7 Steps to a Successful Marathon

Coach Mike Ricci and his clip board
January 30, 2017

Mike Ricci


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There are three key ingredients that are paramount to this program. One is a reliable training partner, two is the cooperation of the weather, and three is a good training plan. For my winter marathon this year, I had two of these ingredients. As the old song goes, "Two out of three ain't bad"

First of all, I owe a big thanks to my training partner Dan, because no matter the weather I knew he would show up, which forced me to endure a lot more than I would have on my own. Dan was there to push me mile after mile, week after week. The weather was much less reliable than Dan, as we were in the midst of an icy winter here in CO. The third ingredient was the training plan. I had a short window (eleven weeks) and to get ready for the race, the plan had to be efficient.

The biggest key to the whole plan was staying injury free. I knew I would not have a lot of base going in, but I knew if I kept my intensity on the low end I could survive the training. I did my long runs on Saturday, followed by a ten miler on Sunday done at little quicker pace than the long run the day before. The other important workout I did each week was mile repeats. I did this workout at a ratio of 4:1, work-to-rest. For example, if you run your mile repeat in seven minutes your rest would be 1:45 (or 25%). I did the repeats at a pace that was 20-25 seconds a mile faster then what I wanted for my goal marathon pace. My goal was 3:00 and that would make my goal race pace 6:52 a mile and my mile repeat pace at 6:20-6:25 a mile.

All other workouts done during the week were easy but I made sure all my runs were longer then 50 minutes no matter how slow I ran them. I attempted to pile on as much volume as I could manage. My goal was to build as much aerobic base as quickly as possible. This meant that volume, not intensity, was the key ingredient to the plan. One other non-running related thing I did was swim as much as possible. I did this in order to build aerobic base without beating up my legs.

The first few weeks went fine and I ran some hilly runs not caring about pace, just putting in the time. By the start of the third week, the weather became a big factor. Since most of my runs were done on snow, ice or in muddy conditions, I had no sense of pace, only effort. When it came time for my mile repeats, I used the same strategy. Since pace was out the window, I went strictly by effort only. My mile repeats hit a high of nine, two weeks out from the race and my longest run was 22 miles about 3 weeks out. Below are my seven rules for a successful marathon.

1. Long run each week, increasing the time by fifteen minutes each week.

2. Follow the long run up by running 90 minutes the following day.

3. No run shorter then fifty minutes.

4. Mile repeats twenty -twenty-five seconds faster then goal marathon pace.

5. Swim as much as you can. Why? Swimming builds aerobic fitness without beating up your legs.

6. Have confidence on race day. You’ve done the work, now relax and have a great race.

7. Have fun we do this because we like to, keep that in mind!

I can't overemphasize the importance of finding a plan that works for you. Not everything works for everyone, but considering this plan was pretty basic it should help you with a good starting point in your quest for a successful marathon.

Michael Ricci is a USAT Level II certified coach. He can be reached for personal coaching at mike@d3multisport.com.

Coach Mike Ricci is the Founder and Head Coach for D3 Multisport.  His coaching style is ‘process-focused’ vs. ‘results-focused.’ When working with an athlete, their understanding of how and why they are improving is always going to take precedence over any race result. Yes, there is an end goal, but in over 2 decades of coaching, experience has shown him that if you do the right work, and for the right reasons, the results will follow.

Coach Mike is a USAT Level III Elite Certified Coach, Ironman University Certified Coach, and Training Peaks Level II Certified Coach. He was honored as the USAT Coach of the Year.

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