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Why wouldn't you keep running at pre-marathon race-day training level? (Read 749 times)

    Okay, so I've never trained for a marathon. But I was wondering... It seems to me that most marathon training programs include a fairly significant build-up in milage and distance of long runs, peaking a few weeks before the actual event, and then tapering for the race. My understanding is that, after a week or two of hobbling around most runners, if they're going to continue running, then go back to their pre-marathon build-up level of milage and training, or at least something pretty close to it. I am thinking that in general, people who have run many marathons follow this pattern as well. (Feel free to correct me if this is wrong!) I was wondering... if you've already gone to all that trouble to build up to a marathon level and you know you'll eventually want to run another one, why wouldn't you just want to keep your running at the pre-race levels? Why would an experienced marathoner keep a base of, say, 35 MPW with a 12 mile long run, and then build up to 55 MPW with a 20+ mile long run, and then, after the race is done, go back to 35 MPW? Would it just be the time committment involved, or is there a physiological reason not to continue to train at that level? I am comparing this to my experience with training for a half-marathon. I've been running a little over a year, and ran my first HM in October. Since then I've kept pretty close to the amount of running I did before the race, and, now that I'm looking at a 14 mile trail race next weekend, I feel much better prepared for it than I did for my HM. What I mean is, I feel that staying at my pre-race day training level has done me good and my running is better than it was entering the HM a little over a month ago. Is the half-marathon training base that much different from the marathon training base? I can see that the time committment would be roughly twice as much, and can understand that as a reason not to keep the miles up. But it seems to me that we can get used to an incredible amount of exercise as part of "normal" life, and if being almost race-ready has a large competitive advantage, why don't more people do it? From my perspective, it seems like constantly going up and down in milage would be harder on the body than maintaining a high level if you're properly adjusted to it. What do y'all think?

    Roads were made for journeys...


    A Dance with Monkeys

      One word: recovery Actually, the way it works, most runners drop back from their base level before engaging a marathon training program. So if I am a 50 MPW runner, I may drop back to 20-30 MPW in the first few weeks of training, then build up to 60-70 MPW max premarathon before tapering. After the marathon, I need to recover. When I am ready to go back to my base running level, the most I will run is my premarathon base+10% (or 55 miles). To build up too much beyond that, especially if I do not recover enough, I risk injury.
        In getting ready for a marathon, a lot of people are pushing their mileage to levels that they can't physically sustain for long stretches without burning out. You can do this for a couple of months when you are getting ready for a 26.2 mile race, but you need to scale it back to more sustainable levels for long stretches of time in between marathons to maximize long term improvement, stay injury free, and keep the fire burning inside. Also, for a lot of average runners, their long run makes up a big chunk of their weekly mileage and--for the same reasons as above--they can't maintain a 20 mile long run year round simply because this beats them up too much. So, for example, just by dropping your long run from 18-20 down to 10-14 there's a big drop in weekly mileage.

        Runners run.

          Trent - it seems almost counter-intuitive to think you'd want to drop down milage in order to increase milage. How odd! Is that like taking a couple deep breaths before diving to the bottom of the swimming pool? Mike - so if I'm understanding you right, it wouldn't be a problem for someone to have a normal 25 mile long run... if they were running around 75 miles/wk, staying injury free, and hadn't killed their passion. In other words, things need to be proportionate and most marathon training programs skew the milage too heavily towards the long run to be sustainable?

          Roads were made for journeys...

          Scout7


          CPT Curmudgeon

            I think that, all things being equal, the average person could maintain long runs of 20+ miles. However, there are increased chances for injury, especially for someone who is relatively new to running, or longer distances. Additionally, it takes a lot of time out of your week to run 75 miles (for most of us, at least). Even at, say, 8 minutes per, you're looking at 10 hours of the week spent running. Not many people are able to sacrifice the time. I know that I was pretty tempted to just maintain my mileage levels after my marathon, but I found that mentally, I needed to sort of drop it back.
              Mike - so if I'm understanding you right, it wouldn't be a problem for someone to have a normal 25 mile long run... if they were running around 75 miles/wk, staying injury free, and hadn't killed their passion. In other words, things need to be proportionate and most marathon training programs skew the milage too heavily towards the long run to be sustainable?
              Yeah, pretty much. I think the more mileage you run in training for a marathon, the less % of your weekly mileage will go to the long run, but in general I think most people find the very long runs to be draining mentally and physically. There are some freaks I know who LIKE running doing a 20 miler year round but most people can't do that. When I was running 75 mpw for a marathon, I usually still only ran 18-20 for a long. But even those 18-20's take a toll.

              Runners run.

                Thanks y'all! I appreciate the feedback. Smile

                Roads were made for journeys...

                Mile Collector


                Abs of Flabs

                  I agree that marathon training is very time consuming. Don't forget that you also need time before and after the run, which can be quite significant. The logistics of doing high weekly mileage can take a toll on a runner's family too because the spouse has to take on extra chores that are left undone by the runner. I know people that hired baby sitters so they can do their long runs. It is not feasible to sustain this kind of training year round. The base is something you can do every week. It doesn't take too much time out of your life. It's more about enjoying running than to push yourself toward a goal.


                  A Dance with Monkeys

                    Is that like taking a couple deep breaths before diving to the bottom of the swimming pool?
                    Exactly. You are about to launch on a big ramp up of milage and you need to make sure your body is as fresh as can be.