Thursday, February 18, 2010

Lessons learned

I am a firm believer in the ability to learn from others; both their successes and their failures. Over the past 4 years, I've spent a considerable amount of time pouring over the training plans, logs and strategies of other marathoners around the world. I've learned a few things I want to do, and I've learned many things that I am sure to never do. Here is what I hope might be helpful to you - from my most recent training cycle.

  • Incorporate one (1) run per week at race pace. If you need help identifying what pace you should run at, I highly recommend and the running calculator. Greg McMillan has developed a custom training plan for me last year, and it was the single greatest investment I've made in a long time. His stellar record of coaching some of the finest athletes in the world bears out his gift in the area of competitive running.
  • Don't forsake the long run. Probably the single most important training run you will do on a regular basis is the long run. At the peak of your training (about 3 weeks prior to your race), your long run should cover approximately 85% of your upcoming race's distance (22 miles for a marathon, 10 miles for a half marathon, and so on) The long run conditions your body and mind to accept the tedium and discomfort associated with being on your feet for a prolonged period of time. The run should be 1.5 to 2 minutes slower than your goal race pace, so you shouldn't have to struggle to maintain the pace. Time on your feet is what you are shooting for here. Don't forsake the long run !
  • Allow for a rest day following your long run. I have wrestled with this for a few years, but I've found it to be a key for recovery. Remember, your body doesn't improve fitness during the run; it improves as it rests following the run. Give yourself the best advantage possible by letting your body recover properly. Stick to sound nutrition, stay hydrated, get adequate sleep, and take a rest day.
  • Fuel wisely. Over training seasons in the past, I have learned the hard way that four bowls of Captain Crunch Peanut Butter Crunch cereal at midnight is usually not going to afford me the ability to run well in the morning. But man, does that stuff taste GOOOOD in the middle of the night !! Seriously, remember that food is fuel for runners. You don't have to eat wheat germ and kale for breakfast, but remind yourself that what you eat will directly affect what your body provides you during the run. Garbage in -- Garbage out.
  • Stay focused and stay positive. If you need motivation and encouragement to get out the door for the runs (and don't we all?) just look around at your co-workers. If they are anything like mine, they are the epitome of what you DON'T want to end up being like. I always get a rush when I run by the houses of our neighbors and I realize that while I am out putting in the piles o' miles, they are likely face-down in a bowl of Double chocolate cookie dough ice cream while watching "The Bachelor". Can I digress for a sec and say how stupid that show is? Sheesh. Jerry Springer comes to prime time... anyway. Whatever it takes to get your feet out the door, focus on it. You're a runner. You're doing better than 99.5% of the American population.
  • Stretch carefully and consistently. Enough said.

These helped me over the past few training cycles, and I hope they help you too. I'm still learning alot at this running thing, but the beauty is how easily it is to learn from one another.

Run long.


  1. Thank you for this post. I really like your ideas and suggestions.

    I know I need to do better with my speed and tempo runs so I get used to my race pace. That's a hard one for me lately.

    The long run is the most important run you can do. I totally agree with that. You have to get used to being out there moving for that long. You also learn a lot about what you should and shouldn't do during your long runs and it's easier to be prepared for a race when you know what to expect.

    I will struggle with the rest days this year as I train for the Goofy. I've always done a long run then a rest day, but now I need to get my body used to going longer the second day. I think this will be tough.

    If only I could get my head around my fueling. This week has been all about comfort and not about fuel. Need to revise that thinking and start doing a better job in this area.

    Motivation is always tricky, but I like your thought about the co-workers.

    Stretching is good!!!

  2. Yeah, I ran Goofy in 2008, and the honest truth about is that it's really not any different than just normal marathon training.

    If you haven't run marathon distance before, then you just want to focus on performing some brick workouts. That's just a fancy name for doing back-to-back slow, mid distance runs on consecutive days. This should only be done once you have a solid base built (I would recommend around 3 months of base building) Nothing drastic, just consistent running.

    As for nutrition, it's something that we all have to wrestle with. It doesn't come easily for me most of the time either. They key is to take your nutrition/eating/fueling decisions one at a time. Don't obsess about what you ate yesterday that you shouldn't have. Focus on your next meal/snack for now, and try to make a good, solid choice. What will fuel you best for your run today? What will help you recover best from the run, if you have already done it. You can pig out every once in a while, but it's all about balance and control. Just know that we all struggle with food from time to time.