Running mistakes teach us all as athletes what we need to work at to come back stronger the next time.
Never let them be a reason for you to quit the sport you love.
What is the golden rule in regards to training for a marathon?
Well, after 10 years of working to perfect the distance I would say that you should have an endless supply of patience.
2010 I had some of the best workouts of my life and quite ironically, some of the worst marathon performances.
Running Mistakes | Lessons Learned
2011 was a better year and I took some of the things that did not work in 2010 and adjusted my training and ran 2.26.42 at the 2011 Monumental Indianapolis Marathon.
It wasn't a super fast time but considering I had to jump in a porta john at mile 18 while running in the lead pack of Kenyans and still finished with that time it was a step in the right direction.
Watch Your Paces During Interval Training and Recovery Afterward.
You may be in the best shape of your life but being able to run stunning workouts doesn't always mean the races will be even better.
Training properly will always be a work in progress for everyone.
The ‘perfect' training plan does not exist.
The best runners learn what works, what doesn't work and grow from that.
You have to find what works best for you but learning from others mistakes is extremely powerful and is why I am writing this post, to help you.
High Altitude And Heart Rate
I trained at an altitude between 5500-8000ft for over 6 years while stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado in Colorado Springs.
Your heart rate is higher, you have less oxygen to work with and your recovery is challenged training that high.
Gauging pace is vital that high.
If your running at a heart rate of 165 beats per minute on your easy days your running too hard, period.
We all can be well intentioned with our training.
We think we are doing everything right.
My biggest hindrance has been worrying about running high mileage.
I got caught up with thinking running 130-150 miles a week was going to bring me a 2.12 marathon. It did me more harm than good. I ran better at 80-100 miles a week.
I have had too many occasions where I had incredible training blocks but yielded only a minimum return and much of it was during 130-140 mile weeks. Save your best efforts for the race.
Train hard, but don't go overboard.
Mileage alone is not the answer.
Your body creates chronic cortisol levels during high levels of exercise which slows down recovery during hard training.
It leaves you feeling depressed, frustrated and slows down performance gains.
I first learned of this from Lisa Larsen Rainsberger, the last American female to win the Boston Marathon, and my professional coach for 3 years while assigned to the Army W.C.A.P. team.
The more demands you place on yourself to perform and the less attention you pay to your recovery, the greater risk you physiologically place on your body.
Relax, be patient, and know that, in due time, your time will come!
Don't Lose Enthusiasm
In 2010 I was under a great deal of stress to perform for the Army World Class Athlete Program.
The standards to be a part of the elite unit are quite high and as a member of the Armed Forces you have a great deal of very high powered people watching your results.
I wanted to race and perform at an elite level and spent a great deal of my time focusing on measuring up and not on my own goals.
It was an incredible opportunity I had and hope to have again but I lost site of what was most important, the joy of effort.
Forget what other people expect of you.
Do what you love and most importantly, do not lose sight of how much you love training and racing.
Do not let results and placings get in the way of all your hard work.
The opposite will not aid you in any way
Take in Enough Calories
I have had multiple marathons where I was on pace to run under 2.20 for the marathon(usually hitting the 20-mile mark in 1.49-50) but my last 6.2 miles I was so fatigued and empty on fuel I would come home with finishing times in the 2:30's and 40's, sometimes worse.
This may not be a bad time for most folks but when I was doing repeat miles in 4.40-44 each at altitude and 20-mile long runs at over 6000ft in 1.53-54, finish times like these do not make sense.
I am still learning to fuel properly.
I took in more gel packs at the 2011 Monumental Indianapolis Marathon in November and finished in 5th with a time of 2.26.42 despite an emergency porta john stop at mile 18. It was my second best marathon time behind my PR of 2.19.35.
I took in more calories and was able to sustain my pace for longer.
I always worried that taking in too much fluid would give me a cramp that would cause me to stop.
What did that yield me?
Slower marathon finish times. Sports medicine statistics say you should be taking in 8oz of fluid every 3 miles.
I would consume about 8 oz of fluid total in the entire race. Lesson of this, do not neglect hydration and taking in calories.
You can have all the motivation in the world and be in super shape but fail to take this to heart and you could end up under performing.
Be Extremely Patient
I sent a message to a friend of mine, Michael Wardian, who has a PR of 2.17.49 from the 2011 Grandmas Marathon.
Michael is a highly successful ultra marathoner and is a two-time Olympic Trials marathon qualifier.
I told him the workouts I was doing in 2010.
I was the fittest I have ever been in my life in 2010 but the results weren't coming and I kept having fueling problems.
His response was,
Nate, you know the marathon doesn't work like that.You do not get instant results
He is right.
Marathon success comes with patience. Sometimes you can do everything totally correct. 100% effort breeds 100% results.
Well, sometimes that is true, sometimes not.
I would be more comfortable in saying 100% patience breeds 100% results.
We are in a sport where patience is going to bring you to the results you are seeking. It took me years to earn an Olympic Trials qualifying time and I failed over and over before I broke 2.20.00.
I hope you can take some of this away and adjust your training for future races.
I know the most successful marathoners are taking in the proper amount of fluids and calories and that is something I continue to work on in my own training.
I have certainly learned that you have to do everything properly to get the marathon right and taking in enough calories in that race is going to yield some pretty spectacular results but you have to patient and eventually the results will come.
What are some mistakes you all have experienced with your own racing?
What has been the biggest problem for you in your racing?
I would love to hear them and read how you overcame your own disappointments.
I know how tough it is to train so hard for a race and miss the mark you set for yourself.
This has to be the key reason why writing to help other runners means so much to me.
It is important to me because as a runner myself, we have to target what IS working in our training and learn from the training that is hindering our performance.
Maintain Balance Despite Running Mistakes
There is more to life than chasing times and race results but laughing at some of the things we do can help us cope with the hard training we are willing to endure.
Keep things lighthearted. Train your tail off, give it a shot.
If you screw up at a race i.e. you went out too hard, you started too slow and it cost you, you didn't achieve the time you wanted…simply try again.
Do you know how many times I have missed the mark of my own ability level?
I know how you feel but taking things seriously and not finding something to laugh about to keep your spirits up and thinking about all the ‘what ifs' will only make your distance running journey more problematic.
I want to help you along the way to prevent that.
Thanks for taking the time to read this post.
Please feel free to leave a comment.
I hope this was helpful.
Please send me your feedback as to what areas of training you are would like written about.
Any area I can assist you with.
Running mistakes do not have cause you to lose heart.
Persistence pay off.