Do I really want to run a marathon?

My morning run today is a little bit special as it marks the start of what could be a very interesting journey as I plan to use myself as a marathon running guinea pig.

I’ve run a few half marathons over the years and for some reason as I’m in the last mile before the finish my mind wanders off and poses the question “so, do you fancy turning round and going back to the start then?” and with no hesitation the little monkey on my shoulder barks “No!” or words to that effect! I don’t think it’s the actual race that puts me off, it’s the thought of all the long training runs in the months/weeks prior to the event. Conventional wisdom has it that you need to be doing long runs of at least 20 miles as part of your training and weeks with 60+ miles in them to condition your body to perform on the day. Now sure you could turn up at the start and get round with less but if I’m going to do a marathon I’m going to want to know I’ve given it my best shot, so to date I kept the half marathon as my maximum distance.

However recently I read about a program in the Netherlands, led by a Stan van der Poels, which takes a different approach to marathon training. It’s based on running 2 long runs per week building up to a maximum length of 14kms per run. These long runs have to be run at what they call your marathon heart rate zone (MHR). Now this I can do. So here’s the plan – I’m gonna implement the training plan for twelve weeks as my preparation for a half marathon in May and if all goes well I will use it to do a marathon in October. What does “well” mean? Last year I got a PB of 1:32:42 so beating that has to be one benchmark and the other for me is that last year the last 3 miles felt like a real slog – I’d basically run out of energy – so the other test will be how I feel over the last phase of the race.

Back to today’s run. Essentially I’ve done a stress test to find my maximum sustainable heart rate and the speed at which it occurred and from this I can calculate the MHR for my long training runs. Today wasn’t ideal as the paths were a little icy but I’ve come up with a MHR of 151 so I will use a zone of 148-154 for my long runs when the training begins in a few weeks.

I’ll keep you posted on my progress!



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