Improve Your Marathon Speed, Pace and Performance with Marathon Madness

By Rick Morris

I hear it all the time; moderation is best in all things. Most marathon training programs follow that axiom. A typical marathon training plan is focused around a gradually increasing distance of moderate paced runs. A moderate marathon training program will give you fairly good results. It will get you to the finish line with relative ease. But sometimes you want to do more than just finish. There are times when you want to stray outside the box and accomplish something that is challenging both mentally and physically. If you want to improve your marathon pace or reach levels of speed, and performance in your marathon that you have never reached before, you need to perform workouts you have never run before. You need some marathon madness.

Marathon madness is a challenging change of pace workout that combines marathon goal pace running with surges of high intensity 5K pace segments. The 5K surges in this workout do several things to help your marathon performance.

  • Improve Your Lactate Threshold
  • Raise Your VO2 max
  • Increase Your Neuromuscular Conditioning
  • Improve your Mental Toughness and Conditioning

Most of the 5K interval workouts you have done in the past most likely used either total rest or very easy running as recovery. This marathon madness workout is truly mad as it uses goal marathon pace runs as your “recovery”. This workout is obviously not a true interval training workout because there is no recovery. This is more of a high end tempo or marathon pace run with hard 5K surges. As you slow to marathon pace from your 5K surges you body is forced to deal with the metabolic, neuromuscular and mental consequences of the faster than lactate threshold runs. As a result you are able to raise your lactate threshold, VO2 max and mental toughness all in one run. You become a faster marathon runner.

This highly intense and challenging workout isn’t for everyone, but if you are at a high state of both physical and mental fitness and are looking for an “outside the box” workout to get you to new levels of marathon performance, this may be the workout for you.

Marathon Madness

  • Pace: Alternate between 3/4 mile at goal marathon pace and 1/4 mile at 5K pace.
  • Recovery: None
  • Distance: Between 6 and 12 miles. For your first effort I would suggest a 6 mile run. Then increase the distance by one or two miles each time you perform this workout.
  • Frequency – This is a difficult workout that you should perform no more than once every three to four weeks. Do this training run throughout your marathon training schedule but don’t do it within 4 weeks of your marathon.