Monday, April 10, 2006

Less road time may lead to better marathon training

Kincaid Boone

Jenny Kincaid Boone

Jenny Kincaid Boone has been running since she was in eighth grade. She competed in cross country and track at Fort Defiance High School (Fort Defiance, Va.) and at Roanoke College, where she was all-ODAC in cross country for four years. When her knees and legs aren't aching from the wear of years of competition, she hits the 19 to low 20-minute range for a 5K.

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Some people want to run a marathon, but the time required to train for the 26.2 mile feat scares them off.

But several marathon training programs that call for less time on the road are making it easier for people to prepare for and finish a marathon.

These programs, which include a regimen founded at Furman University in Greenville, S.C., and a one created by running guru and U.S. Olympian, Jeff Galloway, incorporate only three days a week of low mileage running, followed by one long run on the weekends.

One group in the Roanoke Valley has incorporated aspects of this kind of training for beginning marathon and half-marathon runners.

Several years ago, Tammy St. Clair was a new runner who wanted to train for her first marathon. She joined Roanoke’s chapter of Team-In-Training, a group that helps people run marathons, half marathons and complete other kinds of athletic events while also raising funds to support cures for lymphoma and leukemia.

The group takes a beginners’ mind-set to completing a race. The training runs are no longer than 8 to 10 miles about four days a week, with a long run on Saturdays. And runners typically do not put in more than 20 miles before marathon day, St. Clair said.

“I think this approach is best for people who are looking to finish a race, not a PR [personal record] time goal,” said St. Clair, who now is a campaign manager for Team–In-Training’s Roanoke office, and has run two marathons.

Galloway, similarly, proposes a training program that calls for a 30-minute run several days a week, and a longer distance on the weekends, starting with 2 to 3 miles on Saturdays. The total 25-week program gradually glides up to 22 to 23 miles for a Saturday run. It dips down to 8 to 10 miles as the marathon date nears.

Galloway’s program also uses 1-minute brisk, walking breaks inserted into races or regular workouts.

St. Clair, who suffers from asthma, said these walk breaks helped her complete her first marathon.

Another program created by the Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training at Furman University guarantees that runners will improve their marathon times with a minimal-mileage regimen and cross training activities, such as biking, on off days. The program is targeted at intermediate runners.

It’s called the First to Finish program, and it includes two days of tempo-related runs at a higher intensity, with cross training for each day in between. It includes a long run on the weekends.

Results from the institute’s marathon training studies show that “runners were able to run a successful marathon running only three days a week, following a specific training plan and cross-training,” according to its Web site.

For sample workout schedules from this program, visit www.furman.edu/first.

So, what are the benefits of this kind of training? It’s better for the body, said Rick Watkins, a local runner who has helped to train others in the sport. These kinds of workouts allow the body time to recover.

“A runner gets stronger during the recovery phase between workouts, not during the workout itself,” Watkins said.

These programs also are ways that beginning runners can build endurance and strength gradually and avoid injury.

But there may be some performance-related non-benefits to using this type of training program, Watkins said. If a runner wants to qualify for the Boston Marathon, this likely is not the kind of marathon program they would want. Incorporating speed-workouts into the schedule, similar to the method suggested by Furman University, helps marathoners improve speed and shave off time, Watkins said.

Seasoned marathoners, such as Todd Johnson of Roanoke who runs three to four marathons a year, may have develop their own training methods that include more mileage. For year-round training, Johnson runs several days a week and runs 10 to 12 miles each Saturday. He adds in a 20-mile distance about every other Friday, in addition to the Saturday run.

“If you are starting out and running one marathon, that’s not a good training program,” Johnson said, explaining that a beginner would get injured by logging all of the mileage.

But the majority of runners aren’t running like Johnson, though more in the Roanoke Valley are training for marathons. Team-in-Training’s numbers are gradually increasing each year, St. Clair said.

Four years ago, about 20 to 25 runners might show up for a training season, she said. Now, 40 to 50 runners enter.

The fall season, which starts in April, usually has the group’s highest numbers. And many solely are focused on completing the race, their challenge.

“The vast majority of runners want to finish a distance, enjoy the experience and not be beaten up for it weeks afterwards,” Watkins said.

10 Most Fun Marathons of 2006:

Source: Runner’s World

  1. 1) Disney World Marathon

  2. 2) Boston Marathon

  3. 3) Flying Pig Marathon, Cincinnati

  4. 4) Cellcom Green Bay Marathon, Wisconsin

  5. 5) Rock-n-Rock Marathon, San Diego, Calif.

  6. 6) Hatfield & McCoy Reunion Marathon, Williamson, W.Va.

  7. 7) Marathon du Medoc, France

  8. 8) ING New York City Marathon

  9. 9) New Las Vegas Marathon

  10. 10) Dallas White Rock Marathon

Visit www.runnersworld.com for more information about these marathons.