So, I got a marathon PR and now I'm a pro right? NO! However, I've been asked this question about a million times in the past week of just how in the world did I cut 12 minutes off of my best marathon time. I think the most important thing to recognize is: the time before that was my very first marathon. That means that I was going into it just from a random marathon training program found for free on the internet, I gave it my all, I was half way injured and I just wanted to complete it. I really had big goals of qualifying for Boston because I thought I was capable of that, and I think the only reason that I did on that race was because it was the Philly marathon and Philly is 100% flat. So, what did I do different? I just wanted to share with you the biggest things that I think will help.
As if I don't hype this enough already, I think it's important we talk about it. If you are a serious marathon runner or endurance athlete or any athlete for that matter, and you haven't looked into your nutrition then I think it's time that you re-evaluate. It's VITAL! It's so vital. There was so many things that I changed. On my first marathon, I ate my morning oats, and I got to the start line and Tanner was forcing bananas into my hand and I was like 'UH, I'm not hungry, I don't want the banana. It'll make me feel sluggish." Okay, no. So many people say they can't eat before a long run. Well, you've got to figure out something. Your body runs on carbs, and whether you have to force them or not, you've got to get them in. You are going to be burning so much glycogen in a marathon and you are going to be burning even more glycogen if you are "racing" a marathon and trying for a faster time.
I always recommend that you do a complex carb the morning of your race and then a quick carb before you go. A banana is great but I personally like to have a cliff bar instead. It doesn't sit on my stomach as much. Many people talk a gu before they go. Don't say that you can't eat before you run. You can at least take a gu. It's like candy. Or better yet, eat candy.
During my last marathon, I took 4 gus. My first marathon I took maybe 2. I was like 'I feel fine. I don't need more." So, let's add that up. I had my oats and probably like 1.5 gus and I'm supposed to be running a marathon. SHEESH. I know so many people do this which is why I share. I learned something even more valuable this week. If you complete deplete your stores, and you have a GI shut down, your body literally can't even absorb the gus anymore. So, if you get too behind the 8 ball, you are basically just screwed.
Lastly, not just race day, but just in general. All of the best athletes in the world are really focused on their nutrition. Obviously, if you are carrying excess weight then that's going to make you slower. I don't say that in a "you should lose weight" kind of thing. I'm just trying to be real about the aspect of marathon running. The winner of the NYC marathon was 88 pounds this year. That's obviously not realistic for most people, but the fact of the matter is, the lighter that you are, the more that you are going to fly. I don't plan on losing weight if someone was already going down that path.
BUILDING YOUR BASE
I firmly firmly believe that the reason that I was able to do so much better at this marathon is because my base of endurance is so so high. I have been working on this non stop for a year and a half. This training started with mileage in the 40s every single week and a couple of peak weeks at 50 miles plus all of my biking and swimming. I know that there are many recommendations that less is better, and there are reasons that this is true but I always like to use the example of pros just like with nutrition. Most all pro marathon runners are running at least 100 miles per week. That's insane for the normal person and our bodies typically cannot handle this, but the point is: their base is so so high that doing a marathon is just easy for them. You've got to build your base, and you can't expect to just do your 12 week training cycle and hit your PR. This needs to be a commitment.
NO JUNK MILES
Yes, the pros run 100 mile weeks but there is a purpose behind every single run. You have got to be doing speed work. You've got to be doing tempo runs. You've got to be easy runs to recover from those. Look into heart rate training. The body responds so well to all of this, and you WILL get faster if you've never done this before. I hear a lot of people say that they never do their long run completely. They break it up 10 miles then 10 miles later for a 20 mile training run day. What? Your body can't expect to take breaks like that. You've got to train for speed. You've got to train for endurance. You've got to give your body recovery time. This is a huge game changer. Look online and you can find what your paces should be for all of these runs based on what your goal marathon time should be, so google that.
GET YOUR MIND RIGHT
Like forreal. Your mental state is everything. It's okay to have nerves, but you've got to move past those. You've got to be willing to push yourself harder than you've ever pushed yourself before. You know that the miles are going to be dark at the end. They always are (or at least for me). You've got to be mentally prepared for this and how you are gong to push through. This is something that I really need to work on. When I hit that wall, I lose all focus. I convince myself that I'm crazy and that this is just "too much." It's not and you will be just fine. Man up, and push. I'm not trying to be a slave driver, but honestly marathon running is tough. You've got to be tough. Tough is a mindset. Lack of fear is a mindset. Did I used to hate rain? yes. Do I hate running in the rain now? No. I changed the way I felt on it. I used to hate cold. I changed my mind and now I love training in it.
FORMULATE A PLAN
If you have a time that you want to hit, you don't want to go into the marathon blindly with no plan. You need to look up the elevation of the course and plan out what you think each mile should be. I obviously did not follow this, and this is a mistake that I could have paid for heavily. The only reason that I think that I didn't is because of #1-I had tons of carbs in me. However, you need to see where the hills are. Recognize that your pace will slow on those hills and plan for that mile to be shorter, but make up for it on the decline. Findmymarathon.com is a great resource, and you can create a wrist band after calculating what each mile should be.
At the end of the day though, enjoy your run. Don't let it stress you out. I promise I'm not trying to sound arrogant but I really tell Tanner all the time that I don't quite understand why everyone gets SO worked up about times. I also say that after hitting above my time, so I feel that I need to shut my mouth basically. LoL! But, my point is: you race marathons because you love marathons. Don't let anything take that sparkle! I truly mean that. The very simple act of putting your foot across that finish line is the greatest accomplishment that you can do so don't lose sight of that. Try your best. Run your freaking heart out, and if you fall short then you know you gave it your all and that's all you can do.