Adapting the marathon training plan to local trails

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  • #41179

    Looking for some training advice. I’m a mediocre and inconsistent runner, but I’m very consistent/fast hiker/mountain scrambler, and I really want to up my game and become a better, more consistent, trail and mountain runner. Not necessarily even for events – I just like moving far and fast in the mountains for my own enjoyment. But I have been feeling like I need a big running goal to train for to keep me focused enough to improve.

    I bought the marathon training plan because it was geared to the beginning runner, with the plan to train for a marathon in October. The idea of running a marathon and checking that off my list sounded like a great way to eventually move to become a better mountain runner as well. But quickly I ran into a stumbling point that where I live in the CO mountains, I have no convenient access to flat-ish trails or roads to train on…and no treadmill access in this pandemic.

    I decided to just move forward with the marathon plan since I bought it and try to adapt to my local trails, and see when the country opens up and races start again if I can find a good first trail race that can take advantage of my training. But I’m running into issues with the scheduled 30 min easy paced runs and hills….everything around me has decent climbs I have to hike up to stay in my AeT zone, and I feel like I’m doing more hiking than running. I’m concerned that having so much gain that forces me to hike on these base-building weeks won’t actually be effective toward building a running base?

    I’d love some advice as to whether I should just keep going with the marathon plan, or if I should purchase a different plan? I looked at Luke Nelson’s Intro to Ultra Running Training Plan, but it specifies “handling back to back 25 mile weeks” which I’m fully not at yet.

    Also, if you have suggestions for a trail race length/type to shoot for that would still be ambitious but do-able given my trail-only access, I’m all ears as well! Its a weird time with all of the races being cancelled to try and formulate goals!

    (I’m also reading the book right now which is GREAT, and I’m sure will provide good direction).

Posted In: Mountain Running

  • Participant
    Reed on #41191

    Hi Erica,

    Take advantage of where you are! I have easy access to a long path along the Charles River in Cambridge – I’d love to spend more time in Colorado mountain trails, but I also enjoy running on flat.

    Races are valuable commitment devices & motivators. It may be a while until large events come back, though. You might consider finding another training milestone or goal. For example – could you accumulate 150 hours of Zone 1 aerobic work through the rest of 2020? (Or 200 hours, or 300 hours, depending on your level of training.) If that means hiking – great!

    Set yourself up for emotional success as well as training success. Hiking in Z1 on Colorado trails at 8,000-12,000 feet will definitely build up aerobic capacity that will translate to improved running capability. It won’t be specific training, but definitely good base / general training.


    JGwartney on #41193

    I don’t think you need to get a different plan, just continue on the trails you have access to. Hiking uphill isn’t detrimental to your base building, just stay below your AeT and when it increases you’ll be able to go faster. Consistency is key to reaping the benefits of training, far more than intensity. Put in the work and you will improve.

    As far as the length of race to shoot for I suggest you start small and work your way up. 5K, 10K, and Half Marathon are all worthy goals. I know things are crazy with race cancellations but I’m sure you could find something to shoot for. You just have to train like the race IS going to happen and, if it gets cancelled, you still get the benefit of the training. Peruse UltraSignup, find something close to home that feel’s doable and commit to it. I’m signed up for a race in Colorado that’s scheduled for July and it’s questionable whether it’s going to happen but I’ve stuck to my training plan and continue to get stronger. There WILL be races to run eventually.

    Enjoy the book and have fun with your training,

    Rachel on #41212

    I don’t know about that training plan, but what about training for a hilly trail marathon instead? I did the Bull of the Woods 26 milers in Taos, NM last fall and as of now it hasn’t been cancelled (plus it’s a pretty small race, they may be able to practice social distancing if needed!) There’s a ton of vert (over 9k) and it’s almost all above 10k in elevation.

    I used the Uphill Athlete book to make my own plan which was heavy on the vert (lots and lots and lots of uphill hiking), and I ran almost exclusively downhill (and the flats, but like you I don’t have much flat terrain where I live).

    Erica on #41231

    These are great ideas and info – thank you!I’ll keep plugging away with what I’m doing and see what races I can find late this year that look do-able…that Taos race sounds great, I’ll def look into it (though that might be biting off more I can chew for my first marathon with that gain ha!)

    Thanks again!

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