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When the new year rolls around, you decide to set your sights on completing the full marathon - 26.2 miles of glory! It's good for you! There is no doubt that you have been working towards this goal, and you have found a training program that suits your fitness level. But you may still have many questions. As a distance runner and half-marathon record holder, I often hear the phrase, "What's the most important run I can do to prepare for a marathon?"

While the 15-mile pace run (where you run 15 miles in a row at your marathon target pace) ranks high, I have to say that the marathon simulation run is my preferred form of training. So what is a "marathon simulation" and why does it set the stage for optimal race day training?

This training was introduced to me by Coach Terence Maho, who took me through the first five years of my professional running career. I'm not sure if he came up with it first or if it was passed down from another saint, but I know some of the best American marathon runners to thank this kind of training.

What makes running a marathon so effective is that it simulates the intensity of a marathon without overtaxing your body. Did an 18-mile tempo run before the marathon and felt like they made me run too deep and bored me. But a marathon sim is challenging and won't tire you out before the race. For me, this is the perfect exercise for a marathon runner. Now that you're trying to learn more, here's how to get started:

Marathon Simulation Guide

For the last 12 weeks before the marathon, a marathon simulation will be held every two weeks.
Make sure your last simulation is three weeks before the marathon (either sooner or later).
Make sure your last simulation is the longest one.
If you're an amateur: Your marathon sim should run no more than 10 miles at the longest marathon pace. Workout: Run 10 miles at a pace 1 minute slower than your marathon goal pace. Then put on your running flats (the ones you plan to wear on race day) and run another 10 miles at your marathon goal pace. It ends with a two-mile cooldown.

If you're a pro: Aim for 12 miles. Exercise: Run 12 miles at a pace 1 minute slower than your marathon goal pace. Then put on your flats and run another 12 miles at your marathon goal pace. If possible, do it with a 2 mile cooldown.

Run twice every two weeks to add a mile and complete your longest simulation until you reach your longest running time. For example, if your first attempt is a 7-mile pace, first a one-minute slower pace than your target marathon pace, then a marathon pace, and then a 2-mile cooldown, then your next attempt within two weeks It will be 8, 8, 2; your third attempt is 9, 9, 2, and your fourth attempt is 10, 10, 2.

These marathon sims are so effective because they make you run as fast as you can with tired legs, which is exactly what you'll experience after a 20-mile race. Not only does this leave your body feeling physically fatigued and under the stress of strenuous running, it's an equally powerful mental training skill. Fight with you as you would in a race and guide your mind as you dive deep into the marathon sim. In short, a marathon simulation lets you practice the questions you want to think about when you get stuck.

Finally, completing a tough marathon simulation run of 22 or 26 miles should boost your confidence in preparing to run long distances. And, when lining up on the starting line on race day, confidence in your abilities is key.