This is it. These next four weeks—the two presented in this article and the two coming in the next installment—are where you will get in a lot of race-specific work, and they won’t be easy. You will need to hunker down, reduce all other life stresses as much as possible and really commit to these next four weeks as you prepare for the Boston Marathon.
Week 7 is always interesting for me as a coach. I’m looking to see how you come off of the fast finish long run in Week 6. Some runners feel recovered in a day or two but others need 3-5 days before they feel ready for another intense workout. As a result, Week 7 should differ based on how you feel. Shift workouts to later in the week if necessary. Remember, no runner gets injured from taking an extra day or two of recovery between hard workouts, but many do from pushing too hard, too soon. So, use common sense as you plan Week 7.
Workout No. 1 (recovered runners, early in week): Medium Long Run. Run 1:30-1:45 over a hilly route.
Workout No. 1 (unrecovered runners, early in week): Easy Run. Run 40-60 minutes over flat route
Workout No. 2 (later in the week): Tempo Intervals. Warm up with 10-20 minutes of easy jogging, then run 3-4 times 2-3 miles at tempo interval pace (see McMillan Calculator) with 3-4 minutes of jogging recovery between each repetition. Run these on routes with lots of downhills. Cool down with 10-20 minutes of easy jogging.
You could just do another tempo run this week but I’ve found that a variety in workouts within the stamina/lactate threshold zone actually results in a greater boost in threshold speed and more enjoyment for the runner. So, I suggest you run tempo intervals this week.
Tempo intervals are repeats run right at (or slightly faster than) the lactate threshold with a recovery jog between repetitions. Most marathoners like this type of workout because they can run at a fast but controlled pace, but coming off the fast finish long run, the recovery in between the repeats helps keep this workout from being too demanding.
One caveat is that for runners who are concerned about dialing in goal pace or are still really tired from the fast finish long run, I suggest you run these repeats at goal marathon pace instead of tempo interval pace.
Long Run: 2:30-3:00 for sub-3 hour marathoners (22-26 miles); 3:00-3:45 for 3+ hour marathoners (18-22 miles). Note: Run this over a hilly course and surge slightly on the downhills to practice your downhill running.
Week 8 is always a critical one, and it’s a bit of a yin-yang week. I like for runners to reduce their volume by 20 percent or so (and even run one less day than normal) so we keep our rhythm of a “down” week every fourth week of training. But, Week 8 does have some really challenging workouts, so it’s a down week for volume but not for intensity.
Workout No. 1 (mid-week): Yasso 800s. 8-10 x 800 meters (or 0.5 miles). Your goal time for each 800 meters is the minutes and seconds that correspond to the hours and minutes of your goal marathon. For example, if your goal is to run 3:45:00 for the marathon, then you try to hit 3:45 (3 minutes 45 seconds) for your 800s. Importantly, you take an equal amount of recovery (in our example 3:45 recovery jog) between repetitions.
You now know the drill with this workout from the previous article. Get in there and focus on putting in a solid effort. Hit your times. Savor every second of the recovery jog and run strong across this challenging workout. “Last reps, best reps” is a good mantra.
Workout No. 2 (advanced runners): Hill Repeats (early in week). Warm up with 10-20 minutes of easy jogging then perform 6-8 hill repeats lasting around 60 seconds on a moderately sloped hill (6-8 percent grade). Jog back down the hill for recovery between repeats and cool down with 10-20 minutes of easy jogging.
Long Run: Fast Finish Long Run: 14-18 miles (intermediate runners) or 16-20 miles (advanced runners) with the middle 6-8 miles at your goal marathon race pace and the last 1-2 miles all out. Cool down with 5-10 minutes of easy jogging. Note: Remember to use this a dress rehearsal to dial in nutrition, equipment, etc.
Alternative: This week, four weeks from Boston, is also a great weekend to run a tune-up race instead of the fast finish long run. My runners choose a half marathon. You can choose to run it as a fast finish long run (starting slower and finishing fast), as a goal marathon pace run (running the entire race at goal marathon pace) or as an all-out race to get a gauge of marathon readiness. You can put your half-marathon finish time in the McMillan Calculator to get a prediction of your marathon time.