Q: I find it too difficult to run the pace pick-ups during my long run. I am targeting 5min/km because that’s the pace I would need for a 3:30 marathon, but I don’t even think I could manage a half at that pace right now. How can I run the 2km pace pick-ups at marathon pace?
A: There are two marathon paces: 1) your Current Marathon (Mc) pace, and, 2) your Goal Marathon (Mg) pace. If you are not ready to run your Mg pace time it is more effective to run the workout at your Mc pace or even at a slightly slower pace. You will have the most benefit from the workout if you run about 5 to 10 seconds per km slower than your Mc pace. Over time your aerobic threshold will improve and you will be able to run at a faster marathon pace and achieve your Mg pace.
To improve, you need to run faster than Easy Pace (Mc pace plus 45 seconds per km) but not so fast that you are running at current half marathon pace. If you run too fast (faster than Mc pace) you are accumulating lactic acid during your long run and it takes longer to recover. Break down your long runs into 2km to 3km segments at Mc pace plus 5 to 10 seconds per km
Q: What about a steady run at Mc pace for 12 to 25km?
A: If you try to run the entire long run at Mc pace you will accumulate excess lactic acid and it takes longer to recover. When you break down the run into 8 to 15 minute segments such as 2km pace pick-ups with a 1km to 1.5km easy pace break you allow any lactic acid to clear and you will recover faster and improve faster.
Q: Why not just increase my weekly mileage – isn’t more better? That’s what everyone else does.
A: You may be able to reach your Mg pace by running a lot of Easy Pace miles but you have a greater risk of injury. By running 2km pace pick-ups near Mc pace during your long run you can improve faster with less weekly mileage. I would work on improving your marathon time as much as possible with as little weekly mileage as possible at first. Once you have improved you can look at more mileage as a second option. If you go into the well and run too many miles it eventually leads to injury. Your body will find a way to force you to recover.
Q: How do I know when to run faster?
A: If you can’t maintain the pace during the pick-ups you know you are running too fast. You are currently able to run a 3:40 marathon. Mc pace is 5:13 per km; your 2km pace pick-ups should be at 5:20 per km. Over time you will notice your Fitness Score improving in TrainingPeaks and VO2 Max in Garmin indicating your fitness is improving without excess muscle fatigue. As your fitness improves you can increase the pace of your 2km pace pick-ups to 5 min per km which is your Mg.