So your marathon has been postponed for the Autumn and you’re feeling a bit lost about what to do? Hopefully resident Fast Running coaches Tom Craggs and I can help you out.

Let’s start with the obvious, if you’re experiencing a fever, dry cough and tiredness, then take some time off and self isolate. You might be used to tiredness during your marathon training, but be sensible.

Continuing through not only could make you worse, risk your health and it can also put others at risk through cross contamination.

Recover and rebuild

Now that bit of common sense is out the way, how do we continue with our marathon training?

“Firstly, let’s take the time to ease back if you’re in heavy marathon training” relays Tom. “There’s really no need to be hitting big long runs on the weekend or those really specific marathon pace or tempo sessions”.

A little bit of easy training, such as you might have had planned after your goal marathon, could be the best place to start. It’s not just the race you would have been recovering from, but the high load of marathon training too.

A period of easy and steady running with maybe some faster strides will give your immune system a chance to settle if you’ve battered it a bit with recent high mileage weeks or sessions too.

“Maybe get out for 80-90 minutes on the weekend and keep it easy. We want to maintain your long run fitness, but also not completely burn ourselves out with long runs all the way to the autumn.”

Getting out on the trails, somewhere a little easier to socially distance yourself as well, could be a good option. It’s a bit easier on the body and the soul, lets you escape from those hard tarmac miles but keep your endurance strong. It this initial period it’s also about giving yourself a mental break from highly structured, measurable training.

Try to mix up your routes and make your training less measurable

What about those who have built up their long run to 20+ miles and don’t want to start from scratch?

“You can keep a decent length longer run every 3-4 weeks then it can be a healthy way to keep that marathon specific endurance without exhausting ourselves” is England Athletics coach Tom’s advice.

“After a period of rest and easy running on the Fast Running Performance Project we’re going to be getting our athletes to look at some more 5/10k style workouts and training plans with those more sporadic long runs in there to keep the hard earned marathon specific endurance ticking over”

We’ve got a good bunch of runners in there and in times like this having some peers to talk to, as well as guidance from a coach, can be a really useful motivational tool.”

With that in mind the FRP applications are going to open early for Autumn marathons so people can jump in with the current group if they wish.

We want to keep the progress made in the spring going through to the Summer and Autumn and it’s was enough to do if you have a bunch of you focused on improving.

5/10k focus

As the picture becomes clearer on what training we can healthily do and you feel you have recovered from your recent solid mileage we can start to look at some quicker work.

“Given that races have been pushed back it’s a great time to work on the shorter, faster, more speed endurance and V02 max focused workouts that might be less common in recent marathon training blocks” said Tom.

Whether it’s cut down sessions like 1km/1600m/1200m/800m/400m, mixing aerobic work with faster efforts like 2 x 6 minutes at 5-10km pace + 8-10 x 70s at 3-5km pace, or simple blocks of work like 8 x 3 minutes, or 6 x (4 minutes + 70s) rev the engine and turn the legs over a bit faster.

Of course it’s also a great time to build an improved conditioning routine, drills and the foundations of speed.

Testing where you’re at

If you want to do a good test of your own fitness then a time trail might be a good idea, but anything longer than a 5k effort and you’ll likely struggle to replicate what you can in a race environment.

A self-motivated 5k blast is something we can reasonably achieve but when the going gets tough some self-talk can come in handy and remember it’s scientifically proven that if you shout “you can do this” at yourself, rather than “I can do this” it’s more effective. If you’re all on your own you don’t even need to keep those voices in your head for a change.

Maybe pick a route locally to you and avoid your local parkrun at 9am on a Saturday, just in case too many people have the same idea.

What about workouts at home?

Another thing to consider is if we do end up limited in our movements for a short while, what can we do then?

Firstly, with no races in the near future, it can be a great time to focus on some strength and conditioning and that is another aspect of the Performance Project we will be adapting.

Look out for articles with advice and workout routines to come on Fast Running, but also jump on Youtube if you need some inspiration. Plenty of really good workouts you can do before even looking at any of the more dedicated programs like Zwift or Peloton.

Hopefully we’re not looking at a full scale lockdown in the UK like we’ve seen in Spain, but if you are heading outside then be sensible with how far you get from home and avoid meeting up in groups to run together. It’s only a small sacrifice but can really make a difference.

Fast Running

Here at Fast Running we’re going to try and keep providing some high quality running content over the next couple of months, but it’s more a hobby for both Tom and I so if we have a little less than usual we apologise.

Thinking about how to replace our popular “parkrun top ten” and “weekend roundups” with has got us scratching the noggins, but we’ve got some good ideas so our small team will try to keep you entertained.

As mentioned above, we’ll re-open the Fast Running Performance applications so if you do feel like joining in with a structure group after some easy down time, we’re already thinking ahead to the autumn marathon season.

“Just remember to take some down time from your marathon training” concludes Tom “and don’t just jump straight into harder/faster workouts with a break. Plus we cannot emphasise enough that if you do have Corona virus symptoms then stop training and recover, first and foremost.”

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