The Best Way to Add a Fall Marathon (Type A Triathlete Edition)

800 406 Patrick McCrann

Make Up Your MindAt the end of every year the average triathlete faces a unique question: should I run a Fall marathon? Unfortunately most triathletes don’t appreciate the full cost of what doing a Fall marathon means.

A marathon seems inconsequential as compared to their prior training. And the reward seems high – their friends will like them and talk to them again now they can train together.

Done incorrectly, a Fall marathon not only could ruin this year but might potentially hurt your future training.

In this article we will discuss how Endurance Nation recommends its members train for a Fall marathon with an eye towards their overall running health and improvement.

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The Problem: What’s the Cost of a Fall marathon?

Triathletes don’t appreciate the cost of the Fall marathon because when they are making the decision they are only thinking about where they are now.

They say to themselves, “Hey it’s September and I’ve got nothing on my racing calendar. Why not do a Fall marathon?” At that moment there is availability on the calendar and they feel rested. What more could you need?

Unfortunately, our bodies don’t think the same way. Our bodies carry the fatigue from the entire season to this point. So while your brain is debating the Fall marathon question…your calves, your hamstrings, and your quads are dying to let you know that it might not be the best idea.

Let’s take a look at weightlifting for example.

If you have just come off of a massive three-month block to improve your bench press, your chest is tired. It’s weak, it’s exhausted and the last thing you want to do is go back to the gym and do more bench pressing. You know this because you simply cannot move the bar anymore as your muscles are shot.

Aerobically speaking, we don’t experience the same tangible effects of fatigue but they are still present. Adding a Fall marathon on top of a half iron or full iron distance season means returning to the gym for another round of the bench press.

And not just any bench press, but the hardest bench pressing you can do. Because running is the hardest of the three disciplines. That’s right, for fun you decided to do an incredibly long race at the hardest discipline you do. Congratulations you are so Type A!

Making snap decisions about large races can significantly impact the rest of your year.

It’s very important for triathletes to try and strike a balance between their short-term and the long-term goals. While doing a full marathon sounds interesting, most likely it was not part of your broader plan. If you set a goal with your coach that at the end of this year you would run a full marathon, then you’ve been building towards it.

If you get an invitation and decide to sign up for a race this weekend because your friends dared you to do it, then you simply haven’t had the time or the perspective to prepare properly.

Make a Decision

Your Decision: To Participate OR To Race?

When I say “cost of your season” I mean that you are going to push back the start of your next year. By virtue of long run training, and running harder for longer, your body will need more recovery time.

Assuming you don’t get injured or overtrained, you can expect a 6- to 8-week recovery window after this Fall marathon. I’m not saying that you will actually recover for that long, but you will need to because you’re adding this marathon onto the end of your year. Remember you will be recovering for your year, not just this marathon!

Because you’re a Type A athlete you have to decide between just running a marathon or racing a marathon. And because you’re a Type A triathlete we both know that even if you tell me you’re just going to run it for fun, at some point in time you will likely switch to try and be competitive.

This is an important distinction because racing a marathon requires significantly harder training at a higher intensity. It also leads to a higher recovery cost and a higher rate of risk of injury than “just running” a marathon. As you think about this fall race, it’s very important that you are very objective about your abilities. If this is a fun race, then stick to it for fun. If this race is all about speed then you have to prepare accordingly…and be prepared for the costs afterwards.

When Does The Endurance Nation Season Start?

As a coach, the biggest cost that I see is the delayed start to your subsequent season. It might be helpful if I outline what the average Endurance Nation season looks like.

We start every fall in November with our 14-week OutSeason® training plan. During this time we do a great deal of higher intensity cycling and running. This requires that your rested so you can complete the workouts and the full training block is designed. Inside our worlds, this training period is the most important part of your year.

Once you leave the OutSeason®  you will transition to different plans that reflect your actual race calendar and goals. But let’s not lose sight of the fact that that first training block of the year is the most important. This is precisely why putting a Fall marathon just before this block is so costly. If you like to learn more about the Endurance Nation OutSeason® and how it can help you, please visit the official OutSeason® page here.

Long Term Decisions

The Solution: Taking a Long Term Run Approach with Key Sessions

Over the past decade of coaching, we have noticed that most triathletes suffer from a running injury problem. Regardless of your biomechanics, signing up for long distance triathlon exposes you to a higher set of risky activities and a higher rate of injury.

Whether it’s overtraining or an unfortunate traumatic situation, you will likely be facing some challenges from a running perspective. To address this issue we created the Run Durability Program in 2015. After period of testing with several key athletes we realized that endurance athletes who train a full year need to have an annual approach to the running fitness.

Success on race day in an Ironman or half iron is defined is not slowing down. Not who is the fastest and training, but not slowing down. Not who puts up the best mile split or 5K race, but who doesn’t slow down a race day.

With all of that in mind we created the Run Durability Program to allow our athletes to improve their running skills and strength while reducing the potential for injury.

The Run Durability Program works by having you train predominantly at that long run pace. This is not in all day run pace, and it’s not your target marathon pace. It’s that sweet spot in between where you can just about hold a conversation but not for too long. It builds your endurance without costing too much. Inside Endurance Nation we refer to this a Total Run Pace (TRP).

We break this running down with a focus on frequency versus distance. If you’re looking at 20 miles of running this week, I would rather have 54 mile run then 45 mile it makes no sense from a run durability perspective to break your 20 mile week into 210 mile runs. The more often you run, the more opportunities you have been preparing for enter run on fresh legs.

The final hallmark of the Run Durability Program is consistency. By keeping you healthy we allow you to run for longer. The program is also designed to kick off three months before your regular season. Or you can run seven days a week. We purposefully are trying to stack back to back days of running and build that into weeks of consistent running.

We are essentially changing your mindset from running as a workout to running as just something you do every day. If you’d like to learn more about the Run Durability Program please follow the link below for our webinar.


Run Durability Webinar with Coach Patrick

Duration: 1 hour, 17 minutes (including Q&A)

Access: Online Here

Basic Run Durability Plan Outline

  • Lasts between 8 to 12 weeks.
  • Builds from four days of running to up to seven days running.
  • Starts with shorter runs of 3 miles.
  • Capped at 40 miles per week (usually).
  • Run again after key sessions, but not hard.

The Run Durability Program last somewhere between eight to twelve weeks. During this time it builds from four days of running to up to seven days and running are more depending on your ability level. We start with short runs in the 3 mile range. These quickly build up to 5 miles as you increase both the frequency and consistency of your runs.

We cap your weekly running at around 40 miles; this can be eight 5-mile sessions or six 6-mile sessions, etc. Almost of this program are daily runs typically spaced 24 hours apart. All runs are done at approximately the same intensity – what we call total run pace. If there are any key run sessions in your program, such as the long run, we do our best to get you to run again that next day no matter how short.

Key Marathon Workouts

Before we outline a solution, let’s define the workouts you will be doing for your Fall marathon.

By and large the most important run you have is your weekly long run. We recommend that you do this long run with a good portion of it at your goal race pace especially if you are thinking about being competitive on race day. Most programs overemphasize this run in relation to the rest of your week and increase it rapidly up until two or maybe three weeks out from his day.

You will also have weekly speed work. This is your opportunity to continue your overall progression of strength. Typically done at the track these beadwork intervals are high stress and can have a high rate of return if done correctly and safely. They are costly though and typically require arrest a lighter day afterwards.

Finally there are some strides or drills related to running sharpness. Not every marathon program includes these, but all endurance nation marathon training programs do. Strides are an opportunity to work on your fast which muscles without accumulating the lactic acid that comes with higher and longer paste intervals.


Marathon Training Run Durability Style

Here’s how we suggest you adjust your Fall marathon training plan to allow for a healthy training block and the opportunity to achieve your Fall marathon goals.

#1 – Break Your Long Run Into Two Sessions

If you are looking at a 16-mile long run this weekend, remember it’s not just this week but this season that’s in your legs. The best way to get the working you need to without accumulating too much fatigue is to split that run. We recommend that you split that run into two separate medium distance runs of approximately two thirds that single long-run distance. Confused yet?

For example, if you have a 16-mile run on the calendar this weekend, two thirds of that run is approximately 10 miles. So you will want to do two 10-mile runs this week as part of your run durability modified marathon training plan. This will I get in the key work you need but by means of a training dose that is doable and absorbable.

#2 — An Early Speed Run

Given the cost of running hard, we want to make sure that you are fully rested for the session. As such we recommend that you have it as your first run of the week after your rest day. Working off of the assumption that Sunday is your rest day from running, that means the session will be on a Monday.

During this time we recommend that you keep your entire speed work run from beginning to end within 45 minutes. That’s plenty of time to warm up and do as much work as you can handle with a short cooldown.

While traditional marathon training programs will have a variety of speed work ranging from 1-mile repeats down to shorter distances, we recommend keeping it simple:  stay focused on VO2 efforts.

Our bread and butter is three minutes of hard running at 5K pace with two minutes of recovery. Combined this is just five minutes and you can do anywhere from 3 to 5 repeats of that in a session and still be under 45 minutes.

#3 — Adding Strides To All Of Your “Other” Runs X

Rather than having a specific session for running skills, we recommend that you include some form of strides in every single one that you do. Remember, the focus of the Run Durability Program is to have you do better running more often. It simply makes sense to add strides within this framework.

While these runs will be done at total one pace, you can simply add a set of strides at the end of each one. This can be anywhere from three all the way up to eight repeats. I recommend you do them at the end of your run, for example in front of your house. Keep it simple have the ability to shut it down at any time.

Even if you just do one this is an opportunity to just target those fast with muscles to compensate for the long slow running that is consistent with a marathon training program.

The Fall Journey Lies Ahead


There you go, you crazy triathletes! Now you have an answer for all of your running needs, even the Fall marathon. Don’t make the mistake of underestimating the cost of long-distance running at the end of your year.

Simply “doing a marathon” isn’t the answer to improving your run. Frequent, consistent, and quality running is what makes you will make you better next year. You can start that process now and still achieve your marathon goals if you do it the right way.

If you’re looking for assistance with the Run Durability Program or your fall training Endurance Nation has training plans and coaching support to help you achieve those goals. Don’t wait until next year to get started, join us right now and get a head start on the competition. Click here to Become a Team Member to get your fall mapped out and start training today!

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