Racing as part of your marathon training strategy

Posted: July 29, 2010 in Pace and Racing
Tags: , , , ,

I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately from fellow marathoners, runners, family and friends as to why we’ve been doing so much racing lately.

Is it some sort of new “running psychosis”?  Am I going through a turning 43 years old on Saturday crisis?  Could it be a manifestation of New Dad nervousness?

None of the above.

At least I don’t think that the first one is a problem, but it is pretty amazing what classifies as “normal” behavior as a marathoner.

The fact of the matter is that all of this racing has been part of what I consider to be a solid “plan”.

Summer Race Bibs

One of the lessons I learned in preparing for my first attempt at qualifying for Boston was that there are no magic qualities that just automatically show-up on marathon morning.

Most training programs have you run your long runs of 18, 19, 20 miles anywhere between: 15 and: 30 seconds slower than your marathon goal pace.  If your goal is to “finish” the marathon, that is absolutely the way to go.

You learn how to stay on your feet for 3-4 hours, deal with fatigue, build mental toughness of pushing through a run on tired legs and can work on your hydration and nutrition plans for race day.

If your goal however is to truly “race” that marathon and chase either a personal best time that you have set or a Boston Qualifying time – for me that means a sub 3:20:00 marathon – I firmly believe you have to “train fast to race fast”.

It seems to me that if you are going to ask something specific of your body, say running 26.2 miles at 7:37 pace, but have never even run 20 miles at that pace during your training period – it is not going to “Magically” happen on race day.

In my opinion, this is the primary reason that so many runners chasing a Boston time fall short on race day.  They run at Marathon pace only for their 6-12 mile workouts, but not much longer.  The runners are simply not conditioning their bodies to hold that marathon goal pace for the entire 26 mile 385 yard event.

The taper-period leading up to race day is important to ensure a top performance, but it is not a “magic potion”.

Don’t get me wrong it is very true that too much training at an intense pace makes recovery time in between workouts stretch longer, making your subsequent workouts much more difficult.  This is also when injury risk is highest, so it is important to train not only “hard” but “smart”.  To race your best at the marathon distance it is critical to make it to the starting line “fully trained”, but also “fully healthy”.

Mixing your hard days with rest and easy or recovery days is critical to making sure you do not suffer a training injury.

For me as those birthdays continue to tick along like miles on my GPS, it became clear after the Boston/Pittsburgh marathon double this spring that if I wanted to make it back to Boston comfortably, I needed to improve my speed.

If I could improve my leg turnover and my ability to “run faster” this summer – when Austin Marathon training begins on October 18th, I would be in a much better position to train at a faster pace than I was one year ago.

Every: 05 seconds per mile improvement equates to a little more than 2 minutes off of a marathon performance.  Back in 2009 at Pittsburgh I was able to run at 7:31 pace on my way to a 3:17:43 qualifying time.  If that 7:31 marathon pace becomes 7:26 at Austin we will be on track to break the 3:15 mark at 3:14:45.

PR’s are great and everything, but at the end of the day it is all about earning my ticket back to Boston.  If I can build in more than 5:00 minutes of “wiggle room” I feel confident that if wind, temperatures, hills or “lady luck” conspire against me – that Boston time will still be well within my grasp.

So – off to the races we’ve gone this summer toeing the line at 7 events over the past 10 weeks.

There was the Congress Avenue Mile, The Holland, TX 5K, three different 5K Races in the Summer Sunstroke Stampede series, the Honor our Heroes 10K and last Saturday evening’s Cougar Country Classic.

We accumulated four age group victories, one overall race win, three top-10 finishes and 3 top 5’s.  We’ve added some cool medals, ribbons a highball glass and a corn cob trophy to the collection …. But more importantly I have been able to carve a significant amount of time off of last year’s 5K PR.

Summer Hardware Won

In May of 2009 our 5K Personal Best sat at a respectable 19:43.  14 months later after Saturday’s effort that time is now 18:12 (5:50/mile pace).

There is one more push left leading up to the final day before Marathon training begins when we will take on the IBM Uptown Classic 10K on October 17th.  The goal for that race is simple – go sub 40:00 or go home.

Win, lose or draw at the IBM I will be very happy with our summer race season this year.  It is nice to set out a plan, work hard and see results. 

Confidence is a very valuable weapon for a marathoner as that event can really test your courage and determination. 

I look forward to lacing up the trainers on October 18th and take my first steps back on the road to Boston. 

Lady Marathon isn’t going to know what hit her on February 20th.

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Comments
  1. tbrush3 says:

    You are going to punish that sub 40 time. Nice thoughts on training Joe.

    • joerunfordom says:

      Trey – thanks so much for the visit and the message – hope you are recovering (recovered?) from your Ultra. Congratulations once again, that performance is legendary in my book.

      I feel really locked into that sub 40:00 minute goal as the “single goal” out there right now and it’s pretty liberating to not be balancing it with a lot of competing interests.

      (Baby Landry and Dawn of course will take up just about all of the other focus 🙂

      We’re going to make a real hard run at it – will be pretty cool if we can pull it off. Take good care Trey! J

  2. nice solid plan! have great racing days as you build up speed and endurance on the marathon day. all the best!

    • joerunfordom says:

      James – thanks for the visit and the message! Full speed ahead in this pre-marathon training period. I’ve usually meandered through these periods in the past just “maintaining” this will be the first time I’ve really looked to get stronger and faster – we’ll see on February 20th – really looking forward to the first day of marathon training and some cooler temperatures. Best to you! J

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