Perhaps I should call this how not to train for races. There’s a lot of advice out there on social media on training for a race, and a lot of coaches with not a lot of credentials behind their name offering to train runners. I’ve run 2 marathons, and am currently training for my 3rd. I’ve also run 12 halfs and a bunch of shorter races. After all this time, I think I’ve finally learned what works–for me. But I couldn’t figure it all out on my own. I’ve been working with a coach for the last 2 years, and having that input has made a huge difference in my running. I’ve also learned a thing or 2 from her that I think everyone can learn from.
Train for the distance you are running. The longer the distance, the longer the training. There’s a local radio station, who every year after the Chicago Marathon, interviews people who didn’t train at all. It’s really interesting to hear their comments. Some of them actually finish around 5 hours, which is pretty respectable for no training. But overwhelmingly, when asked if they’d do it that way again, no training, they all respond no. You could probably wing it with a 5k or even a 10k, but any distance further than that requires some time on the road. Unless you are a one and done racer. Then have at it.
Nothing new on race day. You’ve heard this one before, but my Facebook feed is always filled with runners lamenting wearing a new pair of shoes or trying a new fuel at a race. Heck, I’m guilty of this myself. A few years ago, I ran a half marathon in Florida wearing the cutest socks with the race logo on them. I had never worn them before–I was “saving them for the race!” Hello, black toenail. I don’t lose toenails very often. I was really mad at myself about this. Anything you want to use on race day, you need to give it a test ride on your training runs. Last summer, about halfway into my marathon training, I switched fuels. I drank that fuel for every long run for the duration of my training. And I knew exactly how things would go, as far as fueling was concerned, on race day.
|This is heat training in February. Whew!|
Train for the conditions you will be running in. Last March, I was registered for a half marathon in Florida. In the Chicago area, we were in the midst of a polar vortex. How the heck was I going to train for the Florida heat and humidity when it was sub zero here? I knew I had to do something, since I crashed and burned at my previous Florida half, so I did what I called “heat training.” Yep. I put on thermal tights, a sweatshirt, and a hat, and ran my runs on the treadmill. No fan to cool me off. Holy moley, I was hot. And unfortunately, I didn’t get to use my heat training, as I had to cancel my trip, but my spring runs were phenomenal. And this article in Runners World, which I read recently, validated that I was not a lunatic for doing this. Apparently heat training is “a thing.”
|Does this look like marathon training to you? Slam balls? Kettlebell swings? Pushing the prowler? Yep.|
You don’t need to run huge miles to run a marathon. There, I’ve said it. Throw darts at me. But we are not elite runners, folks. We’re those everyday people who like to run and maybe get a personal best out of it. Most of us are not made to run tons of miles, especially us older master runners. But you’re not off the hook. Instead of running massive miles, make sure one of your weekly runs is speedwork, one is a long slow distance run, and either 1-2 other runs of 3-6 miles at easy or tempo pace. In between there should be a cross training workout, like HIIT or something intervally. And one day of weights. Cross training is also ok. I did this last year with great success. The high mileage training for my first marathon? Not so much. That plan left me with plantar fasciitis and a stress fracture.
Set reasonable goals for your race. Be realistic. Take time to evaluate what you want out of your race. Do you just want to finish? Run with your friends? Do you want to PR? Qualify for Boston? As your training progresses, you can reevaluate your goals and make adjustments in your expectations.
Trust your training plan. It’s so easy, after a bad run, to want to make changes in your training plan. I’ve been guilty of this myself. Don’t do it. You picked your plan for a reason, and you should follow it. Things have a way of working out in the end.
Choose a mantra. A big part of training for a race is mental training. By picking a mantra, you’re setting a positive tone for yourself. When you feel like you’re getting down, repeat the mantra to yourself and remind yourself what you’re capable of.