A few weeks ago we were talking about doubles here on Salty Running, and it got me thinking about double 20 milers. No, not ultra training or weekend double long runs, but the general practice of more than one 20 miler in a marathon build up.
A lot of what I would call “cookie cutter” training plans build the long distance runner up to one super long run 2-3 weeks before the goal race. Then you move straight into taper. My first marathon I did one of these cookie cutter plans - probably a beginner’s Hal Higdon or something of that nature - and 3 weeks out, I finished my first 20 miler and thought,”Sweet! Time for taper!”
Not so fast, Pepper!
I trained with Team in Training for my first triathlon and my coach convinced me to do my first marathon in the fall that year. My coach burst my ready-to-taper bubble the week after that 20 miler. I planned to do 15 three weeks out, but he told me to do another 20 to really get race ready. Uggh. What the heck? But peer pressure ensued and I did a second 20 miler. And guess what? It went much better! And 2 weeks was plenty of time for a taper from it rather than the 3 I thought I had earned.
Since then, I have found that the first truly long run, 15 or more miles, after a bit of rust has formed from time away tends to be rough to get through. It takes my body one long run to get the rust off, and the second one is where my body gets the hint and adjusts to the extra time on my feet.
I’m a firm believer that once you do something once, your body figures out that it truly can do it, and next time it won’t be so cranky about performing the way you want. That means if your first long run doesn’t go well, you should try again rather than back off. You will probably surprise yourself and get your body in line to race your marathon!
So as you are tuning up for your big spring events, take a look at your plan. Does it include a 3 week taper and only one of your longest runs? Think about adding another and switching to a two week taper as long as your body and mind are relatively fresh and no injuries are holding you back!