Imperative sentence-

Imperative Sentence: A sentence that gives advice or instructions or that expresses a request. From the Latin, "command."

example: "Try running."

October 23, 2009

Top 6 Keys to Running Your Best Marathon Ever

One of the greatest parts about running any distance for the first time is the P.R...meaning any "keys" I write will be correct, cause sunday was the best, worst, in between, everything...

Most of this post will be for my own record keeping. (Hopefully) breaking down my training/race enough to learn from successes and failures and apply that to future races.
It will most likely contain information that I/you already know, but still needs to be written down/remembered.

All to say: It might not be too interesting unless you are me.

1. Discipline in Training: I knew from day one (back in March, but then again in May, when I registered for the marathon) that a key factor in my training had to be consistency. Day in and day out, getting outside and running. No excuses. No "oops, I accidentally went 4 days without running because (insert any excuse/legitimate reason)." If I was going to ramp up my weekly mileage from 0 miles/wk to an acceptable volume, I had to run 5-6 times/wk. or more in order to spread out the workload.

-I ran an unofficial total of 165 times over 33 weeks, so I averaged exactly 5 runs/week. With more than a few 6-day weeks, it means that there were an equal number of 4 day weeks. Not what I wanted. The numbers are a bit skewed cause I am including the taper. Either way, I didn't do too bad when in comes to consistency.

-Discipline in training also meant getting in as many long runs as possible. I got in 3 20milers, a 22, and a 24 miler. Definitely good for one extended training cycle, but hopefully I can get in a full year of regular long runs, being disciplined enough to stay in "long run" shape, even through the winter.

Room 4 improvement = Some.

2. Discipline on Race Day: Discipline meant staying with the pace I planned to hold, regardless of how good I felt/ how exciting it was at the beginning. This assumes that I felt great and that race day was exciting. If it turned out to be otherwise, then adjusting appropriately (running slower) would have been paramount. I didn't run the first miles right on pace (33:09 for the first 5 miles. 8 sec/mile faster than eventual avg pace) but all things considered, that is pretty close. I didn't see mile markers 1-4, so given that, not too bad. Whenever I reach my L.P.R. (Lifetime P.R., meaning the race where I sadly peak for the best and final time), it will hopefully be a race where I run exactly even miles. Every one of them. Completely fulfilling potential.

***SECRET WEAPON***I ran with my iPod, and the first song on the play list I made was Iron and Wine's cover of Such Great Heights. If you can't start on pace with this cranked in your headphones, then a successful marathon is not in your near future.

- My fastest mile was mile 22 in 6:34, my slowest was mile 25 in 7:07. A 33 second swing. Still, not bad for the first marathon, but not even close to ideal.

Discipline on Race Day also meant taking in water and Gatorade every chance I could (within reason... I wasn't going to gulp Gatorade if I was literally vomiting Gatorade on myself as I passed the aid station). Fortunately, over several long runs on hot days, I felt the effects of not being hydrated very well. I learned how long 20+ miles is and how long it takes to get through it and that if you don't have enough water etc, there is no point in doing it, because you fall apart. It makes me nervous when I read others' posts concerning race day GI issues, because I don't know how I would respond mid-race if my stomach is revolting. Would I keep shoving down the gels and Gatorade? Would I stop completely? If it was a super hot day, and I was having issues early in the race, would I have to DNF if I was unable to keep anything down? Don't know. I should have a plan though.

Room 4 Improvement = Not Much.

3. Running Volume: Everything I have read indicates that if you want to run a good marathon, you need to run a lot of miles. Maybe I should question this more than I do. I guess it's just hard to question something that makes SO MUCH SENSE. Book after book, coach after coach, article after article...most people agree that (while not always easy. And never easy to fit into your schedule) you've got to run high volume to run a marathon well. In Run Faster, Hudson has several charts and tables, and his version of a beginning runner training for a marathon is them running 50+ miles/wk. Even non-competitive runners he has running upwards of 70 miles/wk...and if you want to race a marathon? 100 should be a weekly total, for sure. All of this makes sense when Paula Radcliff is running world records and running 160-170/wk. Brian Sell does similar numbers. Somehow I think we all find it too easy to hope PR's will show up out of some magical place. Anyways. I don't have time/I won't make the time to run much more than 50/week for my marathon training, but in the future, I hope to. When it comes time to make that push for a L.P.R., putting all the eggs in one basket and training like crazy for a year, I hope to push 100/wk, at least. I won't be able to run those Master's races without regret unless I at some point see what I times I can run when training at an acceptable volume.

Room 4 Improvement = 2 / Quite a Bit

4. Race Pace Running: As I have said multiple times, I wanted to follow Run Faster's plan for this first marathon attempt, so I had to get in a significant amount of marathon pace or faster running. I couldn't set high goals and then expect to get anywhere near them by running my easy pace every single day. It was a challenge in the earlier part of training, because I didn't know what my pace should be. I still don't know how to set a goal pace 20+ weeks away from race day when you have never run a marathon before. Whatever the case, I adjusted it as training progressed, and I think that that was a smart move.

-In the last 4 weeks leading up to the marathon, 35% of my miles were run at race pace or faster. 46 out of 132. It makes sense that the percentage should be high, since during the final weeks, I made the shift from quantity, to quality, running fewer miles, but running them closer and closer to race pace. "Sharpening." Was it too much? Too little? I don't know either. Most likely somewhere in the middle. Those miles were split between 2 key workouts and then several smaller runs. I ran the 16 mile Fitness Test, and the Yasso 800's. So that right there accounts for 21 of the miles. And the rest were in 3-5 mile runs (1 mile warm up, 3-5 at race pace, one mile cool down).

Room 4 Improvement = Not Much

5. Race Specific Training: In a way, this is an extention of the previous Key. But, even on purely a psychological level, I believe it was beneficial to run a lot of my miles on relatively flat, asphalt/concrete surfaces, at altitude, since that is what the Denver Marathon course had in store. Except for a few of my long runs, a time trial, and a handful of runs on this very hilly section near our apartment, I ran mostly on just that. And of course, all of them were at altitude, because I didn't travel. I think it is important to develop this kind of specific fitness. Of course there is a need for hill training. And for giving your feet a break by running on softer surfaces, especially when building up base mileage. But I never wanted to get too comfortable and soft, and then show up on race day and not be able to handle the stress/pounding. It is easy to remember to get in a bunch of hill training before a tough, hilly course, but I think people tend to forget to get in the opposite, when the course is flat.

Room 4 Improvement = Barely Any

6. Core/Cross Training: Hmmm. I fell off the wagon completely here. I think the last time I did a sit up was back in June. Not good. At least according to popular opinion. I just don't like spending the extra 2 minutes a day. I know that for a marathon, running form/stride/efficiency are difficult to maintain late in the race unless you have strong core muscles. Definitely an area where significant time improvements can be seen if one takes the time and builds that strong core. Abs. Lower back. etc. I would like to have that strength for the final 10k and the ability to stay mechanically sharp until the very end, instead of sacrificing minutes and seconds because of a rapidly degenerating running form.

Room 4 Improvement = An Enormous Amount

This record keeping is taking a long time. Several days of thinking through the race, writing bits when I get a chance (Hmmm. I think I just stated, very obviously, exactly what blogging entails). I want to remember everything. I think this post's title started out as Top100...but this will have to do for now. I didn't touch on nutrition throughout training, but it's safe to say that that was not something I took pride in this time around. Hopefully next time...

Between this post and my log, I should be able to construct a decent, well-thought out training/race plan next time around.

*"Room 4 Improvement" Scale:

0--An Enormous Amount---2---Quite a Bit---4---Some---6---Not Much---8---Barely Any---10


  1. Great post, I learned a lot! First off, I think I'm after that LPR and that makes me sad! I've never heard it put that way. Maybe I don't want it after all...NO I do!

  2. Uhh yeah if I had that song in my Ipod, I would fall asleep while running. Seriously I think you should throw in some P.I.R., Keeping it Smooth would definitely keep you on pace...

  3. @Ace
    Well, based on the single half-marathon I ran (bad experience), I would be better off falling asleep than starting too fast at the beginning...
    That's all I could think about, was the pain and suffering that was waiting for me if I started too fast. I think it's really easy to start too fast when running a distance that you haven't ever run before, cause at least for me, mid-race I try and talk myself into believing that I am THAT fast, and then it turns ugly when I am wrong.

    @Meg Runs
    Thanks! But ya, you never know when that breakout, best shape of your life race time will come! If there is anything I know about running, it's that at the most unexpected times, Runners do the Darndest things...or something like that...regardless, run on!