This is in response to a question posed by Ian on how I went about improving my marathon time from sub 3 to sub 2:30 in the past 5 years. Here goes.
Keeping things simple, the keys to my training which have led to the improvement in time would be:
1) Consistency - don't get too caught up on running massive kms. I average about 80 to 90 kms per week in the build up to a marathon. This reduces risk of injury, keeps the body fresh, and allows you to monitor progress as you repeat similar sessions. Not having to miss sessions builds confidence.
2) Get your basic sessions in each week. A big (read massive) turning point for me was starting to run track in 2007 - with the aim of improving speed through all the race distances (the quicker you can run a lap, the quicker you will run a marathon). In addition I would do regular races (failing that tempo runs) - my philosophy is that races push you much more than you will in other sessions. Plus the bread and butter long run (between 2 and 2 and a half hours with varying amounts at marathon pace). I have also done some longish mid-week runs in the past, focusing on hilly routes, to develop leg strength. Plus recovery runs when required. And don't be stupid - if you're feeling tired, take a rest day.
3) Weight. Since I've been running marathons my weight has dropped 7kgs or so. No surprise that the more weight I have lost, the quicker my times have become. I haven't taken this to the extreme, nor do I intend to, but a few kgs can make a big difference over 42.2kms.
I can't think of anything else off the top of my head but I'd say the above sums up my improvement in a nutshell.
Anyway, today I did another easy run. My 9.5km local loop in 39:06. It was a fabulous late afternoon for a run. The sun was shining and it was 16 degrees. How good is that? And my calf seems a little better. All good.