Connemarathon Specific Training Plans with John O’Regan

John O’Regan is an Irish International Ultra Runner with 10 International appearances at 100K, 24-hrs and Ultra Trail. He has run marathons and ultra-marathons on seven continents plus the North Pole and is also 3 times National 24-hr Champion. To keep up with John you can follow him on Twitter @johnoregan777.

If you are targeting the half marathon you should already be comfortable with running 20-25 miles per week. For the full marathon maybe 30-35 miles per week and for the ultra then ideally you should have a few marathons under your belt and be comfortable with 45-50 miles per week. Your weekly mileage will also be relevant to your race day goals and if you are targeting a personal best performance then you need to be at the upper end of the suggested distance.

All runs are easy unless otherwise stated and you don’t need any gadgets to work out your easy pace as this should simply be conversational pace. That means you should easily be able to talk without having to time your breathing. The long run should be 60-90 seconds per mile slower than your planned marathon pace or you can use your recent marathon PB and add the 60 -90 seconds on. On recovery days you do just enough to aid recovery without trying for a training response meaning you don’t look for a work out with a recovery run.

The hilly run is done over an undulating course, if you can find one or if you live in a relatively flat area you should try find at least one hill and include it in your route as much as possible. For hill repeats, you find a hill of the required length or close to it. Warm up and then run the hill comfortably hard with a jog recovery to the start and repeat again. The steeper the hill the slower the pace and if you find a hill that you think too short then you can increase the number of reps. The tempo run starts with a warm up and sandwiched in the middle is a few miles at 10K or half marathon pace followed by an easy cool down.

For the session that includes Marathon Pace (MP) you simply run the MP miles in the middle of your session. As an example, 18 (14MP) would consist of 2 miles easy, 14 @ MP and 2 miles easy. This session is one I’ve started to use since reading a very popular book called Advanced Marathoning by Pete Pfitzinger & Scott Douglas and its purpose is to get you used to running at Marathon Pace. The interval session is fairly similar to the tempo run but you have a recovery of 5 minutes between intervals and again you include a warm up and cool down.

You need to bear in mind that Connemarathon includes more hills than your usual marathon and that needs to be factored into your training plan. As a suggestion I would say use the paces as per the McMillan Running Calculator but on race day you will need to plan a pace that is slower. From my own experience and talking to others it would seem that for the marathon distance you can expect to be 10-15 minutes slower. On race day I’d go for an even pace from the start rather than trying to run a faster first half (positive split) with the intention being to bank time for the end. I find that if you go off too fast you will fatigue quicker and this will make the last section of the course tougher than it needs to be. As a rule, there should be a reduction in pace as the distance increases and for the ultra distance it’s more or less a lengthened marathon programme which is why it helps to be starting from a base of a recently completed marathon. The main difference between the full and ultra plan is the addition of back to back long runs and a longer distance long run. You will notice that on some weekends the longer of the two runs is on the Saturday and this is specifically to fatigue the legs in advance of the shorter second long run on the Sunday. Most weekends will have the longer run on the Sunday and I think this is the safest approach as doing too much on tired legs can increase your chances of injury.

For the Ultra I would tend to run close to race pace (not faster) for the long run.

Weekly Mileage

On some days there’s an option of two distances, e.g. 4-6, the choice of distance is based on how you feel and your race day goals. If you have a few marathons under your belt and aiming for a PB then you should go with the higher end but again it depends on how you feel on the day. If the week has two options of a distance or rest then you decide which day is the rest day but I would advise taking rest or if you train through then it needs to be recovery pace for some of the sessions.

Rest and Recovery

Recovery between sessions is very important and you should not be going into a session feeling tired or run down with maybe the odd exception to tiredness in the legs when doing a back to back long run.

Good luck!