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How to Tackle the Marathon

The marathon can be a fickle beast, but with some experience, wise training, and prudent in-race decision making, it can be tamed. I consider myself a seasoned runner but, when I stepped on the road for my first marathon I was in for a rude awakening. I had underestimated the toll 26.2 miles puts on your body, especially at race pace, and I had not respected the distance as I should have. I’ve since run a few more marathons, and although I’m still seeking faster times, I have improved my performance substantially. I’d like to share a few tips that I’ve found useful for improving my marathon performance.

There’s No Substitute for Mileage

Over the last few years I steadily increased my weekly mileage as I continued to be disappointed in my marathon performances. With each increase in mileage I, for the most part, saw an improvement in my marathon PR. There’s certainly a strong correlation between the number of miles we run in training and our marathon race performance. Increasing volume at first was a scary and tough decision for me. I endured three stress fractures in college, due to increasing volume and training load too quickly. I was under the impression my body couldn’t handle more miles. But I made the decision to increase mileage and I did so very slowly over time.

To increase your mileage I recommend an average of five miles per week for each training block. For example, if you are trained 12-16 weeks for a marathon and averaged 50 miles a week during that block, consider attempting 55 miles per week on your next 12-16 week block. This is a safe way to increase without jeopardizing an injury, but as always listen to your body and back off if you fear you’re overdoing it.

Slowing Down to Speed Up

Around the same time I decided to increase my mileage I also decreased the pace of my easy and recovery day runs. By slowing down on my easy days I was able to improve my half marathon PR by 2 minutes and my marathon PR by 8 minutes. Going slower allows me to run more miles and to be better recovered for my hard workout days. When we run a hard workout we cause micro-tears in our muscles and these, if given time, will adapt and heal stronger than before. This is how we get faster and stronger. But, if we push the pace the day after a hard workout, we may not be allowing the muscles to fully heal and adapt before we tear them down again in the next workout.

Another benefit of slower running on easy days is that your body becomes more accustomed to using fat as an energy source. At faster paces we mainly use glycogen as our energy source. But, in the marathon we often need fat in addition to glycogen as an energy source, especially late in the race when glycogen levels have been nearly depleted.

What’s a good easy day pace? That depends on how hard you ran the day before. But it’s not uncommon for my recovery pace to be 2:30 slower per mile than the pace I ran my hard workout at. Then if I have an additional easy day before my next workout I may go 1:45-2:00 slower per mile. But mostly I don’t even look at my watch during recovery runs, I just run whatever pace feels easy and at which I feel my body will recover.

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How far out from my goal race should my longest run be?

 

long-run

Image Source: running.competitor.com

As a running coach, I often get asked the following questions,

“How far out from my goal race should my longest run be and how many miles should I complete for that long run?”  

According to an article that appeared in Competitor magazine by 2:22 marathoner/coach Jeff Gaudette, it takes approximately 4-6 weeks to reap the benefits of a long run.  So ideally, your longest run should be at least 4 weeks out from your goal race.  Which, if you want to have a 3-4 week taper leading into your race, you want to be tapering off your long runs about this time anyway.  What adaptations or benefits are our bodies receiving from logging those long run miles? Long runs are designed to build the body’s aerobic system.  Physiologically this means increasing the number and size of the mitochondria in your muscle fibers and increasing the number of capillaries, which both contribute to the body’s ability to more efficiently transfer and utilize oxygen and fuel within the body.

My former college coach Paul Pilkington coached me through my 3rd marathon and I remember him telling me that my longest run before the marathon should not be based on miles, but rather should put me out running for the same amount of time that I planned on finishing my marathon in.  Since I was shooting for a 2:46 marathon, my longest runs ended up being in the 2:45 to 3 hour range.  I never covered a full 26.2 miles in that amount of time, but at least my body was used to working for a similar number of running minutes as my planned race.   

Good luck logging those miles!

 

by Janae Richardson – Runner | USATF Certified Coach | Masters in Exercise Science

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Ed Eyestone Interview

 
Click the play button below to listen to the full interview or you can download the MP3 file by clicking the “Download” button.

 

UtahRunning.com:  Well, hello, everyone. We’re excited to have a great interview today with Ed Eyestone. Ed is an incredible runner and coach with strong ties to the Utah Running community. Ed’s a coach at BYU and an all-around running expert. We’re excited to have him tell you a little bit about himself, share some of his experiences, and maybe give us some tips on how you can improve your own time. Thanks for joining us, Ed.

Ed Eyestone:  Thanks. Good to be here.

UtahRunning.com:  Well, maybe if we could just start out with having you tell us a little about your running background. How you got started and some highlights of your career.

Ed:  Well, I got started way back in junior high school. I actually played little league baseball. I played a lot of baseball and was hoping to play on the junior high and high school baseball teams. Like happens to a lot of people who end up being good runners, I ended up getting cut from the junior high baseball team. So, as a result of not being able to continue playing the sport that I loved, in the spring of the year, I realized for the first time that there was actually another sport going on, and that was track and field. So, I went and spoke with the junior high track coach the next day, Noel Zabriski , my Spanish teacher. I asked him about tryouts for the track team. He said, you know what, if I came out every day and I did the things that he told me to do, and just tried my hardest, then I could be on the track team and there would be no cuts on the track team. I liked that and knew I wasn’t going to necessarily be the fastest guy in the world, but I knew I could try as hard as anybody.

So, that was my initiation, back as a 7th‑grader at T.H. Bell Junior High. From then, I just continued with the sport. The great thing about running is that the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. I found that over the course of my 7th, 8th, and 9th‑grade years, that as I dedicated myself and tried to do the workouts, the harder I worked, the better I became and the more improvement that I saw. I really liked that about the sport. That’s just how I got started and progressed from there to junior high school and on.

UtahRunning.com:  So, you competed there at BYU and after your college career, you became a professional runner. How was that transition from those college events to some of the highlights during your post‑collegiate career?

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Fueling for workouts and races over 3 hours long.

There are alot of runners and triathletes out there who are learning how to take in some fuel during events and workouts over an hour and that is great news! The not so good news is that as some of those athletes start going longer than 2-3 hours problems start occurring that didn’t happen before.  So what is going on here? Isn’t 1-2 gel packs an hour enough? Do I absolutely have to have an electrolyte supplement? More water? What?  Well, the deal is that for events shorter than 3 hours, you can almost fake it on not doing enough. You may feel kind of lousy by the end, by you will survive even though you are running very low on energy, fluid and electrolytes. That is because you should have enough stores of all of those things to make through by doing only minimal amounts of eating and drinking. But…especially after the 3 hour mark…EVERYTHING CHANGES! You just can’t keep up with how much you are losing unless you make a SERIOUS effort to eat and drink more.

While it is true that you are hopefully getting about 50%-60% of your fuel from fat during longer,slower events, you are still blowing through quite a bit of carbohydrate. Most any runner or triathlete will still be using a MINIMUM of 125 grams of carbohydrate an hour. Then, in the case of  a Half-Ironman triathlon, the fastest athletes can burn over 200 grams.per.hour! And since we only have about 400-500 grams of carb stored in our muscle tissue and liver, it is easy to see how quickly you will start running out even if you are eating some fuel.  Yeah, do that math for a second.  ”Let’s see…I take 2 gels an hour or one pack of Clif blocks so that is about 50 grams of carbs I eat in a hour. Okay, well if I am blowing through at least 125 grams, but probably more like 150-175, then I am running an hourly deficit of about 100-125 grams. So by the 3 hour mark, I will have used 300-375 grams of carb and running very very low in fuel and by the 4 hour mark, I will be done!”  Yep, all those feelings of being light-headed, sick to the stomach, heavy legged, cranky, crampy, slowing down and feeling like you have been hit by a bus  somewhere between the 2 and 3 hour mark does not always have to be the case. Does this ring true to anyone? Is it worth trying more? (Notice here the picture of Mirinda Carfree holding 2 gel flasks full of 100 grams carb each while on her way to running a 2:56 marathon at the end of Ironman Hawaii 2009)

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Tips for Training for a Marathon

Expert Panel Question???

“I’m a 62 year old male runner, have run many half marathons but never a full marathon. I run 3 – 4 times a week averaging 25 to 35 miles. I play golf and weight train moderately. I’m training for a marathon and would like to feel more energized – suggestions?”

Answer!!!

Realize that training for a marathon at any age is an energy draining pursuit, but to help you feel as good as possible try the following:

1. Keep your run days to 3-4 times a week
2. Keep your weekday runs to no more than an hour.
3. Do long runs every other Saturday and start them about 16 weeks out(assuming you already can run 90 minutes for a long run)
4. Do your longest training run at 22 miles and do it 3 weeks out from your race.
5. Focus on eating really well after all your runs. Drink a recovery drink IMMEDIATELY upon finishing a run and then eat a whole food meal within 45-60 minutes following that has a lot of carbohydrates, lean protein and healthy fat.
6. Drink lots of water each day.
7. Sleep really well.
8. Use a sports massage therapist twice a month
9. Take a solid vitamin/mineral/ antioxidant supplement day and night.
10. Take an ice bath after each long run.

by Debbie Perry

Certified Sports Nutrition Advisor

USA Triathlon Certified Coach

Colgan Power Program Strength Trainer

Local Elite Runner/Triathlete

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Beginning Runner Training

Expert Panel Questions???

“I have never been a runner I am out of shape and attempting to train for a half marathon I am just now starting should I focus on keeping up a faster pace for shorter time or go for distance with a slower pace?”

(ask your questions to the UtahRunning.com Experts)

Answer!!!

If you’re just starting out as a first-time runner, you should make the establishment of a consistent training program your first priority. Find thirty minutes each day (six days each week, if possible) to set aside for your training. Don’t worry about pace or distance at first. In fact, you may need to do a combination of walking and running in order to get through thirty minutes. Before long, if you are consistent, you’ll be able to run comfortably for thirty minutes each day. As that begins to feel easy, add time to some (not all) of your weekly runs and see how your body responds to the increased workload.

Try not to skip days unless you need to recover from an injury. Instead, learn to listen to your body, running faster on days that you feel good and easy on days that you need to recover. Not every day should be a hard day. Besides keeping you healthy, this is important for your enjoyment of the sport. If you begin to dread the difficulty of a normal run, you’re working too hard.

If you’re a beginning runner training for a half marathon, you’ll eventually want to work a long run into your schedule once each week. This long run should be about 10-12 miles and should constitute about 20-25% of your weekly mileage. For example, if you run 10 miles on Saturday morning, you should average at least six miles each of the other five days for a total weekly mileage of 40.

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