Thanks Constance for the Kansas marathon recommendation. It sounds great. Ill keep it in mind for the future and let you know when I will be there.
My reasoning for running only 3 days a week came about when I noticed that most marathon training programs really only had 3 so-called hard workouts each week: a long run and 2 supporting runs. The others days were usually recovery runs or rest days. Since I didnt want to give up my other activities when I took up marathoning, I decided to use them as cross-training or recovery workouts instead of running, say, 3-6 miles.
As I mentioned before, I dont do speed work year around. I have an off-season so I dont get burned out continuously training hard for marathons. During my peak running season, Ill do a long weekend run, a med-long run that includes some race pace running and a medium length run with speed intervals (if the race Im training for has hills, Ill alternate with hill work). Since I rarely enter shorter races, once in a while Ill do the long run, an easy-paced medium length run and a workout that simulates a 5K or a 10K race instead of the interval workout.
During my off-season, my training is mainly endurance-based. But since endurance is the most important fitness component needed to run marathons, I know doing this alone will get me to the finish line within my reasonable time goal. Ill simply do a long weekend run and 2 other runs that are usually 50-75% the length of the long run that week. For variety, I may do a little fartleking but most are just easy-paced runs. My off-season training is much like Hal Higdons Senior Marathon Training Program (www.halhigdon.com), which is not just for seniors as he explains.
With this 3-day running schedule, the key for me is to do other non-running activities as cross-training. These enhance my aerobic fitness, improve muscular imbalances, and reduce the impact on my body. I choose to use my other hobbies, but many different types of activities can do this (walking, biking, swimming, cross-country skiing, etc). The variety also keeps me interested in running and, to some degree, I think it prevents me from over-training because Im constantly using different muscle groups and varying the impact level.
Final notes: Running only 3 days a week may not make me as good a runner as I could possibly be, but I feel the benefits are well worth the trade-off and, well, since Im meeting my running goals, theres really no reason for me to run more often. Interestingly, after having successfully run 5 marathons this year, I read in the October 2003 issue of Runners World an article called Boosting Your Endurance which listed 7 plans, 2 of which (plans 3 & 4) concurred with the ideas behind my off-season and peak running season training.
If you or anyone else has any questions, please feel free to ask!
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