Why You Should Consider Stepping Away from the Marathon

I have recapped, I have revisited, and I have reflected. You are probably sick of hearing about London Marathon by now, and you will be happy to hear that this is not another post about the race, but many people have reached out to ask…what’s next?

Time to share:

I already told you it is not a marathon, which may be surprising to read. Especially after the last one was a success, and I was so close to that 2:40 barrier, why would I not chase it down?

Steve is a big believer in cycles. I have told you before about my down weeks during marathon training, and Steve is extremely organized with his training; planning out an entire segment up to a big race before it even begins, with only a few tweaks along the way.

One of the cycles Steve believes in, is not doing too many marathon segments without going back to the shorter stuff. I have done 3 marathons now, and that means it is time to discover my speed again.

You sometimes hear about how runners are able to run PRs in the shorter races after (or even during) a marathon segment, and that is because of the strength and endurance you have built. However, if you neglect that speed for too long, you lose that to the point where it is holding you back. I am reaching that point.

I ran my 16:08 (5k) and 33:24 (10k) two years ago, and with the hamstring issue in the fall, I was not able to do anything faster than 6:00 pace. In my London Marathon training, the fastest I was able to complete a mile during a workout was 5:13. That may sound fast, and it is, but for someone who could run a 4:40 (ish) mile, that is a long way off.

Virginia Challenge 13 (3)

Therefore, we are going to spend the next segment getting my speed back. Actually, we are going to spend the next however-long-it-takes getting my speed back. Only once Steve is satisfied with my speed will I be able to move on to anything longer.

What does this mean?

Faster workouts, racing often, (compared with 2-3 races in marathon training build up), and more strength training with Drew.

Drew Watts- Tina Muir Strength Coach

Once we have done this, we will work on getting my half marathon time down, and once that is improved, THEN we will go back to the marathon.

We are thinking about doing a 5k when we are in Michigan City in mid June, the Peachtree 10k in Georgia on July 4, and the Bix 7 Mile in Iowa towards the end of July. After this, I will take 4-5 days off before hopefully beginning half-marathon training. However, if Steve is not satisfied with my speed over the shorter distances at this point, we may continue with the shorter stuff until we are.

Although it is sad to not think about marathons for a while, especially after finally having a good one where there was so much more in there, I trust Steve, and I know he knows what he is doing.

What can you take from this?

If you have become stuck in a rut with your marathon time, or even if you have just done multiple marathons in a row, it may be time for you to step away from it, and do shorter stuff for a while. It will make a heck of a difference in your training, and who knows, you may end up running PRs in the shorter distances with your newfound strength. You may also end up enjoying all of it more; the faster work and then the marathon training after a short break.

Give it a try, you never know what might happen!

I will let you know about which specific races I am planning in the fall when I know a little more, but for now I am on the lookout for my wheels….let me know if you find them 😉

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  • This makes complete sense and I would think you have to be a little excited about building strength and speed back into your regimen! I’ve already decided that NYC will be my last marathon and I’m looking forward to focusing on triathlon after that. The marathon takes a lot of you – especially at your level. I think you and Steve are being very smart and I look forward to seeing you beat that 5K PR!!!

  • This is so smart! After running 3 marathons, you definitely need a break and the short races will be so fun!
    The Peachtree 10K will be such a blast! You are going to have a blazing fast summer – so exciting!! 🙂

  • Lisa@runningoutofwine
    May 22, 2015 8:09 am

    This makes a lot of sense and I think its a great plan! I am not planning to sign up for another marathon until I feel 100% ready. I am torn about doing one in the fall, but even if I do I definitely want to work on shorter races and speed before then.

  • I wasssss planning on working on my speed, but that is a bit of an issue now! And now I am going to be a coach, so coming back in a responsible way is my main goal. After Boston next year, I will be stepping away from the marathon (maybe permanently), so I am soaking it up as best I can 😀

  • I love switching back to speed after a distance training cycle- I definitely lost a lot of speed this winter and am having fun working on 5ks again. Glad you’ll be doing the same!

  • This is great and makes a ton of sense. I am sharing it with my group. Looking forward to seeing where your training leads you

  • Sounds like a great plan! I’m excited to see your progress!

  • How exciting 🙂 I think that sounds like a great idea for you!
    Shorter stuff makes me cringe…they’re so painful. I don’t get the same joy from them as I do with 10 milers, halves and marathons. For me it’s the journey and the process, and then the epic-ness of the race itself. Personally I can ‘enjoy’ the race because I’m not going the “all guns blazing” speed, but rather it’s about endurance. Perhaps I could grind my 5k and 10k times down, but honestly I really have no desire at this point. Sure I’d love to get good times once in a while but ideally as a sub-product of long distance training. It’s not something I would solely focus on… but I love that about our sports, it’s so diverse!

    • I am the same as you, Anna! I just can’t get excited about anything other than marathons (and the occassional half marathon en route to a full)! I structure my whole year around running 2 marathons. I know I ‘should’ have some shorter speed segments but I just can’t get myself to care about my 5k or 10k times as much. Perhaps this is because I seem to have much more natural endurance than speed. I have to work a lot harder for the speed component! As a result, I rarely race… it’s all about those 2 days a year for me.

  • patrick voo
    May 22, 2015 10:12 am

    great post tina! i’m actually taking this to heart and considering backing down from my usual three marathons per year to maybe tackling just one next year, and focusing in on 5ks, 10ks and maybe a half-marathon in the spring. your wisdom and accomplishments have definitely inspired me!

  • My body is built for distance, but I know that when I started implementing track work, I got substantially faster in the marathon. I’m looking forward to seeing what you guys do for your training! I really need to learn a few things.

  • Love it! And not only do you tend to lose speed when focusing more on endurance for the marathon, but I’ve found that at least for me, it’s easier to burn out training for marathons than shorter distances because of all of the long runs involved. Speedwork and intervals keep things spicy and it’s nice not to have to run 20 milers. Best of luck to you in getting back your speed! Looking forward to hearing what races you have planned when you decide on them!

  • I am very much in this phase right now. After several years of trying to improve my marathon time, it’s time for me to work on speed. I love 5K’s and yet, I haven’t trained for or run one in years. Time to switch things up and get back some speed maybe a half marathon toward the end of the year.

  • Martina Di Marco
    May 22, 2015 11:01 am

    Very smart move, Tina, and I can TOTALLY relate to this. While my last two marathons have been extremely rewarding and I’ve improved my marathon time considerably, my speed is 100% gone (and it was never really there to begin with LOL). I currently can run at marathon pace in my sleep, but don’t ask my legs to go any faster than that. The fact that I have a long distance predisposition doesn’t help in this case. I was tempted to focus on shorter distances until starting my marathon training for Boston in order to get some speed back (seriously, my half marathon pace is only 12sec faster than my marathon pace, that’s just SAD). However, I really wanted to try and race Chicago and I love the marathon distance too much to spend a whole season not training for one. I started working with a coach and told him that, although Chicago is my #1 goal for the fall, I’d like to put some extra focus on speed this time around. We’ll see how things will work out. GOOD LUCK WITH ALL YOUR UPCOMING RACES!

  • Cassie @ Rural Running Redhead
    May 22, 2015 11:41 am

    This is exactly what I needed to hear… that it’s okay, and even good, to step back for a while. I don’t have a marathon on the calendar and I’m feeling a little lost… maybe I should target some short distances, too.

  • Again, I am hoping lots of people are reading this! Such great advice. I am loving doing some shorter things right now and will probably go even shorter over the summer–5ks sound really appealing right now. I am in no hurry to get back to marathon training! I think it’s not only good physical time away, but mental time, too.

  • This is such great advice! I am training soon for my first marathon in October, and I already sense that I want to focus on 10K through half marathon for a good time afterwards. It’s so good for the mind and the body to switch between distances. I’m excited for you and all your upcoming PRs!

  • Yes this is great and I can’t wait to see you shred things up in middle distance! I’m in a similar phase at the moment, I’m approaching the fittest stage of my life, yet 5k and 10k’s are all I want to do in the near future. Probably for the rest of the year, with maybe another half marathon snuck in somewhere. I doubt I’ll do another marathon until next year.

    A lot of runners get stuck in this “static” mindset of training for only 1 distance. But I consider myself more of a “dynamic” runner, training for certain distances depending on where you are in life and in training. Steve sounds like a very smart and strategic guy, I wish I had him as a coach when I was younger 🙂

  • fuelingforfitness
    May 22, 2015 1:05 pm

    I took a break a couple of years from long distance running and tried to focus on my speed. It was really tough to even get close to some of the PRs that I had from the year prior and I got so frustrated for a while! Eventually, it clicked about a year later and then when I attempted my first half-marathon in 1.5 years, I realized how good all of that shorter distance training had been for me. I still want to run a few more marathons to see if I can finally get that BQ that I’ve been dreaming about for years, but seeing as how I have no idea how many attempts it will take, I’ll probably put that goal on hold if I start to feel like I’m stagnating and could use some speed refreshers. I was on the fence about running a 5K this weekend (they’re so hard!) but your post just tipped me over the edge and I’m pretty sure I’ll be doing it this weekend! Thanks for another great post. 🙂

  • I like your plan! It sounds really fun and different and I bet after all that strength training, you are going to be a speed demon…Excited to watch you go through this process! I’m all about half marathons, but before my next one and I dive back into training, it’s all about yoga, strength, and even cycling. 🙂

  • Heather @fitncookies
    May 22, 2015 3:11 pm

    This makes so much sense! With marathons and halfs, your speed definitely goes down due to the long nature. Awesome job taking time to work on that again. Marathons will be there and I bet with everything you’ve gone through this past year, you’ll be even more prepared for it!

  • Makes total sense. I feel like this is the spot I’m in with the marathon as well. After MCM in the fall I’m definitely taking a break and focusing on shorter distances!

  • I like this a lot! Although I do not run marathons, I can see how switching things up makes a whole lot of sense. I used to say that my favorite race distance is the half marathon but part of me may be learning to like and appreciate a good 10k race.

  • I’ve always wanted to run the Bix 7. Good luck with that killer hill! I think it’s a good idea to focus on the half marathon time before attempting another full. I truly believe the half is a great predictor of performance for a full marathon.

  • I think this makes sense. It is can so draining mentally and physically to train for marathon after marathon. Changing things up and conquering additional goals can be such a confidence booster and prevent burnout from the marathon. I walked away from the marathon for a year and a half after 2012 and enjoyed it so much more after I had tackled some different distances and goals. I’m sad you are going to run the Peachtree right after I finally moved away from ATL, but you will love it and do awesome there. Can’t wait to read along your journey as you crush shorter distances on your way back up to your sub 2:40! xo

  • I ran one marathon and it just wasn’t for me. Not saying I will never run another, as I’m sure I will someday, but I like focusing on the shorter stuff like 5Ks and 10Ks. A 5K race, if you race it all out, is pretty tough! Plus it’s good to change up your workouts, even the speedwork I do for a half marathon is different than what someone would do for a full… changing it up is good to keep us from adapting :).

  • so glad i read your blog, my coach is doing the same thing, i´ve run 3 marathons and now it is time to race some 5k. i´ve forgotten how much does the speed hurts lol but it is so fun the switch to faster intervals. Best wishes in this new cicle

  • Stepping away should be considered if there are problems with health.

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