Tips Archives: Marathon Training
So You Want to Run A Marathon?
The most important concept you can grasp as you get into the running
lifestyle is that you are captain of your ship. Youâll get a lot
of advice about how you should run and what you should do next.
Pick a good, conservative program, and learn to have fun following
it. When you take too many elements from too many different types
of programs, you can decrease your chance of success and enjoyment.
You Can Still Improve Your Performance
During the Last 48 Hours
While the physical training has been done, you can significantly
enhance 1) the way you feel afterward and 2) the quality of your
performance by choosing certain behaviors and avoiding others during
the final two days. Graduation day is near; don't let your vision
Because of nervousness, the excitement of the expo and distractions
of another city, the marathon, friends, etc., it's easy to lose
concentration on a few key items.
You're In Conrol
You need to be in charge of your behaviors during the crucial 48
hours before the marathon. In this way you can control your attitude,
your eating, your schedule, etc. This doesn't mean that you should
be sitting in your hotel room eating salt-free pretzels and PowerBars
and drinking water. Being with friends is positive. You have veto
power over what goes into your mouth, where you go, and how late
you stay out. Being in control of your destiny is the primary step
in running faster without training.
Have a list of statements that you can repeat as necessary. You're
going to have negative thoughts slip out from the left brain so
we'll work on a way to bypass them and move into the world of the
- I have no pressure on myself
- I'm going to enjoy this
- I'll start very slowly
- The people are great
- Because I started slowly, I'm finishing strong
- The satisfaction of doing this is un-equaled
- I've developed a great respect for myself
Set your wake up call so that you have plenty of time to get moving,
gather your gear together, and go through your usual eating and
drinking timetable which worked for you during the long runs.Drink
until you hear sloshing From the time you awaken, drink 4-6 oz.
of water, every hour, until you hear sloshing in your stomach. Whenever
the sloshing stops, start the drinking again. It's always better
to have water in your stomach, or in your system, than to suffer
to devastating effects of severe dehydration and heat disease. During
the race itself, drink at every water station- unless you hear the
To hold your blood sugar up for the first half One of the reasons
I advocate eating before all your long runs is to discover the foods
and pattern of eating which will work out best for you in the marathon
itself. While about 70% of those in our various training groups
find that PowerBar digests most quickly and provides the best blood
sugar stabilizing effect, you should use what has worked for you
in your long runs. Eating about 200-250 calories of high quality
carbohydrate about an hour before the long one has helped many runners
to stabilize their blood sugar level for the first half of the marathon.
Go Slowly in the Beginning
Almost everyone who performs a personal record in the marathon runs
the second half faster than the first. Slow down by 10-20 seconds
per mile (from your projected marathon pace) during the first 3-5
miles. Many marathoners report that by starting out 15 seconds per
mile slower, they have the resiliency to run 20-30 seconds per mile
faster at the end of the marathon.
Take Walk Breaks
A high percentage of those who didn't achieve the time goal they
desired in the marathon by running continuously, have been able
to significantly lower their finishing times by walking for one
minute each mile- from the beginning of the marathon.
Eat During the Second Half of the Marathon
Eating small carbohydrate snacks during the second half of the marathon
has helped marathoners improve time goals by boosting the blood
sugar level. This will enhance your feeling of well being, maintain
mental concentration, and sustain a positive mental attitude.
Starting slowly can make
almost any run an enjoyable experience
This past year has been my best year of running and my slowest.
More than three years ago, I shifted from an every-other-day running
program to running two days out of three. To minimize overtraining
injury, I slowed down all of my runs. During this period, I've had
almost no need to take time off for repair of aches, pains or worse.
Prior to this slowdown, I had been starting my runs on slow days
at 7-7:30 minutes per mile. When I shifted into "slow" gear, the
pace became about 9-10 minutes per mile. Yes, even though I still
run some 10K races at 5:30 pace, I start virtually all of my daily
runs at about 10 minutes per mile and feel great because of it.
The unexpected benefit of this extra slow start has been an early
shift into the right brain. Much sooner than usual, I found my mind
wandering into creative journeys of all types. When the body is
not under the usual stress of starting exercise at "normal" pace,
it will relax, and your left brain doesn't have to respond to stress
with its usual stream of negative messages.
Most folks to too fast in the beginning of a run because their
pacing instincts take over. It's easy to go too fast before the
body is warmed up because the biomechanics of running form allow
us to move along very efficiently at a pace that is too fast for
the muscles, the energy resources, and the cardiovascular system.
A gentle warm-up will gradually instroduce the muscles and all of
your systems to exercise at the same time.
When in doubt, run slower at the beginning. You'll increase your
enjoyment without significantly lowering the training effect or
- You can come back to your normal weekly mileage in two to three
- But every run must be done slowly: follow the "two-minute rule."
Bring back the long run
- You may increase the length more rapidly than usual by slowing
down and taking more walking breaks. *
- The longer your layoff from exercise, the more conservative
Starting long run when on the "comeback trail" To designate your
long run starting distance after a layoff from exercise, start from
your longest run, three weeks before the day you plan to re-start
the long ones and
- Take off 20 percent per week if you did no exercise at all
- Take off 10 percent per week if you did 30 minutes of alternative
exercise, three times a week, or
- Take off five percent per week if you did alternative exercise
which simulated marathon schedule.
Long Runs Can Improve Marathon
By increasing beyond 26 miles, you'll build reserve endurance which
will boost performance in many ways:
- You'll push your "wall" past 26 miles.
- You'll have the strength and stamina to maintain a hard pace
during the last three to six miles when most competitive folks
- With reserve endurance, you can often get away with a few small
Signs that You're Running
(on your long runs)
1) You slow down during the last 3-6 miles
2) You feel very tired at the end and all evening long
3) The long ones take four days or more to recover from
4) An increase in nausea and irritation at the end of a run
5) Not being able to maintain the pace at the end of the run without
Keep those long runs slow!
Speed and Endurance... Simultaneously
Running faster in the marathon requires that you develop a special
type of speed-endurance. This means that the actual pace of the
speed segments is only slightly faster than marathon goal pace.
You're developing the capacity to maintain a moderate pace over
a long distance. Compared with speed sessions for shorter distance
racing goals, those for the marathon emphasize building endurance
- running longer repetitions (usually mile repeats)
- increasing the number of repetitions: up to 8,10, or 12 mile
repeats (faster marathons require more repetitions)
Speedplay for Time Goal
Those who have completed a marathon before may be interested in
joining a group of speedplayers who will meet about every other
week to do timed mile repeats. Each of these fast miles is run about
20 seconds faster than you want to run in the race itself. Between
each of the fast miles, a walking break of three to six minutes
Why Do I Need to Run 26 Miles
Before the Marathon?
"You don't, but our experience tells us that you will have a good
experience in the marathon if you do and a negative marathon experience
if you don't. You can't expect your body to cover a distance that
is significantly longer than it has trained to go without complaining
loudly and/or breaking down. By gradually increasing your long one
up to 26 miles, you train the body and mind for the specific challenge
"But I've Heard That Going Beyond 20 Miles Breaks You Down?"
"Only if you do the long one too fast. By going slowly and
taking walk breaks, you do no more damage in an increase from 23
to 26 miles than increasing from 18 to 20 miles (or even 12 to 14
miles). Indeed, most whom I've interviewed over the years who train
for the marathon using other programs run the long ones too fast
and take longer to recover from an 18 to 20-miler than our folks
do from their 23 to 26-milers. The slow pace makes all the difference.
This gentle increase of two to three miles usually produces only
a subtle tiredness as long as you're running those long ones at
least two minutes per mile slower than you could run them.
The wonderful advantage which the 26-miler bestows is that by the
time you've started the marathon itself, you know that you can cover
the distance because you have! Time goal folks in our program have
a reserve endurance because they go up to 28 to 30 miles. Again,
the secret in recovering from the long ones, especially when the
distance goes beyond 20, is running at least two minutes per mile
slower than you could cover the course on that day AND taking the
walk breaks early and often."
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