Buller Gorge Marathon

Coach Ray’s Suffering: What Went Wrong with my Buller Marathon?

Last week I wrote about how my Buller marathon went. In summary, it started really well and I was trucking along comfortably on target then the wheels fell off about the 26km mark. This left me to struggle though the last 16km through to a 3:37hr finish.

I had previously written about some key indicators that were giving me confidence  that I was on form and capable of running (or at least getting close to) a sub-3hr marathon. My Garmin was taking the data from my workouts and even predicting a 2:30ish marathon!!! So what went wrong?

Now I never believed my performance was capable of getting what my Garmin was predicting and I don’t know how the predictions in Garmin work, but I am confident they are out by at least 25-30 minutes for the marathon. My predictions were based on my performance multiple times in my weekly speed workout: Yasso 800’s. By running ten reps of 800m in under 3 minutes, indicated that I had the speed to run a sub-3hr marathon.

That is a key point to note: That my performance  indicates that I had to speed to run a sub-3hr marathon.

One of the keys to successful endurance training is consistency. In the 106 days leading up to the Buller marathon I did a minimum of a 30 minute workout on 105 of those days. Some of those workouts were yoga workouts or stretching sessions (one per week), but the vast majority of them were running sessions (60%), with a few bikes and swims thrown in. I certainly had consistency within the training I completed.  If that wasn’t a problem what was?

Well, one of the key things was I didn’t have much time to train and had to focus on shorter quality workouts. I was unable to complete the number of long runs that I wanted to. In fact I didn’t complete many long runs at all. I did complete a great session of thirty something kilometres in the hills on Christmas day.

Although this session no doubt gave me some good enhancements for my endurance, the reality is it was only one workout and it was for all intense and purposes a fast tramp. If this was to be successful as my long training sessions I would have needed many more like it and it still wouldn’t have been specific to running a fast marathon.

I did have a number of successful 90 minute runs, but once again I didn’t do them often enough and they weren’t long enough to build the specific endurance I would need to run a marathon fast.

All in all, this marathon attempt was an experiment to see how I would go without the frequency of long runs that I would normally require in a training programme.  To see if endurance can be built through faster, shorter sessions only. Although I was confident that I would be able to complete the Buller, there was a big question in the back of my mind about the volume of my training and whether I would survive the distance at the speed I should have been capable of maintaining.

I wouldn’t say the experiment was a failure, because it was used to learn. Learn as I put my body through suffering and discomfort to test my theory.

What would I do differently next time I target a sub-3hr marathon? This is easy to ask. I would make sure I have time to complete regular runs over 2 hours, including sessions that involve faster running (but not in the initial base building phase).

What would I do the same for next time? I would definitely complete a build up of Yasso 800’s again as this session gave me the speed and the confidence. I would also include a reasonable amount of hill running


Here is a link to last weeks Coach Ray’s Suffering:


Previous weeks of Coach Ray’s Suffering can be found here.


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