marathon is a little further from your first race, you’ll need to put in a short training block so you don’t lose the fitness gains you acquired in the training leading up to your first race.

During the first two weeks, you’ll still want to focus on recovery and getting your volume back to 70 percent of your normal training mileage. After this two-week recovery cycle, bring your mileage back to 90 to 100 percent of your pre-marathon volume.

In addition, you want to keep your workouts moderate — at or around marathon pace — and on the shorter side, about six to eight miles. For the long run, 16 to 18 miles is an ideal distance to target. It’s a good balance between getting the benefits of a long effort in without overstressing the body.

You’ll also want to execute a modified taper that lasts just one week. Keep the long run at 10 to 12 miles, freshen up the legs with an easy workout, and then reduce the volume in the final four days before the race.

Good luck extending your racing season and remember that whenever you try to extend a peak, it should be frosting on the cake. So, relax about your performance and have fun with it.

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