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An important workout for every marathoner

If you have a marathon this spring, you need to add this workout to your training

Photo by: Edison Yao

Your first marathon will test you in ways you’ve never been tested before. Many first-timers tend to hit a wall around 36 kilometres, which can often result in them hobbling to the finish line. This is often the result of inadequate preparation. Marathon training, while demanding, is not rocket science, and one of the most effective ways to make it easier is to do the proper training. 

If you want to have a satisfying result, it’s not enough to simply focus on mileage. Every marathoner knows about the importance of the long run and the taper, but do they know about the 4 x 5K workout? If you have a marathon this spring, this workout is a great way to test your readiness, as it puts you through a race simulation three to six weeks out from your goal race.

The workout

(Four reps of 5K with 5 minutes’ jog rest)

This workout can be done one of two ways, so let’s start with option one. You can treat this workout as a pre-marathon race simulation by running each rep at your goal marathon pace, which will reveal whether the goal time you set is realistic. For example, if your marathon goal is under four hours and you can’t run four consecutive 28-minute 5Ks off 5 minutes’ rest, then it might be an indication you should adjust your goal time to the pace of your average 5K during all four intervals. Each rep should be run comfortably and controlled; runners who do this workout will end up covering around 25-26 km of total volume when all is said and done. 

If you wish to make the workout harder, try option two, which is the same workout but with a different strategy. Treat each of the four reps as a 5K progression workout, starting at your goal marathon pace. For each rep, try to run the 5K interval 15 to 20 seconds faster than the previous rep, with your last rep being 50 to 60 seconds faster than your first. When the third and fourth rep comes around, your body will start to feel fatigued. As with option one, even though you are working outside your comfort zone, make sure to stay relaxed and treat each rep as a race-day simulation. 

This workout should give you an idea of where you are at in your training before your upcoming marathon. When completed, take the average pace you hit for each 5K rep and find your average pace for the workout. Once found, apply that pace to the 42.2km distance, then add four minutes to get an estimate of your potential marathon pace based on your performance. (If you averaged 25 minutes per 5K rep, equals 5:00/km to 42.2km = 3:31 marathon + four minutes = 3:35)