Training Plans

"Ah, the rise of ‘trail marathons’ races with a sense of puckish ness, adventure, magnificent scenery you can’t afford the time to fully appreciate, and of course a guarantee that you won’t run a fast time. Trail marathons take marathon running back to its roots. Pheidippides, after all, didn’t run on asphalt highways between Marathon and Athens. Neither did the King’s Messengers in Hawaii, the message carriers between monasteries in the Himalayas, the African messengers carrying their mail wedged into the crook of a stick, or the message carriers in the Andes who chewed up a few coca leaves before leaving on their missions. Nope, these guys didn’t pussyfoot over a few sticks and rocks, cursing at the gravel. They hurdled and meandered over miles of wild terrain, never knowing what may lay ahead. Such runners might be prepared for the Yukon River Trail Marathon sponsored by the Valhalla Pure outdoor gear store a race with a wild and woolly history that sticks like mud to every step that you take. It also has that old-fashioned, down-home kind of feel that races used to have before running was discovered by the masses." (Marathon & Beyond, January/February 2001, Volume 5, Issue 1)

We couldn’t have said it any better ourselves. Whether you’re helping out as a volunteer or competing in one of the four different Yukon River Trail Marathon race formats, it’s about having fun, healthy lifestyles and taking part in a community event. As an added bonus, it’s always nice to meet some of the runners from ‘outside’; runners who remind us of how beautiful our landscape is and how rich our history.

In case you haven’t noticed, it’s now about fifteen weeks to the Fifth of August. Just the right amount of time to work your way through a training program to get fit to achieve the goal or goals that you set for yourself in the Yukon River Trail Marathon. There is no magic to training. You decide what you want to accomplish on race day and plan accordingly. With reasonable goals and a training plan to achieve them, the only other ingredient required is your commitment to do the work and show up on race day with a good attitude and a willingness to succeed. Here are some general principals:

  1. Train progressively. This means that you gradually build up your mileage on a weekly basis until you are running enough to successfully achieve your race day goal. It is important to train progressively to give your body enough time to adapt to the added stress that increased running will put on it. If you increase your mileage too quickly you are far more likely to injure yourself and really mess up your training.
  2. Be flexible. A training plan is just that a plan. If something goes wrong, you get injured or sick or have a family commitment, don’t force yourself to stick to the plan; adapt. The most important runs to complete in a week are your long slow run and your shorter race pace run.
  3. Include time for a good taper. A ‘taper’ for ten days to two weeks before a race will allow your body to rest and recover from heavier training and to charge up with fuel to carry you through your race. In a sixteen-week program, your heaviest training will occur in week 14. During week 15 you should cut your mileage down as much as 50% and in the last week before the race cut it down another 50%. If you are running 40 miles in week 14, this means that you would cut it down to 20 in week 15 and down to 10 in week 16. This will leave you fit and charged up mentally and physically to run great on race day. If you’re running according to time (e.g. 8 hours in week 14), follow the same taper pattern except apply it to the amount of time you spend running.
  4. Set reasonable goals. Most coaches will tell you to have at least three goals for your race - to finish, to finish in a reasonable time based on recent race or training times, and a dream goal where, if everything goes right you may faster than your training and racing reasonably suggests is achievable. Achieving any one or more of these goals should make you feel like a winner.
  5. Train on the same type of surface and terrain that you will be racing on. If you can train on the trails that have similar surface quality and features to the race course. For runners living in Whitehorse, you may want to spend some of your training time running different sections of the course.

You will want to apply these general principles to your specific training program. Remember that your program may vary depending on which race format you decide to run and how fit you are at the start of your training. The four race formats include: the full marathon (26.2 miles), a half-marathon (13.1 miles), a two-person marathon relay (approximately12 and 14 miles) and a four-person marathon relay. Remember, you should design your training program to enable you to give a ‘peak’ effort for your target distance on race day. Here are some specific ideas for your training program:

  1. Weekend mileage should be approximately equal to total mileage that you run during the rest of the week.
  2. You should include a long slow run every week and a shorter run at race pace.
  3. You should alternate easy weeks (i.e. lower mileage) with harder weeks (i.e. higher mileage). Some training programs involve one rest week every three weeks, others recommend that you cut back every other week.
  4. In addition to your long run and your race pace run you may want to include a couple of shorter easier runs during the week and at least one workout on hills or at the track. Hills will build leg strength and endurance and a track workout can help you develop speed and running efficiency.
  5. Your schedule should include at least two to three runs that last approximately as long as your estimated finish time for your race. You should run these workouts sometime between 8 and 2 weeks before race day.
  6. Take at least one rest day per week.
  7. Remember to taper - cut your mileage back starting two weeks before race day.

Hope these pointers are helpful. Remember the key is to have fun. Your training program should not be so hard that you can’t enjoy it.