Recently, I've been ask several questions about how to train for the marathon and run your best race. First off I'll say the marathon is one of those "love/hate" experience for some, bucket list items for others and measuring stick for me. When I began my fitness journey back in 1998 after gaining 40lbs after swimming in college it all started by training for a marathon.
|That's me on the right in 1996 while traveling in Spain with my friend John |
"Woodsy" Coats. I had hair and +40lbs of extra love I had gained.
Why would I take on the crazy marathon challenge? Well, it was in large part due to the fact my Dad's Uncle Dave encouraged me to do it. I was in awe of all of his running feats with +40 marathons completed, several Boston Marathon qualifying runs and positive outlook on life through running. Back 1998 when I toed the line at the Columbia Gorge Marathon at 24 yrs old I had no clue what I was doing. Uncle Dave was 64 at the time and I thought if he could do it then I had no excuse. One slight problem, he not only knew what he was doing, he always trained and ran +50 miles a week vs my 15-20 miles weekly. Even though I was way out my league I though what the heck let's do it!
My next monumental mistake was to select a course that climbed +2000 over the first 9 miles and try to run with Uncle Dave. After feeling like I was done at mile 8, I had to walk the first of many times. As I was excited to see family and friends as I came down into the town of Mosier at mile 16, however I wasn't quite sure how I was going to run or even walk the next 10 miles as my shoes were too small and my feet were blistered. I decided at that point my survival strategy was to run from road sign to another and walk in between. As reached mile 26 mile Uncle Dave was there to encourage me to the finish. As I finished I was absolutely spent, I lost my two big toe nails and Uncle Dave had beat me by over 45', although I learned many valuable lessons and I was HOOKED!
Ultimately, following a consistent and specific training program is going to lead to the best possible outcome. I jokingly say to athletes on occasion that "magic doesn't happen on race day", so with that in mind it all comes down to training with purpose and finding an ideal race weight to set you up for success!
Let me again mention I didn't run in high school or college, I swam which although great for triathlon doesn't help me on the run. I weighed 164 while swimming college and then gained over +40 lbs the year after college which made running both painful and challenging. I started running again in 1997 as means to lose weight and obviously it has worked, however I've learned in order to improve in any discipline you must CONSISTENTLY and SPECIFICALLY train that sport.
Here's an example of my marathon history and weight:
*1998 Columbia Gorge Marathon (time=4:55/weight 185 lbs)
(This was a hilly course, however I was heavy and only completed one run of 10 miles or longer. I survived, lost both big toe nails and I was determined to take the marathon challenge again.)
*1998 Portland Marathon (time=3:45/weight = 172 lbs)
(Big PR and I was hooked!)
*2000 Portland Marathon (time=3:35/weight = 168 lbs)
*2002 Portland Marathon (time=3:25/weight = 166 lbs)
*2002 Honolulu Marathon (time=3:19/weight = 164 lbs)
*Trained really hard, however humidity and bad blisters did me in at mile 20)
*2003 Las Vegas Marathon (time=3:14/weight =164 lbs)
(Brutal +20 mph winds which blew over all the aid stations made for a rough day)
*2005 Portland Marathon (time=3:11/weight = 162 lbs)
(I went out in 1:26 (stupid) and bonked big time with a +40' last 5K. I had to have 2 IVs at the end. Lesson learned: magic doesn't happen on race day and hydration is key!)
*Jan. 2006 Las Vegas Marathon (time=3:11/weight = 162 lbs)
(Cramped at mile 24. )
*Feb. 2006 Phoenix Rock Roll (time=3:11/weight=161 lbs)
(Cramped at mile 25 right as I thought the Boston time of 3:10 was finally in my grasp.)
*Oct. 2006 Chicago Marathon (time=2:59/weight = 160 lbs)
(The best race of my life! I trained smart by doing all the right things, figured out my hydration challenges and focused of running at specific pace in training with quality intervals. I negative this marathon running 1:30:30/1:29 with a 20:20 last 5K! I finally qualified for Boston!)
*April 2007 Boston Marathon (time=3:04/weight = 160 lbs)
(I only ran 3x per week due to the weather and family health challenge, however I made every run count and keep my weight down in the winter! Boston was an amazing experience with horrible weather.)
*Oct. 2009 Portland Marathon (time=3:17/weight = 168 lbs)
(I hurt my knee in the winter by falling down some stairs and I couldn't run for 6 weeks. When I started training I weighed 178 lbs and my fitness level was zero. I felt like I need another 4 weeks of training to be ready and it showed over the last 4 miles when I lost about 50" per mile over the first 22 miles.)
Ironman Triathlon Marathons include:
2004 IM CDA (time=3:58/weight = 165 lbs)
2005 IM CDA (time=3:35/weight = 162 lbs)
(Excellent pacing on the bike and run pace/training lead to a big PR)
2008 IM Canada (time=4:00/weight = 167 lbs)
Granted the Ironman marathon is much different, however feel the many of the same principles for success apply.
*You MUST train the bike if you ever expect to run a solid marathon in IM.
*Don't over bike in the IM or run will suffer.
*Run consistently in training, however don't run mega long runs at slow pace or you become a slow runner during the IM.
*Being patient in the IM on the marathon is key!
So, why did I share all this information? I want people to understand some key factors to running a solid marathon or IM marathon. As I mentioned above I never ran XC or track in high school or college, I was a swimmer that taught myself to run through trial and error over the since my first dreadful marathon in 1998.
I've done tons of research and experimented with my own training/races and weight to determine the best approach for me, however the most valuable lesson I've learned is that NOTHING can replace consistent and specific training to lead to positive outcomes.
There are no short cuts!
Here is one of great resources I've used to really help me to improve as a runner & coach. I encourage everyone to follow this guideline to marathon success!
I know some people may question my sanity when I say the IM is easier for me mentally than a stand alone marathon, however I've found that when I'm racing a marathon at higher heart that the last 3-4 miles is what keeps me coming back for more. I've now run 15 marathons and one ultra marathon since 1998 and through all these races I feel I've only had one race that went as I planned. In 2006, when I race the Chicago everything came together and I felt like I floating to the finish the last 5K (20:20) with a negative split run and sub 3 hr marathon. As I prepare to toe the line for Portland Marathon Oct. 9th with my new found perspective after going through heart surgery I'm searching again for that great day I experienced in Chicago in 2006. I'm focused running my new PR, which involves running a smart, steady 26.2 miles based on all the lessons I've learned and enjoying the journey!
Let me know if you have any questions or interest in letting me help guide you to a new PR!
Thanks for reading!