The first step in the process of progressing toward the perfect peak for your next big race is planning — specifically, planning in reverse. By doing so, you can map out exactly how long you’ll need to prepare and divide the training cycle up accordingly. It’s imperative not to rush any one phase and give each a specific objective. To ensure that you peak properly, keep a close eye on your long runs, races and workouts over the final two weeks of training heading into your goal race. You can screw up a lot more than you can improve during this time period, so focus on staying fresh rather than trying to “get fast.”
The reality is that no one long run or workout during this time period is going to make your race — but it could very well break it if you’re not careful. Be sure to precede the peak phase with a solid stretch of training that mixes strength and speed work, but only after you’ve given yourself a big enough aerobic base of easy to moderately-paced running to work off.