This Marathon Workout From An Elite Coach Will Show If Your Target Time Is Realistic

Athlete Sharon Lokedi running
Sharon Lokedi running in the Under Armour Infinite Elite (Image credit: Under Armout)

When you’re deep into marathon training with a goal time in mind it can become hard to believe you’ll be able to run that pace for 26.2 miles. That’s because during training you’re almost always running on tired legs, and your target pace feels unduly hard as a result.

Of course, when race day rolls around you’ll not only have a few more weeks of training in your legs to improve your fitness, but you’ll also have tapered for your marathon, meaning you’ve reduced your training load so you line up at the start with fresh legs. However, if you want to check in on your progress during training to see if your target time is realistic or not, you can try this long tempo session.

I got this session from Stephen Haas, coach of the Under Armour Dark Sky Distance group when I asked him for his favorite marathon workouts at the launch of the Under Armour Infinite Elite running shoe. It’s a workout he uses with his elite athletes and a great indicator of the kind of shape they’re in during marathon training.

It’s not easy or short, and it should certainly be the main workout you do in a given week of marathon training, with recovery days afterward. On the plus side, Haas normally has his athletes doing it at altitude, which you probably won’t have to contend with.

“When in Flagstaff or Camp Verde one of the [workouts] that I like to do a lot is a five-mile tempo, one-mile float, four-mile tempo, one-mile float, three-mile tempo, one-mile float, two-mile tempo, one-mile float,” says Haas. “It’s a session that we’ve done a lot. I like that it breaks up the tempo a little bit, and it’s still good volume.”

After a warm-up you hit the first tempo run section, running at a comfortably hard pace. A float recovery means that you slow down, but are still running rather than dropping to a walk or jog.

“For the float recovery we typically do that, depending on if it’s men or women, about a minute slower than what their race pace would be,” says Haas.

If you find that you’re naturally running your marathon pace during the tempo sections, it’s a great sign you’ll be able to hold that pace in your race.

It’s a long session where you’re running 18 miles of tempo and floats, so won’t be suitable for everyone. If it’s your first marathon or you’re just aiming to get around the course of your race it’s probably an unnecessarily hard one. Judging your effort on the tempo efforts will be crucial too, so if you’re not familiar with tempo runs it’s worth doing a couple of shorter ones first.

Nick Harris-Fry
Senior writer

Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.