Since the end of last year, my main focus running-wise has been on preparing for the Manchester Marathon event in mid-April. As I love The Running Channel and tend to trust their advice, I’ve been following the 16-week training plan from their website, and am currently at the start of Week 6. This has involved trying new running exercises that I hadn’t had particular reason to do before, like intervals and strides – but so far, in these early stages, everything I’ve been required to do has been well within my existing capabilities.
Ironically, perhaps the most difficult part so far has been the ‘easy’ runs. One of the running lessons I picked up last year is that you don’t need to push yourself to the limit in every training run; in fact, you should aim to do them at a slower pace in order to recover better and adapt your muscles. So I had gotten into the habit of running in Heart Rate Zone 3 (based on my Garmin app) for many of my usual runs. Yet, when I delved deeper into easy running as part of the training plan, I found that Zone 3 could still be considered too fast; that really, an ‘easy’ run should be in Zone 2.
In terms of form, running deliberately slowly didn’t feel all that comfortable as I started out – and even more frustratingly, my heart rate would sometimes refuse to stay within Zone 2 unless I was practically shuffling. To add to the confusion, I found that there are actually different ways to define your heart rate zones anyway: either as a percentage of your estimated maximum heart rate (220 minus your age), or as a percentage of the difference between your resting and maximum heart rate.
Finally, I turned to The Running Channel again, and from their videos, I decided that the best approach was to judge my runs by exertion rather than monitoring my heart rate too keenly – an easy run at 3/10, a steady one at 5/10. This morning, I set out on a 30-minute easy run, still feeling a little creaky from having run a steady 10 miles on Sunday, and didn’t bother to check my heart rate at all until after I was finished. Maybe it was from being at a certain point in the plan, but for the first time, I felt properly grateful for the easy run, and that it was serving its purpose of recovery. And when I did check the stats, I found my heart rate had been in Zone 2 all the way.
Most of the time, the Manchester Marathon still feels a long way away. I’m looking forward to when I get to push myself further and take on some really long runs in the plan; that’s when I’m planning to test out energy supplements like gels, to see what suits me best for Race Day. For now, I’m just continuing to trust the plan.
All the best for the run. Seems tactics & training are just as important as stamina and physical ability. Afraid my joints would give out before my cardio vascular system (that’s about 20 meters 😂)
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Thank you! You’re right, tactics and training are extremely important for a race of this length. You need to figure out your pace when training; apparently a very common mistake among marathon newbies is to set off too fast, leaving them depleted later on – I’ll have to try and avoid that. Another thing I’ve heard is that the last six miles are the real killer – hopefully the right preparation will give me proper fortitude. So much of running is mental as well as physical.
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Yes- I’ve heard someone say you can lose a marathon in the first mile. Guess pacing is everything.