by Paul Koks in Training Tips, image by Octavio Heredia

5 Tips for Improving Your Marathon Time

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Time should not be your primary concern when training for and running your first marathon. The first mission should be to get comfortable with the distance so you know you can at least make it to the end. Once you are a bit more comfortable with the distance and have perhaps successfully completed a race or two, you will want to start improving your time. The following tips will help you do just that once you reach this point in your running career.

1. Develop an effective marathon training schedule and stick to it religiously. You cannot improve time if you aren’t running consistently.

This is the most basic tip you will ever receive on improving running time, but it is the most important tip. If you are not running consistently and following an effective training schedule, there is no way you will ever improve. You can find training schedules online, and then modify them to fit your life and your goals.

2. Know what time you could realistically complete a marathon in right now.

There are different types of finish times for marathon runners. You have the dream time you would like to one day finish a marathon in. Then there is the realistic time that you could probably achieve right now. Finally, there is a realistic improved time that you could set as a goal and strive to reach for an upcoming marathon. If you continue on, your dream time will one day become a realistic improved time, and eventually it could become a real time that you see on the clock as you cross the finish line.

For now, focus on the time in which you could realistically finish a marathon today, or after a bit of training. This is your starting point. You cannot set a realistic improved time to shoot for if you do not know what you could do right now. If you have recently completed a marathon, your finishing time could be your starting point time.

3. Count how many miles you currently run each week or would likely run during training, and add five to ten percent.

Start increasing the number of miles that you run each week. The more you run, the more chances you will have to add in exercises that improve on your time (see tip number four below). Do not add more than ten percent of the miles you are currently running, or the miles you currently have in your training schedule. When the added amount becomes comfortable and efficient, you can add more miles if you have time before your race.

It is never too early to start training if your goal is to improve time in the next race.

4. Enhance your training schedule with exercises proven to increase speed.

You probably used a variety of exercises to improve your cardiovascular endurance and build up your muscle strength so you could sustain the distance of a marathon. Now that you have completed a marathon or two, you can replace those exercises with new exercises designed to improve speed. You are at a point where you do not need to run/walk or cut other corners, so you can now start using mile repeats and tempo runs.

A mile repeat is where you run a certain number of miles about 15 seconds faster than your realistic current marathon time, with a mile of slower running in between. You can work your way up to five or more faster miles for each training session. Tempo runs are similar to interval training, but you run some miles at a slow pace, some around your realistic marathon pace, and then finish with faster paced miles.

5. Increase your pace during long runs.

If you want to improve your current marathon time, make that the focus of every training session. That includes your long runs. Many runners take a more leisurely pace to make it through those longer runs, but if your goal is to finish the marathon faster, you shouldn’t do that. Pick up the pace and use those longer runs to practice getting through your next marathon at a faster pace.

You won’t improve your marathon time overnight, but with persistence and dedicated training it will happen!