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MRA

How to Train for a Marathon PR

Every one of us reaches a point in training where our progress levels off and new PRs are hard to come by. The typical response is more training mileage or more intensity, or both. This can work initially but we quickly discover that the next plateau is accompanied by burnout and injuries—or a lack of time.

But the problem isn’t your commitment. The main culprit is unidentified weak links, and therefore, the wrong training focus.
 

“Just because running is a simple activity doesn’t mean running training can be simplistic.”

 
It is important to understand that your current marathon race ability is determined by your aerobic fitness, neuromuscular power, and marathon-specific endurance. Most likely you have a strength in 1 or 2 domains but fall short in 1 or 2 of the 3. This is your weakness that holds you back from faster marathon times.

 

See also: MRA Plans for Faster Race Results

 

Aerobic fitness: This is your maximal oxygen uptake, expressed in VO2max. Some running watches feature a VO2max reading, but it really is just an estimate that doesn’t replace a laboratory test. Below you find the approximate VO2max values for different marathon race times.

  • 2:21h = VO2max 72
  • 2:44h = VO2max 61
  • 3:07h = VO2max 52
  • 3:31h = VO2max 45
  • 3:55h = VO2max 40

If you fall short in aerobic fitness, you will not surpass the above-mentioned times unless you address it in training. Of course, your running economy (efficient use of oxygen) also factors in here, which explains the variation between individuals despite similar VO2max values.

 

See also: MRA Plans for Faster Race Results

 

Muscular power: This is your ability to generate force quickly. The most running-specific measure of your muscular power is your ability to sprint. Below you find the approximate 200m sprint ability for different marathon race times.

  • 2:21h = 200m in 24sec
  • 2:44h = 200m in 28sec
  • 3:07h = 200m in 33sec
  • 3:31h = 200m in 37sec
  • 3:55h = 200m in 41sec

If you fall short in muscular power, you will not surpass the above-mentioned race times unless you address it in training. This is because if you can’t run 200m fast, then you will be challenged to run 400, 800, or 1600m repetitions/intervals with the necessary intensity.

 

See also: MRA Plans for Faster Race Results

 

Marathon-Specific Endurance: This is built upon your foundation of aerobic fitness and muscular power. For the marathon this entails a high lactate threshold, extraordinary muscular fatigue resistance, large glycogen stores, a well-developed fat-metabolism, and running economy at marathon pace. The marathon utilizes 100% of your slow-twitch fibers, 23% of your intermediate fast-twitch fibers, and 0% of your super fast-twitch fibers.

  • 80% of your maximal aerobic capacity
  • 40% of your maximal speed
  • 2.5% anaerobic contribution
  • 2.6mmol blood lactate/liter

In other words, if you are not trained for the unique demands of marathon-specific endurance, you will not surpass your current marathon race ability despite a solid foundation of aerobic fitness and muscular power. Rather, they are a pre-condition for marathon-specific endurance.

 

See also: MRA Plans for Faster Race Results

 

Now, how do you optimize all three variables – aerobic fitness, muscular power, and marathon-specific endurance – for faster marathon times?

The solution is purposeful workouts within a framework of periodization. To get this right is the art and science of training. 

Hi! I'm Sandro Sket, a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist from Germany. As an athlete I have won multiple awards in middle-distance and long-distance running events. My training plans combine science-based principles with the practical methods of professional athletes.
Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialists (CSCSs) are professionals who apply scientific knowledge to train athletes for the primary goal of improving athletic performance. They design and implement safe and effective strength training and conditioning programs.

Marathon Training Plans

Faster times at the marathon are not just the result of training more or harder. Real progress begins by maximizing aerobic fitness, muscular power, and race-specific endurance—in the right order.

Train with the same system used by professional athletes to set a new personal record at your next marathon race.

Elevate your aerobic capacity (VO2max)
Boost your lactate threshold/tolerance
Increase your neuromuscular power
Upgrade your fatigue resistance
Improve your running economy

MRA Beginner

16-week plan
3 running days/week
25 miles/week (40 km/week)

MRA Intermediate

16-week plan
4 running days/week
40 miles/week (64 km/week)

MRA Advanced

16-week plan
4 - 6 running days/week
55 miles/week (88 km/week)

MRA Pre-Elite

16-week plan
5 - 7 running days/week
70 miles/week (112 km/week)

Marathon Custom

Do you prefer a plan handcrafted for you?

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