Which one is harder ? 26.2 or a 70.3? I’ve got a marathon and a half Ironman under my belt and on my car:)
When training for the marathon I had joined this running group called Fleet Feet in Pittsburgh. They met every sunday at 7 AM and we ran with our respective pace groups . It was a 16 week program designed for the Pitts Marathon in May. The biggest hurdle by far was getting up at 5:30 AM to have breakfast and then drive down to the starting point.I just don’t have it in me to go for long runs all by myself. Its something I simply cannot do. There is way too much to worry about such as but not limited to nutrition and directions, and last but not the least safety. If you live in a cold area and have signed up for a spring/summer marathon you pretty much have to train through the winter. Getting in your long runs on sunday morning is not fun. If you’re training for a marathon , chances are you will spend more time running than cross training since more or less all training plans ask you to run at least 4 days a week. If you somehow do stick to the plan and since you pretty much run the entire time, you will be faster for sure than if you were training for the run leg in in an ironman distance event. The long runs on Sunday were taking a toll on me when training for the marathon. I could not walk on Monday , was always sore. Also I learnt it the hard way that running 4 days a week is hard if you’ve not been running consistently for a few years especially if your sunday runs are long runs. All i had was a half marathon under my belt about 7 months ago and I had pretty much winged the half. As a result of not too much experience running and running too much too soon I had shin splints the entire time. I tried ice, foam rolling, compression socks and even went down to a chiropractor twice. In the end what I could conclude was running is taking a toll and I need a break , my body just cannot handle so many long runs for whatever reason. Finally on race day I had a goal to break 4 hours and I missed it by 34 seconds! My official time was 4:00:34. The hardest part in the race were the last 6 miles and that’s where the real race is, the last effing 6 miles. I was trying to makeup some time since I was running a bit conservatively the first 10 miles.
and wanted to negative split my race. So what I can conclude from the race was and I still feel today that the marathon requires you to put in those long runs and you need to suck it up on the Sunday mornings. 26.2 is a totally different ball game. You can get away by not doing speed work and tempo runs, but you can not be running a marathon without pain and agony if you’ve not gone on those long runs.
Triathlon is an expensive sport. If you do not know how to swim , you need to get a swim coach. if you’ve been a swimmer all your life , you wont have to take swim lessons! A few open water swims with a group and you will be fine. In terms of the time and effort required. Assuming you know how to swim and how to ride a bike I personally think its easier to train for the 70.3, Again I said easier to train not necessarily easier to race.I pretty much just swam bike and ran whenever I could. The reason I say easier to train is, you can go to the pool even if its winter or summer , the pools are warm and you can go get your intervals in or whatever is is that you had planned.
As far as the bike goes, you can go down to your local gym and attend one of those spin classes for an hour or so and you should be good. Again it’s in a controlled environment , you have music , booties, hopefully a hot instructor and you’re golden. If for whatever reason you don’t wanna drive down for that, you can setup your bike on one of those indoor trainers and whip out an interval workout from youtube or just simply bike and watch a movie. The only thing you need to be concerned about is a sweat puddle. When training on an indoor trainer make sure you have at least a fan facing you or else you’re gonna be drenched in sweat. As far as the run goes, you don’t have to put in 13 miles . Your longest run can be at 6-8 miles and you will be fine. You dont have to spend 3-4 hours on your long runs. The variety breaks the monotony. You can swim easy or swim in intervals , you can bike watching a movie or just do an intense circuit. Long runs are not the bread and butter. I personally never biked 56 prior to my 70.3 race and the bike leg was just fine for me. What i did not train for was run of the bike. I felt I should have included a few more run of the bike sessions just to get used to it. In my opinion you can get away without spending too much time on one sport, if you can dedicate 2 sessions a week for each sport, you will be able to complete a 70.3. You don’t have to put in crazy 3 hour long workouts on a Sunday. On race day I did struggle during the run, but at the end I wasn’t exhausted to a point where I did not want to walk or could not walk. I was relatively injury free during the entire training . I guess overuse wasn’t the name of the game here.
Training for a 70.3 is easier than training for a 26.2. Racing a 70.3 might be harder than a 26.2 simply because of the weather. Chances are your triathlon is during the summer because you need to swim, duh! As a result your
run leg will be around 11 AM which means its gonna be hot. For anyone who has run in the heat, you know the risk of dehydration , cramping and what not. if you have to run in the heat after a 56 mile bike leg, its pretty tough. On the contrary your marathons start at 7 AM and you’re pretty much done covered majority of the course before it gets really warm. In the end one should respect both the distances. Accomplishing one or both is a major achievement for a lot of people.
As far as race day goes, if you go out too fast too soon in a marathon, you will pay for it in the last 6 miles for sure or maybe even earlier.
If you go out too hard on the bike in a 70.3 , you will pay for it on the run . In the end you reap what you sow. The marathon requires you to put in those long runs. The 70.3 is slightly more forgiving in the sense, you don’t have to worry about the weather too much. You can pretty much swim bike and run indoors. But try getting a long run(16-20 miles) on a treadmill and you will know why its called a DREADMILL!