The first and most important rule of marathon running is to respect the distance. So many runners sabotage themselves and kill their chances of obtaining that coveted marathon PR. Train hard, focus, and be smart. We have heard these mantras before but I wanted to break down a specific setup to not sabotaging your chance of obtaining your personal best time in the marathon.
9 Ways You May Be Killing Your Chances at a Marathon PR
Your Training Plan is a Mess
A messy training plan will not maximize your chances of PRing in the marathon. Some people can thrive on just a conglomeration of workouts that are randomly placed; however, most people need periodized training. Workouts should follow a semi-logical progression each week to properly peak for the marathon. You don’t want to do too taxing of workouts in the beginning so by the time the marathon rolls around your burned out. Training periodization is key and is laid out well in this book.
Easy Runs Should Be EASY
Biggest mistake I ever made that my husband has had to correct me on so many times on it is that your easy runs should be easy. Some people think that you need to run some specific pace on those easy runs, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Let me give you a point of reference. My husband has run a 2:25 marathon – his easy runs a lot of times start at 9 min/mile pace (obviously he works down). But, he may dip into the mid 6:30/mile towards the end for easy runs but it is about listening to your body. If you are running easy days to hard then you can’t run real hard on workout days.
For me, when I was training for Chicago last year my marathon pace was a 7:20 but my easy runs often would be in the 9-10 min/mile. My best recommendation if you find yourself unable to slow down is to leave your Garmin at home. Map out your course and don’t worry about pace, just run.
The Small Stuff is Big Stuff
The small things you do in a training cycle and through out the year are key to staying healthy and uninjured. Core work, stretching, plyometrics, weights, foam-rolling, etc. These are the small things that a lot of us don’t feel like doing after a run (or don’t have time).
If you want to stay healthy you have to find time – if you have to cut a run 1 mile short to allow an extra 10-15 minutes to do some core-work – it is worth it!
Racing Your Workouts
Workouts are exactly that – workouts. They are not meant to be full on races. There are some workouts within a training cycle that are meant to be “giant-killers” and are extremely tough. But, most workouts you should not be run to destroy yourself. Picking the right pace and staying within yourself is key. Otherwise, you are going to leave yourself too tired for the rest of your training and sabotage other components of your training and recovery.
Marathons are as much about mental toughness as they are about physical strength. If you are not mentally tough you are going to kill a huge chance of a PR in the marathon. The marathon has so many tough moments in not only the training but the race. You have to learn to toss out doubt and have the confidence to push through.
Is it raining outside on a workout day? Does that mean you skip the workout? NO! You find a way to complete it – treadmill? Run it later in the day when it is not raining? You find a way.
I tell the story of my husband running his double runs in medical school sometimes at 11:30 at night before he would go to sleep. He was doing high mileage and would be studying all afternoon and evening but he would not miss the double run. Its that grit and toughness that prepares you for the marathon.
Nutrition is Important in SO MANY Ways
You have heard this one before. Nutrition, nutrition, nutrition. Yes, it is important but don’t obsess over getting it perfect. Get in enough calories and if they don’t all happen to be organic quinoa with organic this and that – it is OK! Cereal works fine too. Some people get hung up on eating “fancy fuel” thinking it is going to make some huge difference. Sure, it may be healthy in many ways but in the end – your body needs fuel to recover and run.
I thrived on plain pasta, flat bread pizzas, simple salads, saltines, cheerios and almond milk with some cookies and ice cream for desert. Yes, there was a hodgepodge of other stuff in there but simple is good when it comes to fuel. Find what digests easily and gets you feeling good the next day. Plus, most likely you aren’t going to be eating fancy fuel the night before the race. Get your body prepared!
Have You Tried Fuel Depletion Runs
Many people feel they need to eat 400 calories before going on a tempo run or long run. Training your body to run on low fuel can benefit you come race day. This does not mean starve yourself, but you don’t need to consume 5 Gels during a 16 mile long run. There are many variations in fuel depletion runs, but they are very beneficial in training your body to burn fuel more efficiently.
Not Training for the Marathon Course
There are so many different marathon courses. Hilly, flat, rolling, trail, etc. If you are running the Boston Marathon then you better be training on some hills otherwise your gonna be hurting and you will be sorry. Same goes for flat courses – if you are not used to running on pancake-flat courses like the Chicago Marathon then this can also take its toll on you. Some people are used to the variations in up and down hills and not prepared to just run on a super-flat course. Train as much as you can on conditions similar to the course on race-day.
Don’t Overthink it…JUST RUN
So many people get caught up in the technical aspects of training. Sure, there are things that need to fit in place. But, conditions don’t need to be perfect, you don’t need to color coordinate your outfit or have those $150 pairs of shoes – JUST RUN. In simplistic terms – miles make champions. Just getting out there and being consistent everyday will do wonders for you.