As a marathoner, learning to run the correct pace is important, and the only way to do that is by practice! If you have a time goal for your next marathon, this is my favorite confidence-boosting workouts. I believe it is what helped me run my first sub 3 marathon. Not only does it teach your body pace, but it is a workout that you can easily see and measure progress. I find that when I can see weekly progress, it motivates and encourages me.
WHAT TO DO… The first session, just do a single 5k at marathon pace (with a warm up and cool down) so the total run is about 7 miles. The second session, warm up with 2 easy miles (slower than marathon pace). Run a 5k at marathon pace or 5-10 seconds per mile faster. Recover for 0.9 miles (slow jog, but no walking). Run a second 5k 5-10 seconds faster than marathon pace, then cool down 1.9 miles so the total run is 11 miles. I try and run the second 5k slightly faster than the first. If you were to do 3 x 5k, it would be a 15 mile work out, and if you did 4 x 5k with 2-3 easy miles at the beginning and end, it could be a 20 mile workout. When I ran my sub 3 marathon, I worked up to 4 x 5k, with the first one at marathon pace, and the final one about 10 seconds faster (per mile).
PACING is very important. Be sure to warm up slowly, and jog the recovery slowly. Focus on breathing during the recovery and relaxing during the interval. If the effort is difficult, then reevaluate your goal.
TIMING of these workouts is also a consideration. It should not replace speed work or a tempo run because those are faster than marathon pace. Depending on your weekly mileage, it can be a midweek medium long run, or in place of your long run when you are doing 3 or 4 repeats. If you find they make you tired, be sure to focus on recovery and do an easy workout the following day. Some runners are able to build up intervals weekly, others need to do so bi-weekly.
LOCATION: I know I am in the minority, but I do not mind the treadmill. In fact, there are times when I see it as a beneficial tool. This workout is the perfect example. If the goal is to teach your legs the correct pace, a treadmill can be helpful for leg turnover.
PERSONAL EXPERIENCE: I worked up to 4 x 5k when I ran my sub 3, and I did 5 x 5k for my marathon PR (2:53). I am hoping to work up to 5 x 5k again for Boston. One thing I did notice, as your marathon time gets faster, it becomes more important to run each 5k progressively faster. The photo above is from my 2 x 5k last week. I can’t wait to do 3 x 5k tomorrow!
NOTE: This was originally posted on my former blog in 2017.