Nathan Pennington Running in The Distance

Embrace the Suck | Running Tips for Military

You most certainly will need to embrace the suck to improve as a military runner. I spent just over 20 years on active duty retiring from the Army in March of 2022. So, I fully understand this term. Not in the military? No worries. My aim with this post will be to share with you some top running tips that can help both civilians and military alike. The key focus of this term is to deal with adversity in a positive manner.

We already know many people can run for a few minutes or several miles. The challenge drastically increases as paces increase. You have to deal with higher amounts of lactic acid the faster you run. In addition, your body is craving oxygen. So, the faster you run the more anaerobic your effort becomes. The good news is you can teach the body to clear lactic acid faster than it is building up.

The bad news is it is painful to produce this physiological effect. So, you embrace the suck is a military term we use to deal with a challenging situation. Have you ever been stuck out in the field for a week or month-long exercise in extreme conditions? If so, you already know you have to have the embrace the suck mentality.

How to Run Longer Without Getting Tired

Don't be in a rush to get into great shape. The common mistake I see a lot of runner making is trying to rush their fitness. The military does this quite often. Yes, you need to be tested as you definitely be in morning ACFT training. That being said, you don't throwing Soldiers into hard, anaerobic training without an aerobic base first. So, to run longer without getting tired you have to focus on building a strong foundational base mileage.

3 hour marathon pace
MAJ(ret.)Pennington finishing as the top American and in 4th place overall at the 2007 California International Marathon in 2:19:35 (5:19 mile pace for 26.2 miles)

I recommend doing a minimum of 12 and preferably 16 week build up training for distances from the 2 mile to 10K. I recommend focusing on a 20 week build-up for military and civilians focusing on the 10 mile, half-marathon or marathon distances.

The reason being is it takes between 3 to 4 weeks for your body to adapt to any stress load being placed upon it. So, you can't rush the fitness regiment. You have to be smart and strategic in how you set up your training.

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How Can I Run Further Without Getting Tired?

Start speeding up the paces of your runs. Of course, you still need to run easy too in order to recovery. That being said, the faster you run the more efficient your race pace is going to feel. In addition, the less demanding it is going to feel. The way you improve your Army ACFT 2MR or Marine 3 miler is to focus on training well below your goal pace.

Yes, you need to embrace the suck. There is nothing easy about training anaerobically. Remember, the more consistent you become the better you are going to perform. You also need to run more. I didn't see Soldiers running enough when I was in the Army. Sure, they would run once or twice per week, sometimes three times. That being said, 1 to 3 times a week isn't going to get it done. Are you seeking to be average, good or great?

Average puts in just enough work. Greatness always asks for more and those seeking it will run during lunch. So, you have to make time to train. You can't rely on just what your Platoon Leaders and Sergeants are throwing at you. Normalcy surrounds us all. Greatness involves doing far more than the average Soldier, Marine, Sailor, Coast Guardmen, Guardian or Airmen is willing to do.

Why Do I Get Tired so Quickly When Running?

It could be for numerous reasons. One of the biggest is you are probably running low on glycogen. So, you need to ensure you are eating enough pasta, fruits and vegetables. Also, you could be running low on ferritin or iron. We lose iron through foot strike hemolysis and through sweat. My recommendation is to consider getting a blood test done and find out what your iron and ferritin levels are. Normal levels range from 38 to 300 ng/ml.

I was diagnosed with borderline anemia back in 2007 and had a score of 21 ng/ml. So, if you feel like it is becoming a chronic issue consider doing this. You should always consult a Physician first. I would also recommend taking a 65mg tablet or iron daily with orange juice. Vitamin C helps the body to absorb iron more readily. You may just not be challenging yourself enough during the week.

Remember, to increase pace and run longer, faster than you have to train fast too. In addition, you also may simply need to slow down your pace too. A lot of runners are still running too fast during their easy days. So, focus on a long-term vision. Fitness cannot be rushed. I would recommend investing in a heart rate monitor. I use the Garmin 245 and it helps me to stay in the correct heart rate zone.

How Do I Train Myself to Run Longer?

Focus on running more per week.

2 to 3 times a week is fine if you want to be average or good. I don't think you would have made it to this post if you were not seeking greatness. It doesn't matter if your military or not. How you embrace the suck will determine how successful you are going to be over the 2 mile to marathon distances. Yes, you may need to start off first running 2 to 3 times a week.

Again, it takes time for the body to adapt to the stresses you are placing on it. That being said, the very best runners I have trained with train a minimum of 5 and usually 7 days a week. Of course, your goal may not be to be a world-class athlete but to run longer you need to run more.

average running time for a mile
Coach Pennington (in gold singlet in middle) just after the start of the Army Ten Miler in Washington DC

Lengthen Out Your Long Runs

What has been the longest long run you have done in the past? 5 miles? 8? 10? What event are you training for? I would focus on moving it out toward 7 to 9 miles if training for a 2 mile to 5K. Is your focus on the 10K to 10 mile distances? I would recommend looking more toward 12 to 14 miles. Half-marathoners and marathoners need to be thinking about 15 to 24 milers for their long runs.

So, it just depends on what length of the race you are going for. Running easy for long periods of time will burn fat and building your confidence. Remember, don't run long and slow every single weekend. The embrace the suck mentality is one that is always seeking leverage. How can I get the best results by working less. There are many military and civilian athletes who train hard and still miss their goals.

Study what the best middle to long distance runners are doing. Subscribe to the RunDreamAchieve YouTube channel. I create new vlog content there weekly to help speed up the learning curve of athletes such as yourself.

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Faster Long Runs

I was able to lower my 5K time down to 14:18 using this tactic. In addition, my half-marathon from 1:10.29 to 1:07.06. Lastly, my marathon PR from 2:43:36 to 2:19:35. No, it wasn't easy or an overnight process. So, don't expect quick results in this sport. That being said, if you have been having trouble holding goal race pace start considering faster, varied paced long runs.

Below are some examples of the types of faster long run workouts I was doing prior to breaking the sub 2:20 marathon barrier. No, the entire long run should not be conducted at fast paces. The long run is the hardest workout that I do. It is also my secret weapon against my competition. The athletes that competed against me at my best had to have done their homework.

  • 2 mile warm-up jog, 5 miles@5:35 mile pace, 2 miles easy, 1 mile in 4:55, 6 miles@6:00 mile pace, 2 miles easy, 2 miles@5:20 mile pace, 1 mile cool-down (21 miles)
  • 2 miles jog warm-up, 10 miles@5:30 mile pace, 3 miles@6:30 mile pace, 2 miles jog, 1 mile in 5:00, 3 miles@6:10 mile pace, 1 mile cool-down (22 miles)
  • 1 mile warm-up, 20 miles@160-65BPM (at my fittest I did this workout in 1:50:02 or 5:30 mile pace), 1 mile cool-down

Always do your following week's long run nice and relaxed. The benefits of your training come from within the recovery period. It was not uncommon for me to jog easy for 2 to 3 days after these types of workouts.

Focus on Your Raw, Leg Speed

How do you get your goal race pace to feel easier? Train at speeds that are extremely fast. Paces that are so fast you can't clear lactic acid faster than it is building up. We conduct our speed workouts at vo2 max effort. Your vo2 max is training at between 95 to 100 percent of your maximum heart rate. The key focus of workouts like these is to recruit more fast twitch muscle fibers.

The more of these you can recruit the more efficient you are going to run. Remember, focus also on staying as relaxed as you can when running at faster speeds too. It is easy to do this when you are running fast. That being said, not so easy when running at highly anaerobic efforts. The best sprinters, middle distance and long distance runners always look relaxed.

So, duplicate their work habits and get similar results. Embrace the suck and put in the work that is necessary. Fast times are not going to fall in your lap. You are not going to qualify for the Boston Marathon by running once or twice per week. So, you need to be thinking outside the box.

Invest in Yourself

I have created training plans, running courses and coach runners online here at RunDreamAchieve. These winners are seeking excellence and do invest in their personal development just as I did. The key thing to keep in mind is to study what the best middle to long distance runners do. I created these resources to help take the guesswork out of your preparation.

So, having the knowledge of what workout you need to do on each specific day of the week is helpful. The training plans do include one day off per week. You may need to take an additional day off depending on your current fitness level. I am fine with athletes who need to do this. That being said, continue to focus on running at paces that are at, near or far below your goal race pace.

Longer Tempo Runs

You want to get that race pace to feel more like a moderate tempo run. Tempo runs are conducted at your anaerobic threshold. Your AT pace is the point where lactic acid starts to build up in the body. Yes, lactic acid is even being produced when you watch television or travel. That being said, it is at such low levels muscle functioning is not lessened.

It is when we run faster when the high production of it challenges us to maintain posture and oxygen levels. Remember, the faster you aim to run at the more oxygen is required. So, running your anaerobic threshold will help to improve your lactate tolerance. In addition, to recruit more fast twitch muscle fibers as well. Running easy does not product this effect. You are running at between 85 to 88 percent of your maximum heart rate running at anaerobic threshold effort.

So, it isn't fun. That being said, setting new personal records is. Embrace the suck like a professional and you will get professional results. Again, normalcy surrounds us all. Average doesn't require much work. Do you want to be good or great at this sport? You have to do more than the average joe or jane, period.

Closing Thoughts

I hope this post has been helpful to you. Make sure you are also paying attention to the other fundamentals that go into racing well. Watch your pacing in the early stages of your race. Let your competition go out too fast and go into oxygen debt, not you. You want to be passing people in the last 2 miles of a 10K, not being passed. Don't pick up pennies in front of freight trains. Be smart about your preparation. Make sense?

You need to be dropping water bottles out every 3 miles on your long run route. Practice drinking and hydrating better. Remember, it is unwise to think you will run a good 10k to marathon sipping. Your body needs that fluid, carbohydrates (from gels) and electrolytes. So, don't neglect this. Mentally rehearse 10 to 15 minutes daily during your 8 to 20 week build up. Mental training is commonly overlooked.

The best middle to long distance runners combine both mental as well as physical training to succeed. They make the race look easy for a very good reason. Also, they spend about 40% of their weekly volume at higher, anaerobic efforts.

Again, the faster you train the easier race pace is going to feel. No, it isn't easy but with time, worth it. Embrace the suck like a pro and you will get pro results. Feel free to visit the about page if you want to know more about my military background and running career. Keep me posted on your progress.

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