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Marathon Interval Training Workouts
By Rick Morris
Consistently performing long, intense training workouts can result in over training problems, injuries and physical breakdowns. One way to enjoy the benefits of those strenuous workouts, while avoiding the over training problems is by doing interval training. Interval training is simply breaking long, high intensity workouts into smaller work repeats alternated with short recovery intervals. See interval training 101 for more information.
If you have trained for 5K or 10K races you’re probably already aware of the benefits of interval training. But, interval training workouts aren’t just for shorter races. Even marathon runners can improve their fitness and race performance by doing a weekly interval training workout. Most marathon interval training workouts have longer slower repeats than their shorter race training cousins. There are an almost unlimited number of possible marathon interval training workouts. Below are a sample of some highly effective marathon interval training workouts.
Interval training is usually done on a 400 meter track. There’s a good reason for that. The precise distance of the track makes it easy to monitor not only your distance but also your pace. While interval training is most effective on the track you can also do these on the road or trail if you have an accurate way to measure and monitor distance.
Recovery intervals used during all of these interval workouts may be complete passive rest or active rest in which you run at an easier pace for recovery. Each workout is based upon 5K, 10K or goal marathon pace. If you don’t know your race pace you can use a rating of perceived exertion. Your 5K pace should feel hard while your 10K pace should feel somewhat hard or moderately hard. Marathon pace should feel moderate.
800 Meter Repeats
This is one of the all time classic track workouts that can be used effectively for marathon interval training. This is an over speed interval training workout that will improve your neuromuscular conditioning, speed and power.
Description: 6 to 12 x 800 meter repeats. Run 800 meter repeats at 5K pace. Begin with 6 repeats and gradually increase the number of repeats to 12 as you progress through your program.
Pace: 5K pace
Recovery: Recover with 400 meters at an easy pace between each repeat
1600 Meter Repeats
This is very effective marathon interval training session because you are running at goal pace for an extended period of time. The recovery intervals will keep you from suffering from over training or injuries.
Description: 6 to 12 x 1600 meter repeats. Run 1600 meter repeats at goal marathon pace. Begin with about 6 repeats and gradually increase your number of repeats to around 12 before you start your marathon taper.
Pace: marathon race pace
Recovery: Recover between each 1600 meter repeat with 400 meters at an easy recovery pace.
5000 Meter Repeats
This is an advanced marathon interval training workout for more experienced marathon runners. This interval session is an adaptation of the 1600 meter workouts. It is a much more difficult and intense workout but is also very effective because of the long distances performed at goal marathon pace.
Description: Run 2 to 4 x 5000 meter repeats at goal marathon pace. Begin with 2 repeats and gradually increase your number of repeats to as many as 4 depending upon your fitness and experience level.
Pace: marathon race pace
Recovery: Recover with 5 minutes of passive rest between each repeat.
800/1600/3200 Meter Compound Sets
Compound sets are groupings of different distances and/or paces that are performed without recovery. This type of marathon interval training is an excellent way to improve your lactate turn point and efficiency at race pace.
Description: Run 1 to 3 x 800/1600/3200 meter compound sets. Run 800 meters at 5K pace, 1600 meters at 10K pace and 3200 meters at marathon pace. Begin with 1 repeat and gradually increase the number of compound sets to 3 toward the end of your training cycle.
Pace: 800 meters at 5K pace, 1600 meters at 10K pace and 3200 meters at goal marathon pace.
Recovery: No recovery between the components of the compound set. Recover with 5 minutes of passive rest between each compound set.
800/1600/3200/1600/800 Meter Compound Sets
This compound set is a more advanced version of the previous set. This marathon interval training workout includes a fast finish which makes it a more race specific workout as well as improving your ability to run fast when fatigued and developing a finishing kick.
Description: 1 to 3 x 800/1600/3200/1600/800 meter compound sets. Run 800 meters at 5K pace, 1600 meters at 10K pace and 3200 meters at goal marathon pace. Then with no recovery run 1600 meters at 10K pace before finishing with 800 meters at 5K pace. Begin with 1 set and gradually increase to 3 sets toward the end of your training cycle.
Pace: 800 meters at 5K pace, 1600 meters at 10K pace and 3200 meters at marathon pace.
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