Bread and Butter of Marathon Running

Written by Scott Westcott, Australian Olympic Marathon Runner

Running a marathon is not a daunting prospect for me after years of training and performing my ’Bread and Butter’ long runs pretty well over the last 4 months. ’Racing’ the marathon is a different prospect altogether, one which often has me nervous in anticipation. Perhaps the biggest challenge for me and other runners who are looking to race the marathon at the highest possible intensity is how to best prepare for this kind of effort.

The late Jim Beisty of Newcastle was a running patriarch of this region. Originally from the UK Jim moved to Newcastle many decades ago bringing with him years of knowledge and experience. He was a great club man, coach and athlete who also had the best running library I have ever known. Although Jim did coach runners of my vintage such as Michael Barwick (1:47 best for 800m) my experience with Jim was a quick passing on the Fernleigh track and through the exchange of books he would lend me as from his impressive library.

Unlike most personal libraries Jim kept a close record on what books had been lent out to whom. To pass a book onto a third party without first consulting Jim was a bit of a no-no. one such book lent to me via the un-preferred third party arrangement (Andrew Dodd the original borrower and I the third party recipient) was the autobiography of Charlie Spedding. This book had a huge impact of my approach and training to the marathon from 2012.

Charlie Spedding’s career defining performances was 3rd in the LA Olympic Marathon and 6th at Seoul 4 years later. His  autobiography was a fantastic read piecing together his progression and reflections on the reasons for his success. There was very little about his pets, family anecdotes and school yard triumphs, unlike the ramblings of this blog. It was just about running and the people who had affected him.

Spedding’s approach to marathon training was not much different to his approach to 10k training where he had success including winning British titles and 4th in the 10000m at the 1982 Commonwealth Games. He maintained the quality approach to training and inserted ’moderate intensity’ medium long runs and on occasion a real testing workout of fartlek thrown into a 20 mile or 32k run.

This workout started with a 20-30min warming up jog rolling along at 6min/mile pace. From there he proceeded into a set of hard efforts at his marathon race pace under 5min/mile pace of 5min, 1min, 2min, 3min, 4min,5min, 4min, 3min, 2min, 1min all with a 5min brisk jog between them. The whole this is non-stop and takes about 90minutes to complete. Spedding said of this session that he changed him from a marathon runner to a marathon racer.

I performed this workout in the lead up to the 2012 Melbourne marathon. I enjoyed the workout on a couple of occasions in the final weeks as it added interest to my usual bread and butter long runs, a solid showing in the marathon showing that the workouts had not hurt me in any way. From there I have used the ’Charlie Spedding Special’, as I like to call it, before each of my recent marathons including Berlin last year.

This weekend was the final threshold for completing a long/hard training session so it made sense to scheduled the ’Charlie Spedding Special’ as i now like to call it. Given that the workout was a combination of a long run and a speed session I performed it on Saturday and gave myself Sunday as an extra rest day.

I must have completed the workout better than ever before switching between marathon pace surges and fast jog recoveries. I covered 35km in quick time on the favoured Fernleigh Track plus a bit. I searched for the warmest part of the day and was rewarded with bright sunshine and the warmest day winter has dished up for a while. Although nothing can replicate the exact feeling of racing a marathon, this workout again came close and the fatigue I felt afterward a just reflection of my effort.

So that is it. The last big one in the bag. A big helping of bread and butter with jam! The hay is now in the barn, the final deposit has been made.

Time to time to freshen up, put some icing on the cake, get a haircut (although I would be hard pressed to challenge Andy Buchannan) and decide on what dancing shoes to wear to the party!

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