One of the more interesting things I find about distance running is that there really is no “best way” or “right way” to prepare for races universally.
Some runners thrive on high-mileage weeks where others break down or suffer from over-training. Other runners focus on leg turnover, interval workouts or threshold pace runs but stay away from the “long stuff”.
Some race far better than they train, others are the exact opposite, where after posting impressive workout after workout come race day they leave their best running on their trail, treadmill or neighborhood and fail to deliver at their event.
Mental, Physical, Genetic Pre-disposition and Nutrition all play a role in how to best prepare a runner to reach their maximum potential. “Working hard” is only a small piece of the puzzle, but it is the one that many of us focus on the most and assign the greatest value.
Perhaps that is because we think we have the greatest amount of control over the work ethic piece. The fact of the matter is on Saturday morning quite a few of the 178 male finishers who “beat me” in Charleston, SC probably do not work as hard as I do at the sport.
Likewise, of the more than 35,000 runners we were fortunate enough to finish in front of – there are a large number who work harder than I do.
The hard work part is just a piece of the pie. Focusing on the right workouts, creating the perfect “cocktail” to force positive adaptation is the goal in any well thought out and executed training program.
After seven years of training, running and racing I have finally come to the conclusion after reading Dr. Jack Daniel’s book “The Daniels Running Formula” – I am going to spend the next 2-3 years perfecting my own preparation for the 1/2 marathon and marathon.
On a cool day with good race conditions and a neutral course I can cover 13.1 miles in 83-84 minutes. If I am able to improve my half-marathon time by just 1%, I will take :49 seconds off of my Half-Marathon PR and make me a 1:22:45 guy. A very respectable time for a 45-46 year old runner.
That time of 1:22:45 would project to a Marathon time of 2:53:00-2:55:00 using the most widely accepted formulas that in a sense ask you to double your half-marathon time and add somewhere around 7:00 minutes.
1% improvement and we are in a position to accomplish all of the goals that we have out in front of us.
Reducing our 5K PR from 18:02 to sub 18:00 minutes.
Breaking 1:23:00 in the Half Marathon.
Breaking 3 Hours in the Marathon.
Having never been formally coached, having never had training partners or a peer group to lean on, learn from and push me to new levels – I think that is a very realistic goal and expectation to set.
Of course we are running in a race we cannot win against Father Time. We may be losing 1% of our ability over the same period of time naturally, so the reality is we probably need to make a 2% improvement through our training and approach, while losing 1% to age and deterioration of our speed and endurance.
Even still, I like our chances for success. For the first time in a long time I have a hard tangible goal out there that was not just arbitrarily chosen based on past performance or a round number such as 2:59:00 or 1:25, 5:00 flat or 18:00.
When you have a goal in front of you and you have a plan on how to get there, this is where that hard work piece comes back into play. It is a matter of staying focused, running each and every workout with a specific purpose and pushing hard enough to put yourself in a position to be successful.
If you are able to do that, you are going to be pretty darn tough to deal with on race day. Even the approaching heat of our impending Austin Summer is doing very little to dampen my spirit or determination right now. Come October when Fall arrives to upstate Pennsylvannia, the leaves begin turning colors and there is a cool, crisp morning dawning over Scranton Pennsylvania there is going to be a slightly built, quiet Texan boarding a bus to the starting line of the Steamtown Marathon.
There will be very little distinguishing him from many of the 3,000 runners strapping on their race shoes that morning other than the quiet confidence that all the hard work and heavy lifting has already been done.
There will be little in the way of chatter or bravado. No talk about race splits, mileage totals or how much hill work has been done in preparation. Ear buds in, steely eyes on the road from the front of the bus downloading ever twist, turn, tangent and ripple on the road that he will be racing over in a couple of hours.
Race day. October 13.
Boom goes the dynamite.