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Marathon training: the lactate clearance run

Use this simple yet effective workout to build up fatigue resistance

Lactate, or lactic acid, has gotten a bad reputation among runners as the nasty stuff that builds up in your muscles to slow you down. Newer research has shown this isn’t exactly true, and that training our bodies to more efficiently clear lactic acid from our muscles (instead of trying to produce less of it) is a better approach if you want to run faster. Workouts that specifically train your body to do this can be hugely beneficial, no matter what distance you’re training for. Check out this lactate clearance workout for marathon runners below, and if you’ve got a fall marathon on the schedule, consider adding it into your training plan.

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What is the role of lactate?

When your body breaks down glucose (a.k.a. sugar) for energy, lactate is produced as a byproduct. Your body then recycles this lactate back into energy, which carries hydrogen ions away with it. As you start running faster and faster, your body produces more lactate than it can handle. This leaves hydrogen ions hanging around in your muscles, which is what causes them to seize up and forces you to slow down. For this reason, instead of trying to reduce how much lactic acid your body produces, you’re better off teaching your body how to use it more efficiently as a fuel source. The faster you can reconvert lactate into energy, the longer you will be able to run at a faster pace.

The lactate clearance tempo run

This workout is essentially a broken tempo with a little speed adjustment thrown into the mix. The goal is to run the first few kilometres of each set at 10K pace, and then slow down in the last few so you’re running at half-marathon or marathon pace. This change in pace is very important for teaching your body to clear lactic acid more efficiently, so even if you feel you can continue at 10K pace, don’t.

Warm-up: 10-15 minute easy jog

Workout: 2 x 5K (first 3K at 10K pace, last 2K at half-marathon or marathon pace); take three minutes of rest between the two 5K sections.

Cooldown: 10 minutes easy jog

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