Alessandro presented to me in April of 2016 as 70kg 32 year-old serial marathon runner, having completed 8 marathons in the 2 years prior. These included Singapore, Dubai, Amsterdam, London, Rome and Turin with a personal best of 2h59’ at Amsterdam, a fast flat course.
Although highly motivated, Alessandro (a mobile masseuse in London) was feeling unable to incorporate adequate enough structure to his busy schedule. Alessandro approached me to help him achieve his desired improvement in his pb marathon time at Berlin. This would also provide a solid qualifying time for Boston in 2017. Alessandros programme was initially challenging as one of his objectives was to run the hilly Liverpool Marathon at the end of May, so preparation for this had to be incorporated towards his ultimate goal without worrying about a target time. Alessandros training schedule was finely-tuned to make productive use of his restricted week-day training time. The format of hill-reps and long runs were kept familiar, although the addition of intensity and greater strength training was more demanding, and soon Alessandro realised the value of low recovery weeks and polarised training. At Liverpool, Alessandro clocked a respectable 3h17’ on the hilly course. His training since has challenged multiple aspects of physiology and psychology with an increased frequency of long moderate running and an effective block pattern of shorter intensity with long and short interval style work-outs.
Post Liverpool, his economy and efficiency increased significantly after which we turned to intensity during the build-up to Berlin, and a long taper period following a Half-marathon race and the end of the long runs. To alleviate any mental stagnation with over-familiar training terrain the longer run interval sessions were introduced to give Alessandro the necessary mental break for repetitive distance, perform a final intensity build and develop freshness in good time before Berlin. Taking some sessions on to a track in central London was a no-brainer for Alessandro which helped him push final specific conditioning intervals much harder than he had ever done.
Alessandro then entered into protracted taper period, showing (as in the performance management chart above) a slow decrease in ATL, while his CTL was maintained as high as possible throughout but with minimal fatigue. This is a delicate part of preparation and coaching where faith in training and prescription is necessary, plus more frequent communication building up to event day, especially if the final few weeks have life obstacles to overcome, and potentially ruin plans.
Even though Alessandro was running exceptionally well compared to his previous marathon attempts, his performance on the day didn’t reflect his conditioning. As anyone who has run a marathon, knows that the days building up to a race can significantly affect a finish time. Alessandro felt that he was on for one of his strongest races, but a busy work schedule or sub-optimal taper and preceding nutritional state (which we tried to resolve through FODMAP diets) suggested otherwise, as he completed Berlin in 3h10′. Even though this is a failure on paper, Alessandro has come out from the programme having learnt what works much more to his advantage and how to apply those principles in the future to secure progressive improvements at his chosen events.
UPDATE 2017: Alessandro has decided after a brief period off structured training to divert his attentions towards ultra-endurance, and completed the 100km Del Passatore in May after a comfortable Boston marathon. His next formal objective is the 85Km ultra in Madiera 2018.