Over the past few years, I’ve been aiming for a sub-3:30 and rather unsuccessfully. I started going after this goal after I surprised myself with a 3:31.44 at the 2010 NYC Marathon and barely broke that PR in 2013 when I ran the Wineglass Marathon in 3:31.19.
Throughout this time, I’ve ventured out and tried different training plans along the way — even going without a watch for training for a few years while we lived in NYC.
But now, with 20 marathons under the belt and a good handful of half marathons, I think I’m finally figuring out a marathon training strategy that works for me. For me are the two most important words in that sentence, because what works for me may not work for you. We have to tailor our training to meet our needs and what works best for our bodies, so many some of this may be useful to you.
My *new* marathon training strategy
1. Slower is better.
When you think about marathon training, it doesn’t make sense when you hear that 80% of your miles should be at an easy pace and only 20% should be at a pace that pushes you. That logic just doesn’t correlate with a fast marathon, right?
Wrong. It is so much better to approach your marathon training with slower paces. This is why different marathon training plans like Hansons and heart-rate training have gained popularity. They are focused on making sure that your legs have the endurance and that you save your speed for race day.
2. Speed and hills!
Two of a runner’s favorite things, right? I do love a good speed workout because it just automatically makes you feel so fast, you know? But, I admit, I do slack on these because I feel like I do better when I do these at a track, and it’s so easy to make excuses why to skip those days or how you can’t find a track.
Depending on where you live, hills can be the same way. The great thing about hills is that they are built in speedwork and also build up your endurance for climbing elevations. Let’s be honest, elevations are inevitable in any race (even those that are promised to be flat and fast), so it’s important that you are prepared for them.
3. Long distance = slow distance.
This may be repeating point #1, but your long distance runs should be run at a really slow pace. At least a minute and a half slower than what your goal pace is, and maybe even a little slower than that.
Think of it this way. If you go out and run a 20 miler at your goal race pace, like an 8 minute mile pace, you are leaving your legs out on the long run! Over the course of training, you build up your glycogen stores. There’s a reason why most elites only run two marathons a year, max. So, why would you run your “marathon” during training? Save it for race day!
4. Building that strength.
Runners love to run, and that’s about it. At least, that’s how it has been for me for years. I feel like I’ve finally put two and two together that a stronger body = stronger runner. Orangetheory has really helped me with this, as proven by Sunday’s half marathon. I know I can always do more, but doing some is better than none at this point.
5. Squashing that negativity.
Ugh, I hate that little negative voice in my head that seems to take over when race day starts to get a little tough. I feel like you need to work on training your mental fitness during marathon training, too. So you know how to handle that little bugger when it comes to mind, just like you would if you start to feel like you’re out of gas.
6. Ending the kitchen sabotage.
What do you mean it’s impossible to PR when you drink Mountain Dew and eat ice cream every night? Now, I’m not saying that you should cut out any bad thing from your diet — but it’s all about moderation!
Lately, I’ve been focused on stocking my kitchen with foods that are healthy and fuel me in the right way. If it’s not in the kitchen, I won’t eat it — so take that.
7. Having fun with it.
Sometimes we get so wrapped up in marathon training, that we forget why we are doing it in the first place. Because we love it! We love running, we love racing and we (oddly) love everything that comes along with it. So, don’t let that get out of sight!
Sure, you’re going to have those days where you absolutely loathe what you’re doing but know that it will pay off in the long run (ha, ha). Make sure you keep your focus on race day AND having fun, and it will make your marathon training strategy so much more worth it. I promise.
So, when am I going to try this out? I am considering a few different late-spring races and should have a decision of what I’m going to do in a few weeks. I’m super excited to see what this does and if I can hit that sub 3:30 (finally).
What has running taught you over the years?
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