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Run Training: Progressing to Your Peak

By Rebekah Mayer

If you’ve set your sights on the Leadville Trail Marathon or the Leadville Trail Heavy Half, it’s time to start getting your body ready for the task. Going the distance is all about proper preparation, and that involves appropriate increases in mileage.

We asked Rebekah Mayer, National Training Manager for Life Time Run, to give us her tips for progressing to your peak.

Half Marathon & Marathon Mileage Progression:

When training for a half marathon or marathon, there are many factors to help you determine the best mileage progression. First, look back at your recent training and answer the following questions:

  • What is your current weekly mileage?
  • What was your longest run in the past month?
  • What was your highest weekly mileage in the past year?
  • Is this your first marathon or half?

If this is your first time tackling the marathon or half marathon distance, your mileage progression should follow a cautious approach. Many coaches advise using the 10 percent rule, which states that weekly mileage should be increased by no more than 10 percent each week. Unfortunately, this recommendation does not appear to be based on scientific research, and it may not be appropriate in all cases. At Life Time Run, we recommend a stair step approach to increasing mileage: You increase mileage for three consecutive weeks, then lower your mileage in week four, making it a recovery week. Your exact weekly increase will vary, but is typically two to four miles per week for a beginner or intermediate half-marathon or marathon runner.

If you are an experienced long-distance runner, mileage increases can be more rapid. If you are just returning from a short off-season, you can plan out a faster return to your previous mileage levels. A healthy, experienced runner can often safely return to their previous base mileage within a span of three to six weeks using the stairstep approach. Once at your previous base level, additional gains should be done more cautiously. A common progression is two to three miles per week until you reach your peak mileage, again using the stair step approach. An annual mileage increase of five to 10 percent can set the stage for long-term fitness improvement.

Along the way, it is important to allow for adequate recovery time and sleep, and to watch for signs of overreaching or impending injury. Taking your heart rate every morning is a good way to see if your body is fully recovered.  An elevated resting heart rate can be an early sign of an illness or overtraining, and is a good cue to back off your training for a day or two.

Follow these tips, and you will build a solid foundation for your marathon or half marathon training.

Rebekah Mayer is the National Training Manager for Life Time Run. She has a 2:59 marathon PR and was a six-time NCAA-II All American at Adams State College (Alamosa, CO).

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