Race strategies need to be factored in to run at the highest levels.
Everyone has different goals and aspirations when it comes to this sport.
Obviously, someone seeking to break a 4 hour marathon would set themself up for success by doing a 4-month block of training.
The marathon is a different beast. You really have to have a proper plan in place to be as effective as you can be.
If I were focused on race strategies for the marathon I would focus on a 16 week marathon training program.
I say that because 4 months is what I have always focused on since I started running marathons in 2002.
It provides the athlete sufficient time to adapt to the stresses being placed on the body. In addition, there are numerous physiological adaptations that we as athletes wish to occur.
That being said, none of it happens overnight. If you focus on branching your marathon training out to 16 weeks or no more than 20 weeks you will do well.
What Race Strategy Should I Focus On When Training For A Marathon?
Overall, quality miles run and disregard for high mileage.
High mileage, not effectively planned, will not produce real results.
How do I know?
I tried it. I ran a high of 142 miles in a week, a week at 140 and several in the 130's.
My marathon personal record time of 2:19:35 came on 80 to 95 miles per week. I tried both ways and before I started using leverage my results were not optimal.
The main focus I recommend to athletes utilizing a 16 week marathon training schedule are as follows.
Emphasis on faster weekend long runs
If you are conducting your long runs slow week after week all you are doing is burning fat.
Yes, the goal is to build endurance which long, slow running will help you to accomplish.
That being said, if you have as your goal to break a 4 hour marathon and run your long runs at 11 minute mile pace you're not using leverage.
Effective Racing Strategy = Leverage
Leverage simply means doing more with less.
Would you rather run 50 miles a week and achieve your goal or try the high mileage route only to be left fatigued and stressed?
Race strategies that factor in you using leverage is what will distance yourself from the pack.
Furthermore, it all starts in training first. You want to make the mistakes in training and test yourself there prior to getting to the race.
The race itself should be the easy part.
A 16-mile long run at 9:20 mile pace will produce better results than a 22 miler at 10:30 mile pace for the athlete aspiring to break the 4 hour marathon.
A training strategy that yields returns on your time and energy investment is what you want to focus on.
Junk miles will do nothing for the athlete seeking to set a new personal best in the 5K to marathon distances.
So, the key is to alternate your long runs each week. One, longer and faster paced long run followed by a relaxed, recovery long run.
This will offset any residual fatigue from your weekly training and will allow for recovery.
Remember, the results come in the rest, not the workout itself.
Sure, we as athletes must put in the necessary training but the rest is where the big results come from.
Faster Than Goal Race Pace Preparation
All athletes, for the most part, train for the 5K to marathon distances with a time goal in mind.
For example, when I started running marathons I wanted to break the 2:22:00 marathon barrier.
The sub-2:22:00 marathon was the USA Track and Field Olympic Trials “B” standard time. Men that ran that time or faster in 2007 qualified for the 2008 USA Olympic Trials.
This was the bare minimum time needed to be considered an Olympic Trials qualifier.
My personal best time for the marathon in 2002 was 2:43:36 and it took me another 5 years to break 2:22:00.
The way I did it was a combination of all the tips you'll be reading about here.
Long runs at faster paces and workouts conducted at paces that far exceeded goal marathon pace were the reasons I achieved the goal.
Remember, whatever time goal you have in mind for the marathon you have to get used to that goal pace.
In addition, you have to train in such a way to make that pace feel easy. Race strategies that emphasis running at and far below goal race pace is what all top runners focus on.
That being said, you can be a total beginner to an elite athlete. These training principles apply to us all.
Naturally, if you run a higher percentage of your weekly volume at or below goal race pace you are going to be better prepared.
In addition to that, never forget the importance of running easy as well. Running long slow miles too often will make you a long, slow runner.
So, it is still important to run slow and recover but not every day.
Example Marathon Workouts That Yield Results
Here are a few example workouts for someone seeking to break a 3 hour marathon I would recommend.
6 x1mile at 6:05 per rep with 3 minutes recovery
3×2 mile at 13:00 per rep with 7 minutes recovery
20x200m@5:45 mile pace
16x400m in 1:30-35 per rep with 2 minutes recovery
18-24 mile long run at 6:40-7:10 per mile pace
10 mile tempo run at 168-74 beats per minute
These are the types of workouts that train the anaerobic threshold and aerobic capacity of the human body.
Do you want to break a 3 hour marathon? These are the types of workouts you will to start asking of yourself.
No easy hand outs.
It is the same for someone seeking to run under 5 hours for the marathon. That is 11:27 per mile pace.
What are you doing to prepare to sustain that pace for 26.2 miles?
So, a 16 week marathon training schedule has to cover these areas.
I have created customer built 5K to marathon training schedules that help athlete leverage their strengths.
You can invest in one by simply visiting our shop page and click on the graphic for your chosen plan to learn more information.
There are other resources which cover some additional tips on how to set up your training accurately.
Top Racing Strategy Recommendations Leading Into A Race
Stop worrying about things out of your control
Review what went right and what went wrong in your past race.
Do not dwell on the past. You cannot change your last race but you can dictate how you conduct your next crack at it.
There is absolutely nothing you can do about your last race. So, focus on what you can do moving forward.
Keep your mind focused on the positives.
Monitor your pace
Do not go out too aggressive in the early stages of your race. If you are running a half marathon or marathon you have more time and distance to adjust to mistakes.
If you are in a 5K or 10K you have to be even more careful so be mindful of your pace early on.
So, if you practiced your goal race pace in training effectively you can be aggressive if you wish.
You have to really be confident when you make the big moves in your race. The only way to know for sure is to ensure you are challenging yourself in training first.
Then, throw in some surges in the race and try to break away from the group if wish to in your race.
That being said, do not try to be a hero if you haven't put in the heavy training to make those killer moves in the race.
One of the biggest race strategies often overlooked is hydration.
Do not expect to run a great race if you neglect your hydration in the race. This is the number one killer of race times and performances to runners around the world.
It is very easy to focus more on ones race splits than ingesting enough calories during the race.
Often times, runners are scared their splits and pace will slow if they grab a water or slow to grab a gel from a volunteer in the race.
Again, keep your mind focused on leverage.
Leverage is working smarter with less effort. We all are taught from cradle to grave to work hard.
That being said, 78 percent of the American population are living paycheck to paycheck. One income stream is not enough yet how many rely on that one source?
Leverage is not taught, it is sought after.
So, stop neglecting this vital race strategy and start utilizing it from here on out.
It takes guts to be willing to make winner moves in races. I had several times when I knew I had to make a move to win a race.
Rely on your preparation. Have you done the work? If you have, you'll be far more confident when it is time to surge away from the group you are running with.
That being said, when you make your move be assertive about it. Remind those around you that they are in a race.
Have you ever heard runners in a race talking?
If runners have the capacity to talk to one another in a race they are not racing.
Your mind should be focused on racing, not on talking. Let those around you talk it up and burn their oxygen up all they want.
One of the top race strategies there is to make the moves in a race when others least expect it.
I always would turn and burn when I felt those I was racing with weren't taking the race seriously.
I'd drop a sub 5 minute mile in the middle of a marathon to see how they would react. It works every time.
That being said, you have to know yourself and be fully prepared to make those types of moves in the race.
In closing, I hope these race strategies will help you in your next race. Be confident in who you are, what you are doing and where you are going.
Leave a comment below if you have any further questions you need answered.