Endurance sports have long tried to resolve the debate on whether or not triathlons are more complicated than marathons.
At the onset, multidiscipline races may seem like the meaner evil than single-discipline ones are. Doing a running leg after coming off a biking leg is entirely different from doing a run as a stand-alone. When your feet are just taking off from the metal clasps on the ground instead of coming off from a foot pedal, your performance will be at an opposite spectrum.
Swim-to-bike-to-run transitions in triathlons use a wide range of muscle groups that are still searing before you hit the ground running. It’s not at all easy to shift from one activity to another. You can train your mind and body to work on each transition while leaving enough mental and physical drive to complete the last course.
But what happens if a triathlete wants to dip their toes on a marathon? Considering that triathlons do have a running leg, it won’t be difficult to imagine how well a triathlete may do in a marathon. A full marathon consists of the 42.2-kilometer running leg while a full triathlon, more or less, has nearly the same racing distance for its run leg.
It’s every athlete’s goal to know the exact type of training that is suitable for their body type and follow through them before joining a race. There are changes that the body and the mind undergo when a triathlete starts running on marathons. Read on to know about those and why triathletes should stick with what they already know.
Marathons May Cause Microtears on Your Leg Muscles
Triathletes always take on the aero biking position when doing the biking leg of any triathlon. When you are on a biking position, you do several things that help preserve your legs in preparation for the upcoming running leg.
You engage several muscle groups in your lower extremities than you usually would when you’re cycling in a regular upright position. Your quadriceps are at full throttle, more than your hamstrings and calves would be. Clipless pedals help your feet pull instead of just doing the push movement.
But as for running in a marathon, you have no other option but to run through the course. The beating that your feet takes in each step can create microtears on your muscle groups. High-intensity runs require more hard work. That wears and tears down your leg muscles more than swimming or cycling ever can.
Concentrated Preparation and Training
Most triathletes agree that the preparation for a marathon is more complicated. Much of the difficulty stems from the concentration levels of the training.
When a triathlete trains, it usually has more volume or covers more mileage, but with less intensity. A typical marathon training regimen requires constant impact. It explains why training for a stand-alone marathon can leave even the most active triathletes feeling wrecked.
Triathlon-distance training is much lighter compared to the amount of load a marathoner takes in. The usual preparation includes a 16-mile long-distance speed training, including three intense interval sessions, and three 5-mile runs.
Marathons Have a Slower Recovery Process
Every triathlete has the natural instinct to save their legs for the run portion. When you switch to marathon, you can no longer count on the slow burn that you usually get when in a triathlon. A marathon is fast-paced and long-distance running, and that’s all you’ll be doing the entire time. That means your joints and your knees are going to take a beating unlike anything you’ve experienced before.
You’ll need several supporting systems, like muscle tapes, to help you with the recovery process. Marathons are more brutal than triathlons when it comes to healing. They take more time and need more attention, considering that your lower extremities are not used to them. Remember that all aspects of a triathlon tie together for high performance. The marathon, however, only has the leg aspect, bodywise, to put to the test.
Just because you are an experienced triathlete does not mean you will instantly be a great marathoner. You will need to stick to the program, no matter how much pounding your feet take.
There are so many aspects that will affect the outcome of your race. The best thing you can do is to use the off-season to your full advantage for recovery. When the triathlon season returns, make sure you spend plenty of time back in the padded seats.
Increase the volume of your bike workout with power meter as it directly correlates to your transition run times. Add in a reasonable amount of brick workouts, going for a run immediately following a cycling workout. Make sure you have a solid strength-training plan to help keep your muscles in condition again after recovering from your marathon stint.
Can Triathletes Shift to Marathons Quickly?
Considering that triathletes are trained in a multidiscipline sport, they have the engine to win any of the three courses, if they decide to participate in them individually. But do they have the right mind-set and muscles to get to the finish line first?
Triathletes are like racing machines. But their training is a lot different from that of a marathoner. A marathoner’s daily regimen and preparation combined has a singular focus: getting those legs ready for the 40-plus kilometers ahead. A triathlete, on the other hand, has to train for each category and make sure they can transition from one discipline to the next without tapping out.