Renato Canova is classed as one of the greatest marathon coaches of all time with coaching more athletes running under 2:05 than any other coach in the world.
To give a quick glance on his training blocks, he structures his athlete’s season in four periods.
- Transition Period (4 weeks post Marathon)
- General Period (4 weeks duration)
- Fundamental Period (6 weeks duration)
- Specific Period (10 weeks duration)
To breakdown Conova’s coaching philosophies
• Conova’s training is extraordinarily hard
• It is speed and raw power work in the early phase and longer threshold/tempo running towards races.
• He progressively extends the distance you can run your goal pace over months and years.
• My favourite Canova quote is “What does a 2 hour easy run have to do with the marathon? Nothing”. – Conova doesn’t understand why anyone training to run a fast marathon would do a long easy runs. It is not specific to the marathon.
• You run at the right speed, not the right distance
• You do need a very good base to train his methods
• His fully body strength training is mostly circuit training.
The key elements to the specific phase
• Fast long runs start at around 25km and build to 40km at race pace or close to it. It is that simple.
• Hard long intervals like 4x 6km @ 110% of race pace with 1km floating at 80-90% of race pace.
• Special blocks will be hard race pace runs in the morning (10-16km) and hard threshold runs in the evening (10-16km)
• When it comes to marathon training, the base of everything is mileage, a 10km runner wouldn’t think twice about doing 10x 1km at race pace, for most runners, this hasn’t translated to marathon. This is one of the big issues according to Conova
• Pace is more important than distance
• Extensive workouts require long rest periods and no schedule
• Workouts get slower and not faster as race day approaches
The “Special Block”
The special block is every 3 to 4 weeks and consists of two sessions within the Specific Period. One in the morning and one in the afternoon. The athletes must be careful to arrive well rested.
Sometime Canova will instruct his athletes to drink only water and eat only vegetables between the two workouts in order to force the body to utilise fat as an efficient resource.
Morning: 10km @ 90% of marathon race pace + 20km @ marathon race pace
Afternoon: 10km @ 90% of marathon pace + 20km @ marathon pace
Another Special block day may look like:
Morning 10km @ 90% marathon pace + 10km @102% of marathon pace
Afternoon: 10km @ 90% of marathon pace + 12x 1km @ 105% of marathon pace +1:30 recovery