How to develop Marathon training for Really Outstanding Results

In 10 Instructive Ways For Marathon Training Progress we were talking about the 10 key factors to Marathon Training and what they consist of. In How to develop Marathon training to Really Outstanding Results, we will talk about how to develop the Lactate threshold LT, since it’s the crucial factor in running the long distances faster: We can divide them into 4 main groups:

  1. Tempo
  2. Intervals
  3. Hill training
  4. Fartlek

1. Tempo  

Woman in a Marathon race crossing a bridge

Tempo run is the classic training type to move the LT. Tempo run is 20 to 40 minutes running by an intensity corresponding to the LT or the area around. By running just below this limit, develops the body’s ability to convert the lactate faster, which means that you move the limit and become able to train harder. In addition to these physical advantages, tempo run also develops a psychological feeling for setting the pace, and build up your confidence that you can maintain a tough pace for a longer time.

A tempo run will usually start with about 2 – 3 kilometres warm up followed by 5 to 8 kilometres tempo run with an intensity that corresponds to your 15-kilometre pace, finished by 2 – 3 kilometres cool down. It’s hard training which besides the positive effect of LT, also will give you a mental toughness that makes it easier to cope with hard training runs and the race you look forward to.

To manage the intensity, you can use a Heart rate monitor. It would be a good idea to run the first tempo runs on a carefully measured route. In this way, you can both keep an eye on the kilometre time (pace) and the heart rate at this pace. When you have a clear picture of the right pace, you can practice anywhere, but preferably on a flat route with the heart rate average, you had on the measured route.

When you train to a marathon, you can also get some good LT training by participating in 5 and 10 km races. It will also give you race experience and motivation. Just remember not to run too fast, because it would require a long recovery and thereby reduce the training effort for several days after.

2. Intervals

Females in a fast race on a stadium

Variation in your training is also very important, to avoid one-sided training and maintain the motivation. Training intervals vibrates and swings. Intervals gives you simultaneous the progress you want and even in a simple manner.

Interval training varies between run and break. It also varies between periods of high and low intensity. It accelerates and lowers the speed. Intervals can performs in many ways and with great variation in intensity. With intervals, we learn to run faster and to improve the energy supply to the muscle’s at a particular pace. When we have breaks, we can obviously run in a higher pace.

The duration of the breaks, can be determined from:

  • Time you can predefined the breaks after seconds or minutes. It is the most widely used method in athletic/running clubs. It can be a little boring but also easy to manage, and the lactate is gone before you start again.
  • Heart rate the rule could be that we should not start again until the heart rate is below e.g. 110 beats / min. This will often be preferred, when you run alone.
  • When you feel ready this will be the best and most relaxed way, particular if it is the first times you practice interval training and do not necessarily want to push yourself too much. We have here often a tendency to keep shorter breaks than we might think.

Thus, instead of running continuously for 20 to 40 minutes like in tempo runs, you can divide the runs in intervals of e.g. 4 to 8 minutes duration. As an example, you can run 4 LT intervals à 7 minutes with 3 to 4 minutes break between each; this will give a total of 28 minutes with the desired intensity. With these shorter intervals, you can also run a bit faster than the longer tempo run.

Threshold intervals are a good alternative to tempo run, particular if you cannot manage the many minutes of focused training. If you can run the first interval at the same pace as the last, you have found a good balance.

3. Hill training

Runner in a hill training session

Long hills are also excellent LT training. Hill training is furthermore a method to increase muscle strength, coordination and to fine-tune your running pattern and hereby the running economy. Hill training develops the neurological pathways needed for faster running. The training is similar to LT intervals, since we also here use intervals.

Hills around 1000 – 1500 meters are appropriate. If you can make a circular route that includes some long hills, you can run slowly on the flat sections and down the hill and then run at an intensity corresponding to the LT, uphill. Four runs on a 1-kilometre long hill, will give around 20 to 25 minutes of training around the LT.

In addition to the positive training effect, hill training will bring some variation to the training, which is very motivating and it counteracts the one-sided loads of the body’s various structures from LSD training.

To strengthen the muscle’s, running technique and coordination even more, you can supplement this training method with staircase run or hill jump, where you run up a hill with long steps and exaggerates your movements.

4. Fartlek 

Female running fartlek – speed play

Fartlek or speed play is a Swedish invention , which consists of free intervals of slowly and fast run eventually in different terrains, where you decide how to put the intervals together. This is a more unstructured form of interval training. You run as you feel rather than from a predefined plan. The work periods are not planned in advance and rest periods vary too.

The crucial difference between fartlek and intervals is, that in fartlek you do not have standing breaks i.e. you decide during the training, how to switch between long sections, short sections, heavy periods, quiet periods, pace shift, sprint etc. In the breaks, you just slow down the pace (jogging).

If you run in a group, you can take turns to determine both the intensity and the length of the intensive periods of work. Hereby the fartlek comes to resemble the excitement in a competition, where you often need to keep up with the competitor’s pace shifts.

If you train alone, you can leave it to the terrain to determine the intensity by alternately raising and lowering the speed between lampposts or side roads. One of the best places to train fartlek is in the forest, where changes in the terrain, the distance between trees or forest trails can specify the length of working periods. Fartlek is a method that yields good variation, breaks the more structured interval training and the sometimes too on – sided LSD.

The Effect of LT – Training

As mentioned, LT training is very crucial for long distance runners who wants to improve their performance. So, let us take a little summary of the effects.

LT training is training with high intensity, which moves the LT limit, improves the Oxygen uptake and the utilization rate. Running of this intensity level, also results in local changes in the muscle’s. These changes enhance the neurological pathways and the muscle fibers aerobic combustion capacity.

This means that muscle fibers can combusts fat and carbohydrates at intensities, where it previously was necessary with anaerobic combustion. Thus, the muscle’s can work more without producing too much lactate and therefore they become not as quickly tired.

Training both just above and just below LT leads to moving the threshold. Besides this, LT training also gives a very good effect on the heart’s stroke volume. The restriction is that you cannot cope with more than about 25 to 60 minutes before you are exhausted. The Muscle fibers aerobic system affects with great effect. The crucial changes in the muscle’s happens by:

  • The Type II fibers stimulates to change in aerobic direction
  • The number of capillaries increases i.e. the capillary density increases. The Capillaries are the smallest ramifications of the veins, where delivery of oxygen and absorption of waste products from the combustion occurs. More capillaries make it easier to deliver oxygen and carry away lactate.
  • The number and size of the mitochondria in the muscle fibers increases. The mitochondria are the muscle’s “Power Stations” where carbohydrate (as glycogen) and fat converts into energy.
  • The aerobic enzyme activities increase, which results in a faster energy combustion, and hence a more efficient use of glycogen. This improves the muscle’s ability to absorb and consume oxygen and thus produce more energy to the running work.
  • The myoglobin volume increases. Myoglobin binds oxygen and acts as oxygen depot inside the muscle cell. With more myoglobin increases the immediate oxygen depot.
  • The capacity to remove lactate from the muscle’s increases.


When you get started with LT – Training you really raise your energy level in general and that is something you will be aware of. Be sure not to run intervals more than 2 times a week with several days between, because it is intensive training.

I hope you like this Post and if you have any questions about this topic or want to leave your own Personal review, please leave a comment below.

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6 thoughts on “How to develop Marathon training for Really Outstanding Results”

  1. Marathon training is a mystery to me.  I have never been a runner.  However, a neighbor has mentioned that she missed the discipline and the feelings of accomplishments as she had not competed in a while.  She asked if I would be interested in joining a group of ladies to learn a bit about running. 

    As I had the typical couch potato approach to anything more difficult than walking, I kind of backed out of the conversation, leaving an open end to my interest level.  I know that if I asked her to help me do something, she would comply without a doubt.  So I feel guilty about not being enthusiastic for her plan.  I have been reading about running for adults, but not with the intensity you are describing in your article.

    Getting the lactate threshold basics and the four stages of running concepts outlined I still wonder if I am willing to train to this point.  I did appreciate that you explained the reasons for the 4 stages you talked about and their purpose.  I will go back and read the article you mentioned that explained the Marathon running more completely. Thank you, Undecided

  2. This is indeed a good way to exercise mad prepare for marathon. Often times while training we run as though we are already in the field wanting to win. Such running tends to be unproductive and can cause damage to the human body. Hence, athe need to run consciously notice your heart beat rate which can be achieved using the lsd technique or running at intervals.

    • Hi Steviejohn41
      Thank you for the comment.
      As you write “notice your heart beat”. That’s the most important – if you want to manage your running toward something like a goal.
      When using a heart rate monitor you are always in control of your training.

      Be well

  3. Hey nice article you have there, your thoughts are quite invaluable. The need for contnious training for athletes to keep them fit at all times, cannot be overemphasize. However, I have learnt a whole from this article especially the aspects of Hill training which focuses on building a strong muscle which is important for enabling one moves freely and keeping the body strong

    • Thank you for the comment. Hill training is my one of my favorites because you also use and develop other muscle groups particular when running in vary terrain like in a wood  and – for me ending up very energizing when finishing the training. 


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