Marathoning is not an easy task if you have had the opportunity to compete in one.
How many times have we put in what we think is the perfect amount of mileage and are nailing workouts we dream about only to get 17 or 18 miles in a marathon fighting to finish?
Marathoning takes a special breed of person.
I don’t think there is a genetic gene that you have to possess to run a marathon.
I think more people would surprise themselves with the capability we all possess but it takes an awful lot of work and belief in what we are doing.
Preparing For A Marathon
Preparing for a marathon is more then just running high mileage.
I used to think prior to breaking the 2008 USA Olympic Trials “B” standard of 2.22.00, a time that I thought would be damn near impossible goal to attain, but not one-hundred percent unachieveable, running 130-50 miles a week was the only way.
I was very wrong in that department.
I ran my current personal best time of 2.19.35 running between 90-100 miles a week and the many times I attempted to run over 130 miles a week with an all-time high of 142 miles, I ran like shit.
That isn’t to say that running that high of mileage doesn’t produce results. Gerry Lindgren, one of the United States all-time fastest runners, ran as much as 350 miles a week at times.
Mileage vs Quality
It is relative to the individual and some runners can produce the same results on 50 miles a week as other runners do at 140 miles a week.
Lindgren was only a handful of individuals I can think of crazy enough to run that type of mileage.
1. Don’t get caught up in numbers with your mileage
If you need to test the waters and see what higher mileage does for you, by all means, do so.
It always takes trial and error to find that sweet spot but don’t ever think you have to run high mileage to attain your marathoning goals.
Lisa Raisnberger, one of my close friends and mentors, reminded me many times while I was training in Colorado Springs that it isn’t about the quantity but the quality of the miles you are running.
Listen To The Experts
When a Boston Marathon champion gives advice, I tend to listen.
What is the point in running 100 miles a week if 90% of those miles are run at 2 minutes per mile slower than your goal 5K to marathon race pace?
You may gain massive strength running that type of mileage for the 5K to 10K distances but when it comes to racing, we are talking about energy utilization and you have to educate yourself on what is the reasons, the how’s and why’s so to speak, of your weekly training regimen.
How can we run as efficiently and economically as possible without slowing or slowing at a more subtle rate then our competitors?
Quantity vs Quality
Running too many miles slow will not get you any closer to your goal so we have to look past running high mileage for mileage sake.
Again, it goes back to what your goals for marathoning are.
If your goal is to finish then how many miles a week you spend at 70% or higher anaerobic effort really doesn’t matter as much, perhaps just building endurance and progressing the amount of miles run should be the focus.
If it is to hit a specific pace like running under 9.09 per mile for the marathon (sub 4 hours) then we have to decide how much of our time is spent at efforts below that pace and at that pace as well as our recovery in between.
Some of the world’s top runners including Yuki Kawauchi of Japan are running between 90-100 miles a week.
Kawauchi is easily my favorite marathoner because he chooses to work full-time despite being a 2.08.14 marathoner.
2. You must never forget to ingest sufficient calories in the marathon
You are always going to feel good the first 10 miles in a marathon but why wait until you get to mile ten to ingest any calories?
One of the best pieces of advice I can give is to take a gel or two with you and stuff them in your shorts.
Take a gel at mile 7, 14 and 21.
Monitor your glutathione levels.
This isn’t etched in stone of course but aim to ingest a 100-150 calories every 35 to 45 minutes during the marathon.
What runners sometimes forget is that you can take a gel and get in 100-150 calories immediately to your working muscles and as important as that is, sometimes we can disregard its importance and get too caught up in the race.
Hydrate Yourself Well
Think of how much fluid you would have to take down to get the equivalent amount?
Think of your regular sized gatorade bottle, that is a lot of fluid but with a gel and a few sips of water to ingest with it, you are golden.
Fueling is crucial and cannot be neglected. It doesn’t matter that you ran 120 miles a week for 15 weeks straight or ran great workouts. This is a very important marathoning mistake to avoid at all costs.
If you don’t take fueling during the race seriously all of your hard work and months of preparation will not bring the result you seek.
Ensure you are drinking and not sipping water during the race as well.
A few sips of water adding up to about 2 ounces ingested by mile 15 is going to do a number on you physiologically so make the commitment to drink more during the race, preferably between 6-8 ounces every 4 to 5 miles.
7 Days Out
3. Stock up on sufficient carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables during the week of the marathon, not just the night before
Don’t cram to get in enough the night before the race.
Always remember, it isn’t what you eat the night before but the week of the marathon that will set you up for success.
Marathoning isn’t just about running mileage and doing the workouts, but all the other little things that add up to make the winning combination for success.
It is a number of different things from how much sleep we get, what we eat, how much are we stressing over things that don’t matter that we give power to.
The list goes on and on but how well you and I balance these areas will determine how successful we will be at our marathoning goals.
4. Don’t underestimate yourself and don’t put too much emphasis on naysayers
Believe me others will do that for you and think highly of themselves for doing so.
I have found that there is a drastic difference in people who think they have us figured out than the people they talk about who are failing over and over and not losing enthusiasm along the way.
Focus On The Positives
People like to gossip.
It is a sad fact of life but always remember this.
Viewpoints of people who may either belittle you for what you are doing spending so much time on running, trying to attain what they feel is an impossible goal or try to make you feel bad, have no power over you.
We give others power and the focus we give other’s comments can easily be changed and re-directed on more positive areas of our lives.
The problem with lies is that when they are told over and over again, are repetitive in nature, people begin to see them as truth.
It is like bullshit stories the media tell.
Anyone who has watched the news as of late will start to realize that television ‘programming’ is about the biggest propaganda ponzi scheme known to mankind.
It takes an educated mind to not let others viewpoint of them dictate what they can do in sport and life in general.
I have known far too many runners over the years who second guess themselves based on what others may have told them they were capable of or simply by not having a sense of patience.
If you don’t believe in delayed gratification perhaps marathoning is not for you.
Individuals who understand delayed gratification many times are what others consider outliers, they seem to not quit regardless of the outcome.
They have too much joy and love for what they are doing to do anything else and they keep working until the objective is met.
It all depends on what your goals with marathoning are.
If you want to lose weight then talking about race pace training strategies isn’t so much the focus, nor should it be with an athlete who simply wants to run and finish a marathon, but you still had better have the patience and mental fortitude to be willing to try.
There are people in this world who will not even try long enough to see what they are truly capable of.
No one guarantees you or I a personal best the next time we run a marathon or road race.
There is no magic formula that guarantees that. It may take you (or I) 2 months, 2 years or 10 years to attain a new best.
How much are you willing to withstand? How patient are you? How important is it you?
When I get questions from athletes about how to run faster I tend to want to first get an idea of where their head is.
People want to be successful but don’t always want to endure the long hours, the failures, the time away from doing things they could be doing if they didn’t have all of their focus on that objective.
No one guarantees us a tomorrow so you damn well sure had better be going after your dreams now, not when you feel like it, not when the time is right.
The Right Time
The time is never right.
There is action and no action and most of the time people who get objectives met are in the former category.
It doesn’t make them better or more worthy, they just endure a little longer.
I have failed over and over again the past 6 years since I ran my 2.19.35 PR, the closest I have come is a 2.26.42 I ran at the 2011 Monumental Indianapolis Marathon….but I have never given up hope.
I am pushing myself to the limit right now with some of the workouts I am doing, workouts even better than when I ran my PR.
Will it produce a sub 2.18.00 time?
I don’t know for sure but I damn sure am going to not live my life with regret that I didn’t try. I certainly feel I have the capability to hold under 5.16 mile pace for the distance.
We cannot possibly learn in success as much as we do in failing.
Failing sucks but it also gives great lessons that teach us why the successful have become the way that they are.
What makes them any different?
They see the bigger picture. They don’t quit when they don’t meet their goal the first time. You may see them years later still sharpening the axe when their friends have long since moved on and gave up.
I have found that those who have the mental fortitude to see a goal through, who are willing to be made fun of when they fail, are not phased by someone trying to belittle them for feeling joyful over a goal they achieved and don’t give up have made up their minds to be different.
We all have different goals and aspirations.
This is why marathoning, racing and training as well as the comradeship that comes along with associating with like-minded individuals, who take the time to get to know your goals and dreams, is a great way to stay motivated.
That being said, take the time to give someone who doesn’t agree with your views some of your attention, because no one has all the answers, not I or anyone else.
If I run under 2.20 for the marathon distance and the next athlete runs 5 hours does that make him or her less of an athlete?
Everyone has worth and does this sport for different reasons.
A 5 hour marathoner should be commended and respected just as highly as someone who runs faster, as long as they are working as hard as they possibly can to improve.
What works for me as an athlete may be the farthest thing from what you want, but there is a fine line with being professional and belittling someone for being different, always reach out to help people and lift them up, not tear them down.
There is enough ordinary around, take the time to learn what it takes to truly stand out and part of that is studying the complete opposite of what you may have been taught….but that is for another subject.
You need a strong support structure to surround yourself with.
There is already enough negativity in the world, surround yourself with positive, uplifting people who are going to challenge you to get over your preconceived ideas of what you think you are capable of.
I hope these marathoning mistakes to avoid has helped you in some way.
If you’d like to comment or make contact I always enjoy hearing from my readers and wish you the very best in your marathoning success.