Endurance coach Tom Craggs shares his favourite session and some nuggets of wisdom.
Everyone runner or coach has a favourite session or two that stand the test of time. You might look forward to it every time or it could be a session you get no pleasure from, but the rewards are evident.
Tom Craggs is an endurance coach who works with a number of organisations and brands including England Athletics, Polar and Saucony and coaches a range of different runners. So what is his favourite session?
“Any session needs to be within the context of what is best for an individual athlete at any one time,” says the Running With Us coach. “What might work for Joe Bloggs, might not be good at all for another runner at the same stage.”
“Yet when marathon training starts to toughen up I like to introduce some faster running into the long run.”
Getting used to running at your marathon pace when you’re already tired is a key skill for anyone taking on the 26.2 miles and adding some quality running into your long run is a good way to simulate the final miles without the damaging effect of the first half of the race.
Craggs feels that adding speed into a long run “can take on a number of forms” but some example long-run sessions that he has prescribed to runners include:
1) 32km ran as 10km easy, 10km of fartlek with 90 seconds fast, 90 seconds steady and then, here’s the kicker, 10k at marathon pace. Finish it off with 2km of easy running to get your legs back.
2) 35km run as 10km easy, 10km marathon pace, 5k easy, 5k at 5-10 seconds quicker than marathon pace, 2k hard (whatever that may be at this point) and then a nice 3km easy to finish off.
3) Midweek longer runs, something like 80-90 minutes, with the final 60 minutes ran as a 3 minutes threshold effort, then 3 minutes steady (so 80-90% of marathon pace). No rest between the 3 minutes, just swapping from one to another to get comfortable being uncomfortable.
All three of these sessions are tough workouts and are not to be underestimated. They may be key sessions in the peak weeks of your training before the race and adequate recovery before and afterwards, will be required.
“All of these sessions require proper recovery, otherwise you’re just going to overcook an athlete,” warns 2:45 marathoner Craggs. “Marathon training is about consistency and none of these sessions will make up for that so don’t sacrifice it by under recovering.”
Additionally, sessions like these can be a good time to practice race nutrition as if you can’t eat and drink well during these then you might struggle on race day. As with any hard effort make sure to refuel and rehydrate afterwards too.
Sports dietician Renee McGregor says: “within a couple hours of such a big workout you would want to be taking onboard a good mix of carbs, protein and some fats too. If you use a recovery shake then great, but a glass of milk straight afterwards can be just as beneficial.
“If your primal meal time is within a couple of hours then just stick to what’s normal, but if dinner is a long way off then a snack with protein and carbs would be a good idea.”