27 Aug Going the Extra Mile: How a T46 Paralympian Marathon Runner Prepares
Running ain’t easy.
It’s arguably the most excruciating sport there is, and one of the few people have mastered.
Nevertheless, it’s one of the world’s most popular forms of exercise… and it’s no secret why.
The convenience and comradery running brings, combined with individually challenging your own body (both mentally and physically), draws more people to choose it as their preferred physical activity.
Despite the growing number of people beginning to take on running seriously (especially since COVID-19 landed), many are hesitant to test how far they can really push themselves. Most aren’t willing to compete against other runners for whatever reason, or truly test how far they can push themselves.
Yes, running is a recreational activity for most, but those who run consistently always dream of finishing a marathon – even if they won’t admit it.
Runners are a particular breed of people – tough, resilient, and patient. You not only have to be physically ready to push your body, but mentally. There are a lot of reasons why people don’t go ahead with their goal to compete in a marathon race. A lot comes down to self-doubt on whether they can endure the mammoth 42km distance.
A lot of doubt stems from not even knowing where to start or how to train for one. Running as much as possible, for as long as possible, isn’t necessarily the best way to train for a marathon either – despite what a lot of people believe.
As we welcome the 2021 Paralympic Games with open arms over the next fortnight, the nations eyes will be on the Australian track team.
The lineup of brilliant runners is made up with not only Australia’s best athletes, but the world’s.
Australia is about to watch on as our star athletes take on the world’s greatest, so Exercise Right thought we’d shed light on how some of T46 athletes prepare for such big tournaments.
the T46 classification
T45-47 categories consist of upper limb/s affected by limb deficiency, impaired muscle power, or impaired passive range of movement.
The T46 disability sport classification is a group for track and field athletes missing their arm from near the top of their arm.
People in this class have a single below or above the elbow amputation.
We spoke with the Australian Paralympic coach
Exercise Right had the opportunity to talk with Philo Saunders, AIS Senior Physiologist and Australian Paralympian coach.
Philo is a guru within the long-distance running world. He juggles an impressive list of athletes under his wing which includes T46 Marathon World Record Holder, Michael Roeger.
Breaking his own ambulant World Record last year in Houston, Michael accredits a lot of his success to his training with Philo – who runs by his side.
So, you want to know what it takes to be an elite marathon runner? Listen to what one of the top coaches in the country has to say.
How a t46 marathon runner prepares:
What should athletes and coaches consider first before training for a marathon?
It’s important to have a good background of run training and allow sufficient time to prepare for a marathon.
Set a realistic goal to complete the marathon and structure training around completing that goal.
How does an athlete prepare their bodies for such an endurance event? Is it really about running for as long as possible, as much as possible?
A structured approach, based on what the runner’s training history, is important when training for a marathon.
There is no point overdoing the amount of training if the body is not ready to cope with it as this will just result in injury. The longer you give yourself to build up training, the better.
Important aspects of marathon training that I look to get into a training week are:
1. 1 x good long run.
This should be built up as the body becomes stronger and doesn’t need to be a full marathon in distance. Usually my top marathon runners will do 30-35km in the long run but might have started at 20km at the start of their preparation.
2. A longer duration session.
This is where the runners are running at their goal marathon pace. This can be done in intervals or straight running. Sessions should have somewhere between 10-20km of intervals at marathon pace.
3. 1 x faster interval-based session per week.
This is to get the body used to running faster in order to make marathon pace feel comfortable. Sessions such as 1km reps with 1-2min recoveries, 400m intervals with 1min recoveries, 800m intervals with 1-2 min recoveries.
4. Extra running.
It’s essential to get enough extra jogging to build fitness and strengthen the body to cope with running 42.2km.
5. Strength training is key.
Strength training is very important to get the right muscles strong and working, build symmetry of the body and improve running efficiency, and build resilience to injury.
Many athletes compete in other events, how hard is it to balance training to cover all events (short/long)?
A well-balanced program with a mix of more aerobic-based training and some faster interval training is the key to running across the range of distances. Many marathon runners come from a middle distance background and the only real change is a bit of extra running, a longer long run, and some marathon-based sessions. A good example of this is Michael Roeger (T46 athlete) who ran 14:00.25 for a 5000m recently in the middle of a marathon build up phase of training.
What does a training week look like for someone like Michael Roeger to, let’s say, an amateur?
Michael is doing 150-170km per week when training for a marathon. This includes a long run of up to 40km, a marathon-based session usually 30-35km and doing 15-25km at or just above goal marathon pace, a 6-8km track session with the middle distance group to maintain speed, 2-3 gym sessions per week and a total of 8-10 running sessions per week.
An amateur marathon runner might only be able to do 5-6 running sessions per week and only do 80-100km per week but should still try to hit the 3 key sessions of a long run, marathon-based session and faster interval session.
What are your top 3 tips for amateurs looking to take their running to the next level?
- Give yourself enough time to prepare and build up volume gradually.
- Listen to your body and give yourself rest days when needed to avoid injury.
- Set a realistic goal and make training enjoyable. Train with others, change up sessions.
Speak with a professional
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Written by Exercise Right. We have partnered with Nike Australia Pty Ltd for this article series. The views expressed in this article, unless otherwise cited, are exclusively those of the author, Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA). ESSA is a professional organisation committed to establishing, promoting and defending the career paths of tertiary trained exercise and sports science practitioners.
Nike had no role in the collection, analysis, or interpretation of data or research or the writing of this article.