The crickets are chirping, and nights here in eastern Pennsylvania are beginning to cool. Oh, there's plenty of summer remaining, but, for the most part, the long stretches of blast-furnace temperatures are behind us, and the ideal training days of September lie ahead.
It is time for marathon training.
The successes or failures recorded in October and November, prime marathon season, will be determined in the next few weeks. If you plan to run a marathon in early October, you have probably begun your training. For November marathons, the training period is rapidly approaching.
Torn hamstring tendons have sidelined me from marathon participation this fall, but I am fortunate to have been invited to serve as a guest speaker at the Twin Cities Marathon Expo, on October 4 and 5, at the Atlantic City Marathon Expo, on October 11 and 12, and at the Niagara Falls International Marathon's pasta dinner on October 26. Stop by and say hello if you are running and of these fine marathons.
A marathon can be a brutal, unforgiving race. Whether you are in it to finish, or to achieve a specific time, proper preparation will ensure success.
There are no shortcuts, and there is no fooling the marathon. I've run 54 of them, and my experience tells me that there is one essential component: the long run. Now, you may say, "Of course, that's the key." But here's the secret ingredient: a 'quality' long run.
I have seen many runners who set lofty marathon goals, only to have them dashed.
"What are you shooting for?"
That's approximately 7:30 per mile.
"How many 20-milers have you done?"
"What was your pace.?"
"Around 8:15 a mile."
It ain't gonna happen!!!
To achieve success, a minimum of three 20-milers should be completed. Five 20-milers are an ideal number.
In the above example, if you're shooting for a 7:30 pace for 26 miles, you should be able to run an 8:00 pace for a 20-mile training run. Simply 'completing' the long run will offer limited success. The long run should serve as a race simulation. If you intend to run a hilly marathon, train on hills. Remember, you're simulating race conditions.
Keep yourself fresh. Run easy, or take the day off before your 20-miles. Oh, and by the way, I don't suggest running more than 22 miles in training. Our bodies only have so many 20+ runs in them.
Weekends are usually when most of us complete out 20-milers, so, in the middle of the week, do something fast. I think mile intervals are great. Run 4 to 8x1 mile repeats, and run them FASTER than race pace.
During your marathon training period, don't run too many races. If the marathon is your ultimate goal, a long run over the weekend serves you better than a 5K race. About a month before the marathon, find a half marathon race. It can be an excellent tune up for the marathon.
Prepare properly, then taper properly. No long runs with0in two weeks of the race.
Be optimistic, but be realistic. If the wind is gusting at 35-miles per hour, or if the temperatures are in the 80s, you may have to modify your goal. There are plenty of marathons out there, so you WILL live to race another day.
Whether you choose a small, local marathon, or a big-city mega-race, approach the race by being well-prepared, with quality miles behind you, and your marathon will be a successful, enjoyable experience.