What does it take to run a 2:16 marathon? Aaron Scott shares a little light on that very question with insights about his training.
Lincoln Wellington’s Scott previously spoke to Fast Running about managing full-time work alongside his elite marathon training, nutrition and his aims for the London Marathon. After that interview Scott went on to run 2:16:57 at Frankfurt Marathon in October 2018.
And now the 30-year-old provides a detailed look at his training schedule, who is running partners are and his favourite and least favourite sessions.
Fast Running: What does a normal marathon training week look like for you?
Aaron Scott: A normal week at 8-12 weeks out from a marathon would be something like the following:
7:15am: 60 mins easy in Burghley Park, Stamford (road/grass/gravel) @ 7:00-15/mi
1:00pm: 60 mins easy road inc 6 x 15 secs strides from the office @ 6:40-7:00/mi
6:00pm: 30 min core
7:15am: 45 mins easy in Burghley @ 7:00-15/mi
6:00pm: 10k/HM interval session e.g. 10 x 1k (200 jog), 10 x 800 (90) or 7 x 1mi (60) then 4 x 400 (1) – often do these on the road or track in Lincoln. Looking to hit 4:45-4:50/mi on 10k stuff or around 4:55-5:00/mi on HM stuff.
7:00am: 90 easy on road @ 7:00/mi
5:30pm: 30-40 mins easy on road @ 7:00/mi
6:00pm: Gym weights and core
7:15am: 45 mins easy in Burghley @ 7:00-15/mi
5:30pm: 60 mins steady as 15 @ 6:00-6:15s, 15 @ 5:30-40s, 15 @ 5-5:10s then 4 x 200 on road or a 60-80 min run with longer intervals at HM or MP, such as 6 x 2k or 4 x 3k.
7:15am: 45-60 mins easy in Burghley @ 7:00-15/mi + 6 x 15 sec strides
7:00am: 70 easy on road @ 7:00/mi
5:30pm: 30-45 mins easy on road @ 7:00/mi
8:30am: 5k easy, 10k MP, 5k easy, 5k threshold, 2k easy, 3k hard, 5k easy – do a load of these variation runs on the road, usually totalling 20-26mi.
I look to hit the MP at 3:10-3:15 per km, threshold is 3:05ish per km, then hard is whatever I’ve got left.
Total mileage: 115-120 miles
FR: Could you further explain your training?
AS: So the training includes that 10k-based session on Tuesday, a progression type or tempo run/tempo intervals on Thursday, and then a good hard marathon paced session on Sunday.
As I build into the main marathon block around 3-6 weeks out, I’ll often do just two sessions a week and move them to Wednesday/Saturday or Wednesday/Sunday, as I might be doing 4 x 4k on Wednesday and still a big volume marathon pace session at the weekend.
Mileage-wise I’ll probably max out at around 120 miles a week.
The rest of the week is filled with loads of easy(ish) running on the road at around 7 minute pace. There’s not a chance you’ll see me dropping sub-7 min/miles in the morning, and I’m usually getting dropped by my morning run training-partner, Philippa (Taylor, another England international).
I can see the benefit of doing steadier running, but when I’m doing over 100 miles a week, I don’t find it sustainable.
My main aim is to keep fresh for session days, so whatever pace allows me to recover between sessions, is the pace I run at.
I don’t really stress about it either – if one day I’m shattered and running 7:30s, then it doesn’t really matter. It’s just maybe a sign that I need to back off a little.
FR: What are your favourite sessions while marathon training?
AS: My favourite sessions are the long marathon ones, and I find it much easier to do these than a track session at 5/10k pace. If I were to pick one it would be something like 5k easy, 4 x 4k off 2k float, 5k easy.
Last year, I went up the track on a Thursday night to get this done, and knew after 3k on the first rep that it wasn’t going to happen.
I have no idea why I thought doing 20 miles around the track on my own was going to work, and sure enough, it didn’t.
So, the next afternoon I left work at lunch and went out onto the road to try again, and this time it felt far more comfortable. I ended up with 5:40/mi pace for the entire 20mi and the 4k reps being bang on or just under the goal marathon pace of 2:17:59.
For these sessions, I often use a flat section of back roads between Stamford and Spalding where I live in Lincolnshire. After around the 8 mile point, it’s completely out in the Fens, and you have no undulation whatsoever.
I find going in one direction for the whole 20-24 miles so much easier mentally, and I will try my best to not ever have to run into the wind. Any breeze feels like a hurricane out in the Fens, so the last thing I want to do is try and run anything at marathon pace into a headwind.
I’m fortunate in the fact that after my last hard rep, I can call my fiancé Jenny to locate me on “find my friends”, and then she drives out to come pick me up. But that’s a normal couple thing to do, right?
FR: What would you consider a benchmark session during marathon training?
AS: My benchmark session during any marathon buildup is usually 10 x 1k off a 1k float recovery. When I started doing this session I targeted 3:05-45/km splits, so know if I’m hitting closer to 3:00-3:35-40 that I’m starting to get into good shape.
The aim of this marathon block is to get quicker on the slower kilometre reps, and push those closer towards 3:30, whilst maintaining 3:00-05 splits for the quicker reps.
FR: What is your least favourite session?
AS: My least favourite is either anything windy or anything short with long recoveries. Thankfully I don’t tend to do much of the latter, but I remember one summer jumping in with another group’s session for 3 x 2 x 400, with 30 secs between the reps and then 6 or so minutes between the sets.
It was ridiculously hard, give me 20 miles any day! Last year, the worst run in the buildup was the Cambridge Half, which had been earmarked as a PB attempt.
It was freezing, wet, windy and I ended up going solo from the gun – I think I got to the 12 mile mark, had slowed to outside marathon pace, and was questioning whether I could even finish.
I also don’t like a session where I don’t get my own way, and this tends to happen quite a lot when I go up to Lincoln to train with my main group.
I’ll often tweak my session so it fits in with what the other lads are doing, but more often than not they end up running quicker than planned. They will be the first to tell you that I’m not best pleased (James Straw and myself are very angry men) if we start dropping 64s instead of 68s.
I’m a firm believer in training at 90-95% effort, and that the accumulation of ten 8/10 sessions is much better than one 10/10 session.
FR: Do you mainly train alone or with others, and why?
AS: I try not to run alone if possible, and will usually run with others if I can. For sessions, I will try to go up to Lincoln once a week to get a quality session done with the boys.
If I can’t get to Lincoln, I will try to go to Bedford and run with Simon Goodwin’s group or sometimes go over to Loughborough to train with Kevin Seaward (Irish marathon runner with a 2:14:52 PB).
It makes such a difference doing the harder interval stuff with a group, and it can often be the difference between me getting the session done or jacking it in.
I always seem to run so much faster when I run with a group for those quicker reps, than I would if I did the session on my own. I also like the social side of it.
I’ve run with the likes of Matt Bowser, Tom Straw and Shane Robinson for the last ten years, so we know each other pretty well by now. I suppose coming from a footballing background, I enjoy the team aspect of sport, which can sometimes get a little lost in running.
At Lincoln Wellington, we’ve finally all got our acts together and are targeting things like the 12 stage, which really helps everyone push each other to run faster.