The key to fast marathon times really comes down to an enormous amount of effort that you must be willing to endure to make it happen.
I wish I could say that the key to fast marathon efforts were easy.
I agree with Roland Rust's observation in Racing Faster:The Key To A Serious Marathon, that the long run has to be at the core key to fast marathon running.
What is the key to fast marathon times? What do the top runners do?
Rust discusses how the world's best distance runners usually run the marathon distance as their long run every other week.
How is that for effort?
A key thing that he mentioned was the importance of running your last few miles of your long runs at or near your goal race pace.
Run Longer, Faster
The key to fast marathon times is training fast and for long periods of time.
I have been harping on this topic since I started rundreamachieve.com because I know it works.
There are a set of fundamentals you must master if you are to run a fast marathon time.
‘Fast' has a different meaning for everyone.
Fast could be breaking the 4 hour marathon to some, sub-2.15.00 for others.
The fundamentals needed to run a extraordinary marathon time, sub 2.20.00 to sub 2.10.00, demand almost an obsessive attention to detail.
That being said, these fundamentals can be implemented whether you are a 5 hour marathoner just starting or a sub 2.40 marathoner.
This is the beauty of running fast. It can be taught regardless what ability level you are currently. That being said, those running top times are simply spending more time at or below their goal pace.
The difference lies in their attention span not diminishing in the face of adversity.
Do you want to know the difference?
What you think of as pain, elite athletes think of as pleasure. You switch those two mindsets and you will be well on your way to do drastic improvement in your marathon times.
Focus On The Fundamentals
I wasn't born with talent. I found something I enjoyed doing and taught myself to see the adversity of training and enduring long periods of time being uncomfortable as pleasure.
Can anyone become a champion? It all depends on how badly he or she wants it. How long are they willing to put in the work? Are they willing to wait 5 years? 10 years?
Have I been humbled in races?
That being said, I have also outrun world-class marathoners by not letting up.
The difference between mediocre and stellar athletes is unshakeable faith in themselves.
Is it talent?
Talent plays a role but the mind is far greater tool to overall success.
The difference between running a fast marathon is your willingness to keep going in the midst of failures. How willing are you to endure that?
Cut Out The Distractions
Our culture doesn't necessarily assist the situation.
There are many distractors.
Partying on the weekends and work obligations among others. That being said, it is great to have fun but you still need to focus.
Why are the Kenyans the best runners in the world? How about the Japanese? They are fully committed.
Are there not Americans in this country not just as dedicated? There are but we do get easily distracted here in this country.
The top runners are putting in an extreme amount of dedication and effort into their craft.
You can't have your cake and eat it too? No, thanks. I'll have both.
Your attitude also has to be just as positive and willing as your preparation to earn a fast marathon time, so always keep your head up and look ahead. You can do it.
You have to think outside of yourself to run a fast marathon.
Do you want to run a 2.50 marathon? Are you doing the training required? What are you doing the other hours of the day to compliment that hard work?
Plan Your Work and Work Your Plan
Kevin Beck of Running Times in his article, Run Your Best. Really, discussed how the great Brazilian Ranaldo De Casto shattered the previous marathon world record time running 2.06.05.
How did he do it?
He did several of his long runs at or near marathon race pace.
We are talking about 17 to 22 miles at 4.48 per mile ‘average'.
This means his miles are hovering above and below 4.48 per mile pace.
A 2.06.05 is an extraordinary time. There are only a handful of the world's top marathoner who can put up a time that fast globally each year.
Why? Well, running longer does teach your body to burn fat, rather than carbohydrate as fuel.
The longer you run, the more fat plays a role in your body's main fuel source.
This training tactic was the number one reason I dropped so much time off my marathon. I went from a 2.40.02 personal best to my current best of 2.19.35 in a matter of months.
What was I doing wrong prior to running that sub-2:20 marathon? I was not doing long runs at a fast enough pace.
Why do I need to learn to run slow, I already know how to run slow…I want to learn to run fast – Emil Zatopek
I would do the usual track workouts but spending my weekends running long slow miles. Of course, it was great for fitness. That being said, it didn't get me any closer to running a fast marathon time.
It was making me strong for running the first 10 miles relatively strong. The problem was the last 16 miles I was struggling burning all my carbohydrate stores up.
Run Longer, Faster
Running long runs every weekend slow will build fitness and teach your body to burn fat. That being said, to maintain a fast pace for 26.2 miles you have to focus on running faster for longer periods of time.
I have always believed that long slow distance, produces long slow runners – Sebastian Coe, Olympic Gold Medalist -800m/1500m
So, the key to running a fast marathon means you have to teach your body to burn fat as its primary fuel source. Also, to conserve your carbohydrate stores.
Sports science statistics state that we only have approximately 1800 calories of carbohydrate stored within our body. So, when do runners usually hit the so-called ‘wall'?
It is safe to say this occurs around mile 17 to 18.
You are burning around 100-110 calories for every mile you run during the marathon. So, is it no wonder most runners experience “the wall” at or around mile 18?
What happens if you are using fat and a smaller percentage of carbohydrate?
You are preserving those stores to power you through the hardest section of the race, usually the last 10 kilometers of the race.
We need to do recruit more muscle fibers. So, this helps the body run more economically. Physiologically, your body doesn't have to work as hard.
This is how runners drop significant time off their personal best times.
Focus On The Fundamentals
The biggest mistake far too many runners make is misinterpreting fast training. So, you have to spread your training out intelligently to get real results.
There is a time to run fast and push the limits and there are times to take it extremely easy and throw away the watch.
I spent months running at or below 5.25 per mile pace leading into my 2.19 marathon performance. I prepared to break my then-time goal of 2.22.00 and visualized myself for months achieving the goal.
Running fast doesn't equal a breakthrough performance, a combination of smart long-term training will help you to earn it.
You will run a fast marathon time by bringing all the fundamentals together intelligently. They are as follows:
- Hard running and gradually extending the time you spend at that golden effort
- Tempo runs at half marathon goal race pace
- Workouts that exceed goal marathon pace Intervals i.e. 10x1000m, 8x1mile@30 seconds faster than goal marathon race pace
- Focus on jogging on recovery days, at least 2 minutes per mile slower than goal marathon race pace (preferably slower)
- Massage, Ultrasound, Physical Therapy, Chiropractic services (and ice baths!)
In conclusion, there are many factors that go into producing a fast marathon time.
Remember, take your easy days as ‘jog' days. In addition, do mile repeats on the track at 5.30 per mile one day. The next? Jog. So, do not go out running 6:30 mile pace the next day.
One minute slower than your hard effort is still running too hard for your own good.
I usually do my mile repeats around 4.40 to 4.50 per rep when I am most fit. So, I do not go out the next day and run 6 minute mile pace. This is a great way to get fatigued.
The key to fast marathon times lie in humbling yourself to slow down on your recovery days.
Save your fast marathon time for the race itself.
The best marathoners in the world spend most of their miles at or below their goal marathon race pace. They jog on recovery days.
They know the importance of slowing down on days that call for it.
Lastly, implement the proven fundamentals, train intelligently and go earn yourself a fast marathon time.