By Calvin W.
What motivates you to run?
I don’t mean what motivates you to be a runner, but what motivates you when you’re facing a specific run?
Runners are cut from different cloths. Some are driven by internal motivators like the need to stick to a specific weekly schedule. Some are driven by external motivators like the desire to spend time with a runner friend.
I became a Wednesday night runner at JRC partly because that day fit my weekly running strategy. As for running with the store group, I did wonder if a group would keep me motivated as a relative newbie. Of course, the fact that it was a group was only part of the thinking process. I wasn’t going to keep running with any group, after all; what if I didn’t like the members? Worse, what if they didn’t like me?
And what about the running route? Then-organizer Chas said it might not be for everyone: 1 mile uphill at the end. Well, the uphill wasn’t that steep and I could dismiss other aspects of the course that I didn’t necessarily care for. The Growlers Group Run still does that route during the winter when we can’t get into Alverthorpe Park. And now I’m just used to it.
There are other factors runners consider: What’s the weather like? Some runners can accept a little rain, but a steady rain might be a no-go. (Comfort is a funny ask for someone who’s rapidly moving her or his feet for distances measured in miles. On the other hand, thunderstorms can be a real safety issue and I did cancel a recent Wednesday run under the threat of them and the visual confirmation of local storm clouds moving in.) Now, what happens if a heavy rain starts mid-run? Most runners I’ve been with will just gut it out. You still have to get back to the starting point.
Here are even more factors: Some people run to take care of their emotional health. Difficult day? Run. Others occasionally have home or work responsibilities that can’t go to someone else to manage. Run another time. Family members have grown pretty independent. Run. Nursing an injury. Maybe not.
People can only manage a finite set of variables when a decision is on the line. If the equation becomes too complex, they’ll just toss out a bunch of the lower level variables in favor of the most important ones. We do it in all aspects of life, not just running.
I’ve started my run in many a downpour when I’m in the middle of a marathon training cycle because I need the workout. Low-level variable: discomfort. Moderate-level variable: relatively short run. High-level variable: Sticking to the training plan. On the other hand, last month, when I wasn’t training, I looked out the window upon a modest rain while on the phone with a running buddy…and I bailed. I just didn’t need the run that badly and the prospect of wet shoes made me give up, even with a definitive running partner. Now if she’d twisted my arm, the scales might have tipped enough for me to give in. But she didn’t and so I didn’t. Low-level variable: getting a workout. Moderate-level variable: An available running partner. High-level variable: discomfort. Notice how discomfort figured into both of those considerations.
A few months ago, I wrote about EPBR Tania telling her kids she was going out for ice cream. Unwilling to face the ribbing she expected from them for running yet again, she used it as an excuse to join GGR secretly for a 3-miler. Low-level variable: the time it took to squeeze in a 30-minute run. Moderate-level variable: the likelihood that her kids would figure out it didn’t take an hour to get ice cream. High-level variable: the availability of other runners. High-level variable: the need to do a few more miles.
The point is that balancing multiple variables can cause a runner to make funny decisions as some jockey for position over others.
Pay some extra attention to the decisions you face, including non-running ones, and see if you agree with me.
-CtCloser (Calvinthe), "Negative split or positive splat"
Text and photos: Calvin Wang, CC BY-NC-SA 4.0
The Delaware Marathon this past spring was a good race for me. For a bunch of reasons.
It took place in Wilmington on April 28 on a cloudy and cool day. It’s not a big race, particularly for one that’s been running for a few years and is so accessible. For someone like me who’s accustomed to small races—hundreds of entrants, rather than thousands—it was familiar.
My main race goals were typical for me—run negative splits, establish a new personal record, make a good social connection with a new friend.
I successfully ran the negative splits aided by the kind of confusion that can happen when so much of your energy is going toward moving your body at the expense of your mind.
I’d already planned my pacing based both on my training and on other recent marathon efforts. All that suggested I could average 8:48 min/mile (8.8 to be weird) by running the first quarter at 09:06 (9.1), then dropping 12 minutes/mile (0.2) with each quarter to finish at 8:30 (8.5). I’d never actually run a race with quite that progression but I’ve done some relatively close efforts with even- and negative-split pacing. And I’ve run a final quarter at 8:12 (8.2). Of course the trick is putting it all together in one effort.
I had 2 ways to monitor my pace—my dumb (vs. smart) digital watch together with split times on my smart phone’s lock screen and the running app Strava. The problem was that between the 2 the watch said I was going too slow and Strava said I was going too fast. Unable to process where the discrepancy lay, I paid attention to Strava and forced myself to go slower. I gave in to the conflicting information and started picking up the pace during the 2nd quarter. It was only at the ½ marathon mark that I realized Strava had my distance at 13.8 miles, instead of 13.1, which meant that I was now significantly slower than my target time and it was now past time to pick it up.
People sometimes say you can never make up time during a race. DE may have proved that point. I ran a considerably faster 3rd quarter which may have worn me out for a slower 4th quarter. I ended up running 5 minutes slower than my PR, but I still finished my 4th best marathon out of 15 with an admirable 3:54:50. I also negatively split the first 3 quarters and the first half. I ended up pacing my quarters thus, respectively: 9:36, 9:00, 8:30, and 8:48 (9.6, 9.0, 8.5, and 8.8).
I did meet my social goal. Since I’m generally picking up my pace through a race while other people are slowing down, it’s not that easy to find someone I’ll be next to long enough to have a conversation. Yeah, sure, it’s also not that easy to talk while you’re running fast, but doing training runs with a running group helps. Anyway, it does usually happen in a race, even if not in ways I expect.
Here’s how it happened in DE. At mile 20 I heard footfall approaching me from behind. Since DE hosts relay teams, I thought it could have been a fresh relay runner. As she passed, I could see she wasn’t wearing a relay bib. Her singlet said: ‘It’s my birthday! I’m 30!’ I yelled, “You’re running awesome!” She smiled and thanked me appreciatively…kept up her pace, opening up a lead with amazing speed. I had no hope of staying with her.
I never saw her finish, because she never slowed down. My wife congratulated me at the finish line (small race, right?). I told her I had to congratulate the birthday girl who she’d also seen and we found her surrounded by an entire cheer squad. “Birthday girl! You did awesome! How much did you negative split by?” Though she wasn’t even sure she did, someone who could have been a sister jumped in, “10 minutes!” It was an amazing performance that offset the disappointment (mild!) of not running a PR and but still helped me achieve my other race goals.
(Late note.) And how about this: She’s from Philadelphia and we have a common Facebook friend! I’m messaging her as I finish this post.
I did say it was a good race for me.
-CtCloser (Calvinthe), "Negative split or positive splat"
Text: Calvin Wang, CC BY-NC-SA 4.0. Photo: Barbara Wang, CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.
By Calvin W.
A month ago, I had to miss the usual Wednesday night Growlers Group Run from the store because I was in Chicago. Upon my return I learned that BD (Big Dave) had brought his 2 young’uns, Rowan (9) and Maren (7) who each ran some 3.5 miles (See “JRC Growlers Group Run Weds, 6:30 p.m. run, 5/15/2019” email and cross-posted Facebook GGR Group post).
Bless my soul, they showed up again this past Wednesday and here are some of the thoughts that issued from their presence.
To start, Dharma Running’s Eric led us in a standing loving-kindness meditation for Global Running Day. (For the month of June, Dharma Running is changing its Mindful Monday to Watchful Wednesday and joining the Growlers.) We devoted a few minutes of compassionate thoughts about people who are easy to love consecutively to people who elicit neutral emotions. Normally this metta meditation would go the next step to transferring those thoughts to people who aren’t so easy to love thereby helping to cultivate compassion everywhere, but we were going easy for the night. (Presumably we’ll go to the next step in future runs lest we become merely quasi-compassionate people.)
Since BD had the kids and they’d already expressed a willingness and ability to hoof with GGR once before, they participated and we headed off to Alverthorpe Park. If you haven’t run with youngsters before, you need to. It was a joy to watch their carefree, relaxed exuberance as they galloped down the sidewalk in lead of the herd. Every so often they’d weave back and forth to skim the grass with their shoes. Occasionally one would spin around mid-stride. At one point, daughter Maren started doing butt kicks, a good warm-up exercise for working hamstrings (google it with “warmups” [no quotation marks])…except she was mid-run.
I did not feel carefree. I did not feel relaxed. I did not feel exuberant. The 2 of them had what appeared to be an overabundance of joyful energy. Eric and I followed them and marveled. I felt like I was working. It looked like they were playing—which they really were.
I wondered what it would look like for adult me to be able to reflect that attitude of playfulness. “We should just do that!”, Eric said with sincerity. I thought about what I knew of fartleks—speed play—in which you mix up both fast and slow running in order to strengthen your body in ways only one form of training can’t. Knowing that my balance isn’t what it should be, throwing in spins—slow speed to start—would help. Shuttling back and forth within the path would strengthen hip and groin muscles—also good things for a runner to do.
Then I thought about the metta meditation Eric led us in. And I imagined what it would look like to begin to transfer an attitude of youthful exuberance from youngsters like Rowan and Maren to not-so-young me.
Admittedly, I do zero meditation, so right now this is just a thought exercise, but one that has the legitimate potential to change both inlook and outlook (I made up that first one, but you get the picture). I’m not confident I’ll actually execute on those thoughts, but with Dharma Running Eric joining us for the month of June, we’ll just have to see.
-CtCloser (Calvinthe), "Negative split or positive splat"
Text and photos: Calvin Wang, CC BY-NC-SA 4.0
The contents of this post represent the opinions and convictions of the author alone and should in no way be construed to represent the author’s employer or any other entity referenced.
By Calvin W.
Behold the logo! The origin of our new logo is shrouded in peer pressure. (“If your friends jumped off a cliff would you follow?!” “Yes, ‘cuz I wouldn’t have any more friends?”) As the native club for Jenkintown Running Company, we’ve been in existence nearly since the founding of the store in 1981. In recent years, Drew (marketing manager) had invited Pennypack Trail Runners and Elkins Park Beer Runners to partner with the store. EP brought their logo printed on an embarrassingly large sign that they featured in every group-run picture...looking actually pretty cool. And then shirts started going on sale. With their logo printed on them, natch. The pressure to come up with our own was on. But when PTR got their own shirts the gauntlet had absolutely been thrown down and Drew started tightening the thumbscrews on the members of the Growlers.
The group name itself was a given when Fast Dave first coined it for one of the 2 store’s Broad Street Run teams in 2017. Its double meaning captured the essence of the drinking group with a running problem perfectly. You the man, FD!
I toyed with the idea of a cartoon character first. (I’ve always liked Berke Breathed’s Bloom County cartoon eyes. Additional aside: Though an academic librarian now, I also have previous training in visual art—medical illustration, specifically.) The idea of the letters as pavement were there from the start. I designed my own typeface with a density that emphasized blackness. The character still has some potential, but it felt like we need something a little more elemental. The growler still needed to be there somehow and the idea of it becoming part or the name itself materialized.
Don’t laugh (Kate did, at least to herself) but I use PowerPoint a lot for graphic work. Librarians don’t have much call for Adobe Illustrator, so I don’t have it. And you can do amazing things with its curve-drawing function once I figured out how to tweak individual points and their splines. A few clicks for the profile, a vertical flip for the other side, a couple of extra shapes, and voila! A growler for an o. With input from Drew, Keith (the store manager), and Kate (an interior designer), I jazzed it up with a shoeprint featuring the Monotype Corsiva J from the store’s logo. (Okay, I actually ignored their suggestion to ditch the J. I’ll take the hit if you agree. I’m a big man. Figuratively.) The dashed lines cemented the pavement imagery and the Jenkintown Running Store logo the parentage. The one recommendation I did accept from the peanut gallery was to find a more open, readable typeface. Enter Impact which took the place of mine perfectly and I have no misgivings whatsoever. None. At all. Really. >snork<
The TM gives our new logo authority. It’s legit even though it’s not registered. That would be a Ⓡ. (I teach a course on intellectual property.) Finally, with store owner Joe’s blessing the logo became a thing! And we’ve now jumped off the cliff too. Safe even, cushioned by the bodies of those who leapt before us. Let’s make a million selling merch!
-CtCloser (Calvinthe), "Negative split or positive splat"
Text and graphics: Calvin Wang, CC BY-NC-SA 4.0
By Calvin W.
As a competitive long-distance runner, you’re constantly trying to ride the fine line between running as fast as your body will permit in a given speed-based effort and bombing out by going too hard. When you’re training for an event, you might not always be working on speed—conditioning your body to tolerate long distances doesn’t generally require speed work—but doing so is an important part of training. Efforts like interval training and tempo work are speed- based and a runner does improve by working on faster. In a race like a marathon, there are times to hold back, but overall you’re hovering around a point that is as fast as you can tolerate, as long as you don’t crash. Makes sense to me.
Most people run slower during the second half of a race than the first. Any race that provides interval times will demonstrate that. Consider Chasing the Unicorn in Bucks County, PA. The vast majority of competitors, including the elite runners go out faster during the first half than the second. Maybe some people plan to do that but others go out feeling good and pushing too hard just to start hitting their limits during the second half, hence they’re forced to slow down a little. It’s called positive splitting because the difference between the times of their two halves, second half minus first half, is a positive number. If you’re trying to speed up throughout a race effort, that’s bad. (I know. It’s a little confusing that a positive number could be negative.) When I first started running in 2011, I was always positive splitting: that’s the way my training went and that’s the way my races went. Then came the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Apolo Anton Ohno was favored to become the most medaled Olympian in history. As an Asian watching an athlete of mixed-Asian descent I was pretty excited about his success. But I was also watching his race strategy because I’d already been aware that many racers actually work on negative splitting: they go easy enough to save energy to be in position to win the race, but not so fast that lose energy before they finish. Watch a high-level long-distance competitive effort and you’ll see racers looking pretty relaxed at the beginning of the race and really going all out at the end. And that’s what I saw every time I watched Ohno racing. Even if it meant that he wasn’t going to come in first in a preliminary heat, he would be racing easy. Then he’d turn on just enough heat to qualify for the final and save enough energy to win that race. Using him as inspiration, I started working on negative splitting both my training runs and my races. I have little trouble, now, running negative-split training efforts. That’s positive.
I have more trouble negative splitting during races. It seems that it’s easy to misjudge the fine line between going fast enough to achieve a personal record (PR), especially after a well-managed taper, and going too fast to sustain and crashing. Failing to fuel properly can result in carb-crashing which results in a very positive split. That’s negative. The trick is to gauge the necessary level just right to be able to sustain a first-half effort that permits a nice fast finish. In my 2 best marathons, I was passing people left and right as I closed in on the finish line. People said things like “Pedal to the medal!” of “Negative split!” as I passed them who were looked like they were seriously positively splitting. Negative.
The last time I posted to this blog (4/12/2018), I had my fingers crossed for a negative split and a PR. Neither happened. The taper had me feeling well rested and I went out much faster than was sustainable on average. I blew it and lost all my steam. Once you use up all your carbohydrate stores, you can’t recover it and you have to slow down. A lot.
With that race in mind, I ran another one. For that I kept forcing my speed slower than I felt I was able, to a point just below what I thought my average speed should be for the entire race based on my training. This time it paid off. I both negative split, finishing strong, and I missed my PR by a mere 25 seconds. Considering that I wasn’t trying to PR, that was a great effort.
With both races in mind, I trained hard to increase my speed and smash my PR with a super-fast effort. And I failed again. Same story: My taper had me feeling like I could sprint the whole way and I didn’t listen to my brain telling me that I simply hadn’t trained hard enough to maintain that pace throughout the race.
Maybe for elite athletes like Apolo Anton Ohno it’s easier to know limits and pace more thoughtfully, maybe they don’t always win, but they compete consistently. For me it will always be a sloppy balancing act, sometimes achieving spectacularly and sometimes bombing abysmally.
Still, even abysmal can be a success. I was conditioned enough for my last race that, despite dropping my pace by 2 minutes per mile in the second half for a very negative positive split, I still finished 15 minutes faster than my last bombed effort. That’s positive!
-CtCloser (Calvinthe), "Negative split or positive splat"
Calvin Wang, CC BY-NC-SA 4.0
By Eric W.
Dharma Running is a work in progress of more than 30 years. I started reading books about Buddhism and meditation as a teenager, and had my first formal instruction in Zen in 1994. It wasn’t until after graduate school at Naropa University in Boulder that I got into running, but the timing was perfect as I’d spent the last three years studying Tibetan Buddhism and deepening my meditation practice. “Mindful running” came naturally to me, even if nobody was calling it that at the time.
I should stop here for a minute and point out that nobody can be mindful all the time (well maybe the Buddha and the Dalai Lama, but I don’t believe either of them is much of a runner). Over my running “career”, I’ve had miles, marathons, and even months when I’ve left the meditation stuff behind. Everyone needs to pop in the earbuds and zone out to the Who, the Ramones, or the Beastie Boys (I am a child of the 70s and 80s) once in awhile. But becoming more mindful in daily life can help you know when it’s ok to tune out and when it’s important to tune back in to the body and mind.
Over the last ten years I’ve continued to experiment with combining meditation practice with my running, and have seen success in achieving my goals – qualifying for and running the Boston Marathon, hitting new PRs in 5ks, and branching out into ultras with a 50k and 50 mile race in 2018. The results I’ve had are what led me to get my coaching certification from the Road Runners Club of America and launch Dharma Running. I’m excited to do what I can to inspire others to run, to practice mindfulness, and to find and spread joy!
By Alex H.
The training that goes in to a marathon is an accomplishment in itself, and we as runners want to ensure we give ourselves the best chance to succeed on race day. That means taking care of the little things leading up to race day and listening to our bodies leading up to the big day. The tiring long runs and muscle-burning intervals are necessary to make it to the line ready to go, but just as important is your strategy during the race! Sure, applying a proper layer of body glide is a great idea, and wearing the appropriate amount of clothing for the forecast is a must, but for the sake of this blog, I am referring to proper nutrition and hydration, and also proper pacing.
The energy demands on the body during a marathon make taking in calories and fluids absolutely essential. If you have trained with a specific pace you are targeting as your goal marathon pace, this pace should roughly correlate to your aerobic threshold, which is how fast the body can run while using fat as the main fuel source. Once twenty miles are covered at this pace, the body will hit the dreaded “wall” unless proper fueling is utilized. Some sort of gel, whether GU, Honey Stinger, Powerbar, or any other brand, with some slow burning calories and amino acids should do the trick. Practicing taking a gel every few miles in training will help you find a strategy that makes you feel adequately fueled and energized.
Additionally, taking in fluids is very important no matter if it is a cold or hot day. Do not make the mistake, however, of loading up on water like a camel! We cannot store that much water without having to use the restroom, so to avoid cramping and discomfort on race day, practice a strategy on your long runs that leaves you hydrated going in to the race, but ready to take in some sips of water, Nuun, or Gatorade every few miles. If you have trouble taking gels, you can try practicing with electrolyte blends that you simply mix in water which supply you with a similar level of electrolytes, carbohydrates, and calories as gels, but you can sip instead of suck down!
Now that you have found a fueling strategy that works for you and are ready to optimize your race day with proper nutrition, do not forget that proper pacing cannot be stressed enough! To circle back for a minute and revisit the topic about having 20 miles worth of energy at marathon pace stored in our bodies, that corresponds to our aerobic threshold. If we take the beginning of the race too fast, our bodies burn through that energy storage too quickly, and it is very tough to recover from! The most efficient way to run a marathon is evenly paced, which means every mile is very similar in pace. This pace will feel rather easy in the beginning stages and becoming increasingly difficult with every passing mile. Even pacing is not the only positive option, and many runners, including myself, prefer negative splits. Negative splitting races will leave you feeling better for longer, and although you may feel like you are holding back too much in the early stages, at mile 20 you will thank yourself! Every world record over the one mile distance has been set with a negative split pacing strategy, so coming back faster seems to be a good strategy based on the history of the sport!
The marathon is a tricky task, because worrying about gu gel’s, bathroom stops, not missing your mouth at Gatorade stations, and not hitting “the wall” does not prove to be so important in shorter races. Sure, taking the first two miles of your 5k way too fast is not a great idea, but having just over a mile to pay for your fast start is nothing compared to setting a 5k pr your first 5k of the marathon, and having 23 miles to go! Be smart, practice what you will do on race day, and nail your strategy beforehand so race day goes as smoothly as possible.
By Alex H.
It is now the homestretch of Philly Marathon training, and the work has been done! Within the last 3 weeks of your goal race, your body is not going to make any new major adaptations that will help you on race day. You can sit back and take solace in the fact you have worked hard and are ready for the day you have been training for the last few months. But do not fall in to the trap of resting too soon and losing out on the fitness you have worked so hard for. Instead, follow this taper plan to get the most out of your hard work!
It is generally agreed upon that your longest and fastest long run will take place three weeks out from your goal race, give or take. If you have been working up to a 22 miler, for example, and your race was on the 4th Sunday of the month, you would run that 22 miler on the 1st Sunday of the month. That will lead you right into your first week of the taper. That first taper week, the mileage should cut back volume about 10% from your highest weeks. This reduction will come from a mixture of your easy days and your long run. The goal is to allow the body to begin to absorb the training, but because the marathon is almost 100 percent aerobic, you don’t want to strip too much of your mileage when you are not racing for another few weeks.
The second week of the taper, the mileage will cut another 10%, so if you had been holding 40 miles per week, your first taper week would be about 36 and your second taper week would be about 32. Additionally, this week is when you want to strip some intensity from your workouts. If your go to sessions have been marathon paced tempos and you were hanging around 8 miles at marathon pace for your workouts, try two sets of four miles at marathon pace, or maybe even two sets of 3 miles at marathon pace, and one set of two miles at marathon pace. Make sure the workouts are still focusing on marathon pace, though, as you do not want to run some fast 400 repeats at 5k pace to “feel quick.” This is a common mistake runners make. The goal is to feel quick and get some turnover work in, but ideally an athlete will focus on just marathon pace for the weeks leading up to a marathon and running at 5k pace will tap into a completely different energy system your body hasn’t used for a while. Remember when I said you are not going to be making any new adaptations these last few weeks? Running at 5k pace is a new stressor that you don’t want to try too close to the race!
That third taper week, starting the Monday of your marathon, strip mileage by another 20%. Going off our 40 miles per week scenario, this week would be 24 miles. Make sure to also “front load” your week, where you run most of your mileage the first few days of the week and are just doing some easy jogs the days before the race. Your last workout should be three or four days out from the race and should just be a workout to have the body feel good and stay in a rhythm. You might ask why you would even do a workout this week, and I understand that thought process. However, the body has been in a rhythm for months and our bodies crave that consistency. Something like 3 to 4 miles at marathon pace should feel very easy and do the trick!
The last three weeks are essentially just going through the motions and trying not to get sick or injured. We don’t want to do to little and lose fitness while also having our metabolic system thrown off from a drastic reduction of activity, but we are not trying to create more fitness. The best things you can do for yourself are to sleep well, eat well, wash your hands, think good thoughts, and enjoy the ending of a long and rewarding process.
By Alex H.
Consistently working towards a goal is the best way to continue to improve. It makes sense, right? Making a conscious effort to get better at a task, day in and day out, will leave an individual a bit closer to their end goal each and every day. In running terms, every day we run, we grow stronger than we were before, and close in on our goals. But, as any runner can relate to, injuries often leave us sidelined from the activity we love. Many runners start franticly trying to self-diagnose injuries on the internet, before ending up at the doctor with a diagnosis they wish they could have prevented. Throughout the weeks and months of long miles and hard intervals, injuries are bound to show up here and there, but instead of rehab, I want to take a moment to talk about prehab.
Prehab is essentially the process of preventing injuries before they start. You can think of it as callousing your body to the rigors of running. Often, when a physical therapist instructs a patient exercises to help strengthen a damaged tendon, ligament, or muscle head, the same exercises could be used before the injury occurred to further strengthen that same area. For example, resistance band walks are great for rehabbing hip injuries, but they are also a great exercise to perform a few times a week when healthy to strengthen your hips and help prevent injuries.
In addition to resistance bands, tennis or lacrosse balls and foam rollers are great tools to use to help increase strength and flexibility. Even an old set of marbles can be put to great use to help you avoid injury! Resistance bands can be tied around a bed post or the leg of a table and used to strengthen the feet and ankles. They can also be wrapped around the hips to isolate the glutes and hamstrings. Tennis and lacrosse balls are great at targeting pressure points and tight areas. Foam rollers are great tools to help loosen and release tight fascia, or web of muscle, in larger muscle heads, like quads, calves, and hamstrings. Marbles are great for rolling out your arches, or dumping on the ground and picking up barefoot one by one. The small muscles under your feet will thank you!
If you’re wondering how can you add these exercises to your routine, the answers are much easier than you might think. Foam rolling for as little as five minutes before a run will help bring oxygen rich blood to your muscles and increase flexibility as part of an active warmup. Using a resistance band to warm up the hips and glutes works great too, or you can implement band work post-run for a challenging strength workout once your body is already fatigued. Taking your stretch rope and holding a stretch for thirty seconds helps loosen up tight muscles post run, and tying it around a bed post and doing ankle circles while watching tv is a great way to get stronger and more flexible without having to clear out extra time in your schedule. If you truly want to help your body become stronger and more flexible, the tools are there for the taking and you can find simple solutions to make yourself and healthier and more complete runner!
By Alex H.
If you ask 100 coaches how to train an athlete for the marathon, you’ll likely find 100 different answers. Some will give you some arbitrary number of mileage that any athlete needs to run to complete the distance. Others will tell you specific speed sessions that are sure to get an athlete to run a specific -time. But only the special ones are humble enough to admit that there are many different ways to go about marathon training.
The cliche goes “the secret is that there is no secret.” Individuals looking for a workout or a long run distance that will make a giant difference in their training are wasting mental energy that they could be using to focus on whatever plan it is that they are following. Among the masses of information and studies that are available to anyone looking to race the marathon, the key principles of training remain constant.
It is a known fact that stress plus rest equals growth. Applying this to training, we must load the body with a new stressor and break down our aerobic system and our muscular system in order for these systems to adapt and grow stronger. If we do not stress our bodies past their previous limits or thresholds, then they will not break down and in turn will not rebuild to be stronger than before. But even if we do work very hard, if rest and recovery are not adequate, then an individual will wind up over-trained or even worse, injured! So what should the focus of marathon training be? What does all of this even mean? Let me break it down by sharing what a timetable of marathon training looks like.
The Global Period is the time when an athlete is over 3 months out from their goal marathon. During this time, the focus is on building an aerobic base to create a foundation for later training. Training should consist of easy mileage, but also short sprints and long hills. Essentially, this time period is for building up maximum speed and overall aerobic capacity.
One to three months out from the goal race is what should be referred to as the Special Period. During this time, the long run should increase in length and begin to increase in pace. The paces to focus on during workouts around this time are those slightly faster and slightly slower than goal marathon pace. I would recommend keeping workout paces within 5-10% of goal marathon pace. For example, if your goal marathon pace is 8 minutes per mile, then key paces during this time would be 7:12 per mile and 8:48 per mile (8 minutes=480 seconds, so 10% of 480 is 48 seconds, and therefore 712-848 would be within 10%). These paces are going to help build your aerobic power and aerobic endurance without taxing you too much.
Within one month of the marathon is the Specific Period. During this time, all key workouts should focus on feeling comfortable at marathon pace. Between 97% and 103% of goal pace are the rhythms to be focused on during that last month. Many athletes make the mistake of trying to run fast 400s two weeks before the race, or 200s at mile pace to feel “sharp and quick.” The problem here is that during marathon training, your body is trying to focus on being smooth and efficient at marathon pace, and running short and fast when you haven’t been training at those paces can really throw the body off and set us back a bit.
Like I said to start this post, different coaches and training plans will prescribe many different types of workouts and long run distances and weekly mileage plans. It all depends on what an athlete’s goals are and what he or she has previously done and can handle. What is commonly agreed upon is that the further out an athlete is from the race, the further away from marathon pace they can train. As the race nears, our best bet is to buckle down on that goal pace or goal effort and trust what we’ve done to get to this point!
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