Andrew Stolz has participated in several marathons in his lifetime either as a competitor (with a personal best of 2:28 over the 42.195 km) or pacer, and recently coached Mark Stella in his lead up to the Gold Coast Marathon.

The following is the training program that was used to prepare Mark, and was commenced 6 months prior to the event.

The training program I set below is quite general and it won’t get more specific than this – I want to give you plenty of leeway to tweak things to be enjoyable rather than giving you sessions you don’t like. The key for this program is the weekend. My approach has always been to have a fairly gruelling weekend comprised of a long hard run on Saturday at or near race pace followed by a long Sunday run at a slower pace. The Sunday run will be tough given the Saturday effort and will train your body to be as prepared as you can be for the Marathon distance while only reaching 32-34km in training.

I suffered stress fractures when upping my mileage, but I found this program allowed me to run 2:28 on 2 occasions on between 70-80km per week. Of course, my sessions were very high quality and when not running I would destroy myself with tough water running sessions or similar.

Easy run or x-training session between 30-60 mins (ride, swim, water run, gym circuit class or similar). This session should not be hard and should help you recover from the weekend by getting the blood flowing. If using any weights, use low weight and high repetitions.

Tuesday: Session (see below)

Wednesday: Same as Monday

Thursday: Session (see below)

Friday: Same as Monday or take the day off altogether

Saturday: Hard sustained run. Ideally on flatter terrain with less bends, obstacles, road crossings (I ran on bike paths beside the freeway and the Yarra). This should be close to your planned marathon pace and should be 20-24km.

You may build up the speed from a slower pace during the run if you are a little flat. I recommend that you do several of these runs on your own rather than always running in a group. This will allow you to focus on things like your pace, breathing, running form, being relaxed to lower your heart rate, thinking positive thoughts etc.

When you eventually race the marathon you will be in a large field of runners but you will run your own race and will need to make your own decisions and manage yourself mentally… so the Saturday run will be crucial in training your body and mind.

Sunday: Long easy run. I preferred rougher, hillier and soft-under-foot terrain for these runs which suited the slower pace and the strength / endurance aspects we are trying to focus on… I often ran these runs at “Ferny Creek” in the Dandenong ranges. At least 20km (and up to 32-34km 2 or 3 times before the marathon).

This run is all about getting long kms in your legs. You will be flat from the day before. You want to be really flat and feel drained with heavy legs after the run. In the afternoon, if you walk up some stairs you should think “my legs are dead!”. I often had a Sunday snooze because I was wrecked after this run.

These should contain some quicker work in an overall session but not “sprint work”.

I personally like sessions where you have some faster work with “float” recovery rather than walking around for minutes between your hard efforts. You will be doing your fastest work in these sessions but overall the session should be tough (ie your heart rate never gets below 120-130bpm)

I’ve done things like:
• 3-4 laps of the tan (3.8km), starting out solid and getting quicker each lap… finishing feeling good and fast, but fairly exhausted
• 3-4 laps of the tan with a 3-5 min float between each lap
• Mona fartlek or double Mona fartlek

• 1 km reps with float recovery
• Sessions over hilly terrain where you might work the uphills hard and ease off the downhills
• Your Sessions can be designed by you if you like and just be something that you enjoy that makes you work hard

You can also read Mark’s story at: The Gold Coast Marathon from a Competitors Perspective