Does running a sub 2:20:00 marathon feel different for runners with a goal of a sub 4 hour marathon?
This was a great question that one of my readers asked me this morning.
One of the greatest parts of creating RDA is the blessing of having others ask me for help and hearing about and sharing with them in their victories.
Does sub 2:20:00 pace feel different then other marathon efforts?
My humble answer is that there isn't a difference. If both athletes are working at 100% of their respective capability level then it balances out.
That being said, if I am putting in 100 miles a week with 90% of my weekly mileage at or above 85% of my maximum capability and you are running long slow distance with the same volume, that is a different story.
I was 31 when I ran 2.19.35 for the distance. I'm now 37 years young and still working to improve on the time. I haven't lost the enthusiasm and neither can you if you are to succeed.
Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm – Winston Churchill
The reason I say a 5.19 pace is no different then a 9.09 pace is the perceived effort to each individual is the same, as long as each is working at 100% of their maximum capability.
We are all different but my pacing is no better then yours. If you are working at 100% effort for your ability level then your performance matches mine.
Yes, pace may be different but the effort between two runners working equally as hard as they can is equally respectable.
Now, I don't expect many people to buy into that but the reason is comparing others to yourself. It blinds you and takes one away from their own joy of the sport.
Did it hurt to run that time?
Absolutely. I can remember rounding the corner to come into the finish line seeing 2.19.11 on the clock and I literally had nothing left in my legs.
I didn't think I was going to be able to sprint the last 100 meters and it was more like a light jog coming in.
I was in agony but I immediately remembered all my failures when I crossed the finish line and fell into the arms of the Boston Marathon champion who coached me.
We dealt with the failures together and I learned a lot from them.
Wanting and Doing
The commitment has to be there and the willingness to fight your fears and what the status quo wants you to believe, act like and do.
There are many people who want to run a sub 2:20:00 marathon or a sub 4 hour marathon, but the magnitude of the difficulty of each, respectfully, scares a lot of folks.
It isn't easy but it should not be feared.
We always place stress on ourselves and second guess our capability until we reach the goal.
It was the same when Roger Bannister broke the sub 4 minute mile.
The status quo said breaking that barrier was impossible for a human being and yet today thousands of men have done it and the women are coming ever closer to attaining it as well.
It took overcoming the fear of the unknown and just giving it a shot.
I admire people, regardless what avenue in life they focus on, that take those leaps of faith. They have little interest in following the well traveled path.
This sport takes commitment and it doesn't matter what area of interest you have results don't come from wanting, only by doing.
You absolutely must practice your goal race pace, otherwise you are selling yourself short.
Runners get discouraged when they miss their goal but all that is needed is a change of tactics in the way they train.
Think about it, what good it for you as the athlete seeking to hold 9.09 per mile pace for 26 straight miles and only doing 15 mile runs at 11 minute mile pace.
How is that going to help that athlete hit that specific goal pace for 26 miles?
I'm not talking about if a 15-mile run is going to be beneficial to your overall health and fitness because it will.
We know that.
What I mean is dialing in on the type of training you need in order to better adapt yourself to ever increasing amounts of lactic acid in your muscles at race efforts.
There is trained and than there is untrained. No shortcuts.
2:20:00 Marathon Pace
How do I feel?
I will say that to run under 2:20:00 for the marathon was, and is for many, an enormous effort that takes proper training, a relaxed mind and an iron will to achieve.
It takes persistence when things go wrong. My story is no different or better than anyone else.
We all have had to endure to earn our own standards in this sport. I have been on sub 2.20 marathon pace in many of the marathons I have run for up to 15 to 18 miles.
It is maintaining that pace for the entire distance is where the true challenge lies.
Believe In Delayed Gratification
I trained extremely hard going into that effort.
I had failed twice prior to breaking the 2:20:00 marathon.
My two efforts prior were a 2.40.02 and a 2.51.55 so I am sure my story relates well to others here at R.D.A.
The pace is aggressive pretty much from the start all the way to the finish. The trick to running in the low 2's for the marathon distance is not running out of sugars.
I think there is that constant battle in your mind to stay as relaxed as possible despite knowing you are running at a very aggressive effort.
The same goes true to someone aiming to break 4 hours (9:09 pace) or 3 hours (6.52 pace). How do you stay calm and inwardly relaxed and still maintain the pace?
Do it in training first!
Proper Training = No Wall
There are several factors involved to running a faster race.
I'll name a few brief but crucial areas that one must follow to make massive gains in their performances.
1. Train your body to use fat stores (what you have plenty of) and conserve what you have little of (carbohydrates). The problems runners get into is when they run out of carbohydrates.
Training at faster speeds helps the body to handle ever increasing amounts of lactic acid and more importantly, the ability to combat the hydrogen ion.
The hydrogen ion is a component of lactic acid and is the real culprit for why we slow down. It shuts down the muscles ability contract and thus, we slow.
Slow Has It's Place
2. Low slow distance running does not produce specific race performances. There is a time for long slow running and that is for recovery days.
Slower running has it's place but when it comes to a specific time goal you have to train at that pace, baby!
3. Extending the time you spend below goal race pace. It isn't just about practicing your race pace but training at speeds that far exceed it.
If you want to maintain a 9.09 or faster per mile average (sub 4 hour marathon effort), then you have to experience running for longer periods of time at 8.15-30 pace.
My point is you want race pace to feel like you are in control, as if you can maintain it for the entire distance with no worries or concern in your mind.
The only way to do that is being accustomed to running for loner periods of time at speeds much faster then you plan on racing at.
The result is your heart doesn't have to work as hard at goal pace and your body is utilizing its fat stores optimally and your running as economical as possible
Find Your Balance
I feel in control but not necessarily comfortable.
My first mile when I ran 2.19.35 was run in 5.32, by the half-marathon point (hit in 1.07.09), I was averaging 5.07 per mile, by mile 20 (hit in 1.44.05), we were at a 5.11 per mile average.
It is taxing yes but it didn't feel totally out of control either.
The only time I felt the pace truly getting to me was by mile 23 and my last three miles were much slower and finished the race at a 5.19 per mile average.
Running at low 2's-type effort for the marathon is no different then running at low 4's to 3 hours plus for the marathon distance.
It is challenging the further you go but by training your body to use fat stores and conserve was it has limited amounts of (carbs) you can maintain pace longer and never hit the wall.
Running a sub 2:20:00 marathon was an enormous achievement for me.
Visualize Running The Time
I try to tell my readers here that whatever goal you have, continually think about and visualize yourself doing it. Your mind will work to make that a reality but you still have to put in the effort.
My second fastest marathon is the 2.26.42 I ran at the 2011 Monumental Indianapolis Marathon to finish in 5th place.
It, too, was a challenging effort, but I set my training up in such a way that I was able to offset the fatigue long enough to not experience the dreaded ‘wall' and run a time that I was pleased with (on that particular day).
In closing, there isn't anything different between runners at my ability level and athletes at the sub 4 hour marathon level.
We all hurt, have bad days and have to put in ridiculous amounts of time toward a goal with no guarantees.
We love what we do and much like entrepreneurship, you keep working at it regardless if you fail or not.
Successful athletes and entrepreneurs are much alike in that they have had to fail countless amounts of time before they started to see results.
Maintain Your Patience And Focus
It is tough training that demands constant attention and effort.
There isn't nothing special about me. What I have done to run in the low 2's is massive action and relentless pursuit on achieving a goal.
I don't have a lot of talent.
I love what I do, the sport and most of all, helping others reach their own goals. It is all about commitment and not losing the joy in the pursuit.
I still want to know what it feels like to maintain 5.09 per mile pace for the marathon distance (2.15.00).
We all have our questions and have to continually seek out answers.
Thanks wynn for the question. Hope this was helpful for you.