Saturday I decided to go to the track and test my mile. The idea was to go to the track, run half a mile of warm-up, then run a mile full-out as if it were a race, then cool down. I can use this, if I test it every once in a while, to keep track of my fitness for that distance. I tried to keep track of it last year, but I only did two mile tests.
Yesterday I accomplished a 9:49 mile. I am really not at the same level I was in March last year when I ran a 9:15 mile. I know exactly why this is, and I am not dismayed by it, only disappointed that my mental state after moving home last year was really quite terrible. I am disappointed that I never sought help. For about 6 months last year I could barely muster the will to get out of bed, leave the house, whatever. As a side-effect, I lost a lot of the fitness I should have been able to maintain easily. I'm not quite back at square one. I am determined to not let this happen to me this year.
As spring comes in, I have a few options for training. I can go the route of building mileage to reach a nice base requisite for MCM training in the fall, while adding speed workouts, and a half marathon or two. I could also go the route of using a lower mileage marathon training plan in the spring for, perhaps, a summer marathon, while still balancing out my training through running, swimming, and rugby. Then again, I could do the latter option while building towards the prior one.
I have been finding many plans that seem to re-evaluate the effectiveness of much-used and long-standing plans*. I have found two ends of the spectrum… one with very low weekly mileage and three runs(interval, tempo, long run at pace)/ cross training a week and one with a rather high mileage, but evenly balanced across the week.
The latter, called the Hanson Marathon Method, looks to be a very interesting and well-researched methodology that involves the use of intervals, easy runs, and long runs that take place after a few days of shorter runs before it. The guiding principles here are that 1- long runs over three hours can do more damage and need more recovery time than is effective for strong training and 2- no rest days before the long run place less emphasis on it, as it also simulates running in the latter part of the race, not running the beginning of a race. The long runs also cap mileage at around 16 miles, depending of the pace of the runner-- avoiding running too much over 3 hours at once is the goal here.
I’m interested in the higher mileage, but not necessarily interested in running it right now, so maybe getting up to the higher requisite base mileage would be a good goal for me now during spring, and also working a bit on my speed. Then, as summer/fall comes, I could use this higher mileage plan to my advantage.
The previous plan I mentioned is one I could use now as I work my way up to higher mileage and still be able to swim and bike during the training. It’s sort of like a triathlon training plan if you isolated the running and said the other types of workouts were your cross-training instead. That works for me since I want to also do a lot of swimming and rugby right now.The active recovery in this plan is not easy run days, but cross training. It would work for my rugby practice schedule and swimming quite well.It's part of the FIRST training methodology, which essentially says that you can run less but you have to run faster in the training runs. I'm not sure about it yet, but I like the speed workouts so I may just use them incorporated into a Frankenstein-monster training plan of my own devising.
There’s a lot to think about. What I don’t want is a plan where I just have to slog through mile after mile without really changing the speed from run to run. A lot of beginner plans are like that--they focus on getting you over the finish line. That’s the goal, yes, but I would also like to make sure my fitness improves, not just subject my body to mile after slow mile.
*if you understand that to be a week that includes rest/easy/tempo or pace/easy/rest/long (often capping at 20 miles)/cross train.
Addendum: Rugby practices contain sprint exercises, so no matter what plan I choose I will keep this in mind when planning speed workouts, if I choose to include them at all. I like researching plans but these two are probably not what I would choose for a first marathon. I have a lot of time to research and plan carefully.