Running A Faster Marathon
Running a faster marathon entails a lot of fundamentals many runners miss. Patience is number one.
It isn’t just about what you do in the workouts but what you are doing the other parts of the day.
Are you getting enough sleep? Are you drinking properly after your long runs and workouts?
Are you ingesting enough calories to replenish what you lost in these workouts?
These are just a few of the many questions you need to be asking yourself to ensure you are setting yourself up for success.
I began running marathons in 2002. My debut was the 2002 New York City Marathon.
I was a part of an US Armed Forces team that was running the race for lung cancer charity.
We started in last place (32,189th) and for every runner we passed Chase Manhattan Bank was donating $1 USD to the charity.
I finished as the team’s top finisher going from last place to 257th overall in 2.43.36.
I learned a lot that day about the marathon and I want to share with you in this post some of the key training secrets I have learned from some of the top distance runners and coaches in the world.
Setting goals can only create a sense of urgency in your training. It will keep you accountable when there are no training partners to go out on a run with.
It will keep your competitive juices flowing and will remind you that you are going for a tough goal.
You are seeking to attain a goal that many people in the world will never attempt.
Finishing a marathon is a successful goal. One that doesn’t get the attention it deserves.
The media’s attention is usually with the top athletes and sponsors.
The facts are there are millions of runners around the world who are spending endless hours in training to run a faster marathon.
Setting goals and not just thinking them up but writing them down on paper will help keep you focused, determined and willing to endure the training to see your marathon breakthrough come to fruition.
Don’t Be Afraid Of Failure
It took me from 2002 to 2007 to attain a goal I had while still a 2.43.36 marathoner.
I wanted to break 2.22.00 and qualify for the 2008 USA Olympic Marathon Trials.
How do you go from averaging 6.14 pace to holding 5.25 per mile or better?
You do it through trials, endless effort and standing up to failures when they occur.
I failed several times on my way to my current best marathon of 2.19.35.
My two marathon attempts prior to breaking the 2.20 marathon barrier was the 2.40.02 I ran at the 2007 Grandmas Marathon.
I went through the half way mark in 1.10.13 and failed miserably the last 10K of the race.
A couple months after that marathon I went on to set a personal best for the half marathon running 1.07.06.
I was excited and fit and was sure that breaking 2.22.00 was attainable.
I flew to the Chicago Marathon and had the most painful experience of my life.
It was 2007 and the race was actually cancelled due to the extreme heat.
I remember passing the two mile mark in the race where a nearby bank sign read, ’82 degrees’.
I hit the half way mark in 1.11.22 and wanted to call it a day.
The Army payed my way to Chicago as I was a member of the Army World Class Athlete Program and dropping out was not an option for me that day.
I ended up walking and jogging the last 14 miles of the race and finished in 2.51.53
I am humble enough to realize that that is still a time many runners around the world would be pleased with but based on the training I had done leading up to it I simply didn’t run up to my potential.
I took 3 days off and began training again for the California International Marathon where I set a massive personal best, finished in 4th place and ran 2.19.35.
Persistence Is Key
The difference between those who succeed in this sport and those who don’t is simply that little extra those who excel put in.
It doesn’t make them any better then you.
You are more then a marathon time.
There are 4 hour marathoners who could teach me something I quite possibly didn’t know about the sport.
Persistence, enduring just a little longer than your competition is what is going to make you successful in this sport.
This is the most important fundamental as it pertains to running a faster marathon.
You can have an excellent training schedule, great coach and perfect training environment but if you fail to drink enough in this distance it will all be for not.
You never want to drink when it is too late in this race.
Aim to drink 4-6 ounces of fluid every 3 miles during the marathon.
Do not sip in the race.
Have you seen how small those cups are they hand out to runners in marathon races?
If you are drinking less than half of the contents in one of those cups per aid station you are doing yourself a disservice.
The marathon is a long race and your body will desperately need that fluid to maintain balance as you race.
I was coached by Lisa Larsen Rasinberger for 3 years.
She is the last American female to win the Boston Marathon.
She used to tell me how badly she wished she would have had all the extra luxuries we have in marathon racing today.
They didn’t have gatorade, other sports drinks and gels on the Boston Marathon course back in 1985 when she won.
She would have me practice taking gels during my long runs while I was under her coaching tenure.
The trick with taking a gel is that you get an additional 100-120 calories immediately into your blood stream and a boost of sugar which will assist muscle functioning while you are racing.
The difference between taking a gel and drinking is huge.
It would take you drinking a 16 ounce bottle of fluid to get the same amount of calories you would get in a small packet of sports gel.
My recommendation is to practice ingesting a gel every 6 to 7 miles in your long runs.
For example, if you have a 20 mile run planned take a gel at miles 7, 14 and 20.
You will be ingesting an additional 300-360 calories during your long run that will assist you in not running out of much needed energy.
Practice Your Pace
A crucial fundamental to running a faster marathon is practicing goal race pace.
Runners sell themselves short by saying they don’t have the talent or their best years are behind them when they have a bad race when the opposite is really true.
The problem isn’t that they don’t have what it takes or are past their prime.
The problem is they have not done their homework for long enough in preparing for the pace they want to hold.
If you, as a beginner, have the 4 hour marathon as a goal running 9.09 per mile for 26.2 miles is what you have to maintain to hold that pace.
How is doing 20 mile runs at 11.00 mile pace going to help you get to that goal?
It won’t and this is where the problem lies.
Running Slow Burns Fat
It burns fat at slow speeds.
Running for long periods of time at slower paces than you want to race at will not assist you in conserving carbohydrates and burning fat relative to the speeds you want to race at.
The trick to running a faster marathon entails you extending the amount of time you spend at or near the pace you want to hold for the marathon distance.
The secret to running a faster marathon is learning to use fat at race speeds and conserve carbohydrates so that you can call on that extra energy when you need it most.
The last 10K of the race.
Your competition will be slowing while you, who have trained for long periods of time at faster paces, will be maintaining.
Put More Focus On Fat Usage
The faster we run the more carbohydrates we burn.
The problem marathoners run into is that they lose momentum in the race because they have run out of carbohydrates.
Once that reliance on sugar has run out we hit the so-called ‘wall.
You don’t have to experience what so many other marathoners deal with if you learn how to use fat at race speeds to your advantage.
The problem with this approach is running at faster speeds for longer periods of time hurts.
It is uncomfortable and takes a great deal of patience to come to fruition.
Long runs done at a higher percentage of effort will help you run a much faster marathon.
You are teaching the body to use fat at race speeds, rather then carbohydrates by training at higher intensities.
Renato Canova, one of the world’s top marathon coaches says this about race pace training…
You can only do in a race what you’ve practiced in training. Pace, not distance, is the guiding principle. Better to run 16 miles at your goal marathon pace than slog through a 24-miler that does little to improve your endurance at race pace.
Never lose sight of the enjoyment of the sport.
Have a goal and train hard for it but stay relaxed.
You will see an ocean of tense, nervous and worried runners around you at the start line of your marathon.
Do the opposite.
You have put in the work and done your due diligence in training.
The marathon is your celebration.
You are now running on tapered legs.
We as marathoners train in a continual fatigued state leading up to our marathon races.
The training should always be harder than the race itself because come race day, you are rested and prepared.
There is no reason to worried, tense and nervous come race day.
It is your day to celebrate all the hard work you put in and achieve your personal best for the marathon distance.