Anyone considering a Fall marathon has probably started at least thinking about their training if not just beginning following a plan. While I don't actually mean "formal" marathon training, since most races are still close to 20 weeks out, now is the time to start laying the foundation for the marathon-specific work you'll be piling on top as you get closer to your goal race. Every season around this time, I like take a glance back at my training over the last few months and identify some priorities or short term goals to get me through this initial period. Marathon training can be a long cycle and without short term goals, its easy to get wrapped up in the long term stuff, but over time, this frequently becomes a mental drag as the season wears on. So what I like to do is set up some short term goals to get me through this initial period, establish some consistency and good behaviors, and then pile on the marathon work. Hitting those short term goals means I'm ready to enter the actual marathon training cycle. Depending on your race, this could be a month or longer period dedicated to establishing a baseline level of fitness and a workable routine. So let me explain a bit more about what this means:
I ask myself a few key questions at the outset:
What has my training been like?
What areas can I improve on?
How do I get there?
The answers to these questions will lead you to establish these short term goals, IF you take a honest assessment of where you are today. Because remember, you can't just pull race goals out of a hat. They should be somewhat realistic and achievable, based on your CURRENT fitness. Pie in the sky goals are great for long term planning, but short term goals are what will get you out there day after day.
So once you've responded to those questions, you have to find a plan that gets you from Point A (today) to Point B (ready for marathon-specific training). Finding a training plan that looks good on paper is nice, but making sure it fits into both your current fitness level and your schedule is another thing.
Here is a quick glance back to summarize my responses to these questions:
Taking a look back at my training from April through early June, I've let a few things slide to give myself (intentionally) less focus. My volume, intensity, and strength work is all down from where it was before Shamrock. I did this to give my body and mind a break. While I still trained hard for Brooklyn, I let a lot of the things I had been doing slide, because you can't be on your "A" game all year long or else you'll burn out eventually. So while I included intensity and strength work, it was less consistent. So now that I am looking toward NYC, I have set up some short term goals to establish a pattern leading into the marathon-specific training I'll start up in about a month. These goals are centered around what I need to improve on, starting from where I am now, and creating goals that will get me to where I want to be in about 4 weeks.
Short term goals:
1) Slowly increase weekly volume to a sustainable (for me) level in the low to mid 50s
2) Run consistently 6-7 days/week to get into the routine to support higher volume
3) Add one double run per week on the same day as speedwork
4) Gradually begin incorporating more dedicated strength routines following hard workouts (2x/week)
5) On easy days following each run, incorporate 5-10 minutes of mobility to aid bloodflow/recovery
So there you have it - a handful of small goals to keep me motivated. Each one is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound; otherwise known as SMART.