By Calvin W.
Marathons are really long races. Long enough that it seems like a good strategy to have a good strategy for running them. And that’s what I’ve tried to do from my very first marathon…have a strategy…even if it hasn’t always been good.
My first marathon was in 2013, Garden Spot Village Marathon, Lancaster County, PA. Back then, fueled by conviction from a JRC Growlers running buddy—Big Dave—that basically anyone can run a sub-4:00 marathon unless they’re walking, I went out at the pace I felt sure I could sustain…and steadily got slower and slower aaaand slower. I finished in 4:24:22. He’s still my running buddy. And he still runs way faster than me.
It took me 2 more races to drop below the 4-hour mark for the first time in 2014. It took me another 2 years running 1-3 races a year to run sub-4:00 consistently.
An element of my success was mastering negative splits in training.
The inspiration began when I started hearing from other runners around me that the key to really good racing was negative splitting--running the second half of a race faster than the first half. The inspiration concretized when I started paying attention to elite athletes.
At the 2014 Winter Olympics, speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno was the rage. Listening to the commentators describing his races, I heard them talk about how athletes like him deliberately keep their pace low enough to conserve energy, but fast enough to remain competitive with the front of the field. And all you had to do was watch their relaxed effort at the beginning of every event compared to their all-out effort at the end to know they consistently negative split.
Since then I’ve gotten good at it. I warm up and run easy during the 1st quarter of every run. Then I start picking up the pace with each successive quarter until I finish. When I look at my personal stats for every race I’ve done since I started training with negative splits, I can see the same tendency—well, not exactly the same, but the first and last quarters are mighty consistent, and the halves are largely unwavering. I’m usually finishing my final quarter around 45 seconds faster than my first.
My marathon PR was at Steamtown 2016 in Scranton, PA. I began the race pacing the entire first half 9.0 and finished the last mile doing 8.0. (N.b. I calculate pace in decimal minutes rather than minutes-seconds. I’m weird that way.) In fact, I can consistently finish my final mile pacing a full minute faster than my first quarter.
Quiet Man Tom (Shawmont Running Club) recently said to me, I don’t understand why you don’t have faster marathon times when you can finish so fast. He’s not the only person to think something like that. Here’s what none other than Hal Higdon has to say: “Nobody runs 1 to 2 minutes per mile faster in the last few miles unless they have run the earlier miles way too slow. You need to learn how to pace yourself better” (Higdon). Now, who am I to contradict Hal Higdon?
Well I’d like to contradict Hal Higdon. Maybe no one does…unless they train that way.
Garden Spot Village Marathon is a hilly race and prides itself at being so. It also holds a special place in my heart because it was my first marathon. I didn’t quite know how hilly, but given that it was a local, spring race, I don’t think it would have mattered much. I was going to do it no matter what. Because of its sentimental value to me, it remains the only race that I’ve ever run more than twice--once a year for every year I’ve run competitively--5 times total.
GSV is so hilly I have to be extra careful of my starting pace. In 2013, my first year, here was my pacing by quarters: 8.5, 8.9, 10.2, 12.8; 10.1 avg, 4:24:22. In 2014, I managed to slow down my start: 9.3, 9.0, 9.5, 9.3; 9.2 avg, 4:01:38. (The ups and downs are a reflection of the hilliness of the course.) Here’s 2015 (when I truly negative split the halves): 9.7, 9.2, 8.9, 9.3; 9.3 avg, 4:03:13. And 2016: 8.8, 8.8, 9.8, 12.7; 10.0 avg, 4:20:51. And, finally, 2017: 9.1, 8.7, 8.9, 9.3; 9.0 avg, 3:55:08.
If you’re paying attention amid all the numbers, you’ve probably noticed that I wasn’t really accurate when I said I’m consistently racing with negative splits. I did say that GSV Marathon is hilly. But don’t miss the point: I’ve gotten pretty good at negative splitting everywhere else. Here’s my PR marathon (2016 Steamtown)--9.0, 9.0, 8.8, 8.3 (8.8 avg, 3:49:51)--and my penultimate PR (2017 Rehoboth Beach Marathon)--9.1, 8.8, 8.8, 8.5 (8.8 avg, 3:50:27). Those trends are reflected in my training and half marathons.
Here’s where I contradict Hal Higdon. With GSV as evidence, when I go out even 0.3 minutes faster--the difference between my 2016 and 2017 paces, about 20 seconds per mile--I don’t finish as well and I’m much farther from negative splitting.
So here’s my goal for 2018 on April 14: 9.2, 8.9, 8.6, 8.3 (8.8 avg, 3:49:50). I plan to marathon-PR and I actually plan to do it by more than 1 second even though that’s about 5 minutes faster than my 2017 time.
Here are some other justifications for the strategy and my goals: My last training cycles have gotten faster and faster so I can certainly improve any race time over last year. The justification for the starting pace: GSV Marathon is just bad for going out too fast. The justification for the progression: I need not to increase my pace too much to conserve energy for the hillier 2nd half when I’m going to be more fatigued. And the justification for the finishing pace: I can finish pacing as fast as 8.0 based on other marathons and can consistently finish the last mile a minute faster than I started.
So that’s the strategy. Let’s see how the execution goes.
Higdon, Hal. “Choosing a Marathon Pacing Strategy.” TrainingPeaks, 13 Oct. 2015, https://www.trainingpeaks.com/blog/choosing-a-marathon-pacing-strategy/.
By Mike T.
Frank Shorter had the full attention of the 6 people sitting closely, clinging on every word about his gold medal Olympic marathon win. The other 16,400 people running the half-marathon walked by oblivious to the fact that one of the greatest marathoners ever was sitting there dispensing advice and tactics that each of them could use.
Yet, a lot of those same people will watch televised poker tournaments, but not track or a road race. Recreational soccer, tennis, basketball and baseball players usually have an encyclopedic knowledge of elite players and also tend to watch those sports even if it involves seeking them out at odd hours and with the broadcast in a foreign language. They can debate the finer points of technique, gear, the greatest players, and list specific records and important dates related to their sport.
However, ask your typical runner who won Broad Street in 2017, the current mile world record holders and their times, or the most popular shoe worn by the top marathoners at the IAFF World Championships and you’d be met with a blank stare or the question what is IAFF? In case you’re wondering the answers are Dominic Korir and Askale Merachi for Broad Street, Hicham El Guerrouj (3:43.13) and Svetlana Masterkova (4:12.56) for the mile, and the Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4%. I’ll let you look up IAFF.
So why should you learn about track and field or road racing? Why should you read about elite runners or watch a race? There are two major reasons. First, if you want to convince someone that your running isn’t serious and isn’t a sport, the easiest way to do that is to be unable to discuss anything about running. Because guess what? Soccer, tennis, basketball and baseball all include running as part of their sport. Not the major part either but a less important part that is a means to the end of scoring a point or goal. As a result, participants in those often believe that since running is part of their sport, it obviously isn’t a sport on its own. And since you can only run and don’t play soccer, tennis, basketball or baseball, you also are less of an athlete, if one at all. If you were a real athlete you would be playing their sport, where they not only run but do other things as well. Without some basic knowledge, you’re fending for yourself with no answers when you try to explain but the best runners, like Frank Shorter, have been there and have the answers to the questions your friends are asking.
Second, have you ever been injured, wanted to run faster, lose weight, gain weight, get stronger, or have better form? All of these questions can be answered by looking at the elite runners from running’s past and present. Just watching a single race can show you simple things like what to wear and how to drink when running or more complex racing aspects from drafting and running the tangents to pacing tactics. Want to learn more? At your next race expo, attend a clinic and ask a few questions. Not only will you learn something but the next time someone says running isn’t a sport, you can make Frank proud.
Disclaimer: The author has watched soccer matches in Portuguese, played in basketball leagues, enjoys playing cards, has a world-class golf slice and cheers for the Oakland Athletics.
By Alex H.
I grew in college. A lot. I entered just over 5 feet tall and graduated just over 6 feet tall, but I also grew as an athlete and an individual. High school is where I fell in love with running. I got just enough out of the sport that I was addicted to the feeling of improvement. For my 4 years in college, positive outcomes were few and far between. I'm talking maybe 50 races and about 5 I'm proud of. Freshman year I immediately grew 3 inches and my hips were so misaligned I couldn't run for months. Sophomore year I changed my diet with hopes of performing at a higher level and became iron deficient. Then I got healthy and pulled my right calf. Then I got healthy again and my shin kept me out. Junior year I was in the best shape of my life and missed 10 days from a water induced coma. There's a trend here. Get fit. Get hurt. Get healthy. Get sick. The list does not stop there, but you get the idea. From diet changes, to what I thought was smart hydration, to running more and running harder, every intention was positive. But the outcomes did not match. The message here is trial and error, and the willingness to keep trying and failing. It is a never ending cycle, but it is how we grow. What I took out of my college career is more than any breakout performance could have told me. I learned that I'm in the sport for the right reasons. I learned that passion will always drive me forward, and failure is only failure if we stop trying. I took something out of each and every injury and poor performance. Most importantly, I realized my mentality was never going to be my downfall. Since college, I have steadily improved, and am finally (after 9 years) beginning to see signs of the athlete I have long wanted to be. I attribute much of this to the hunger that brewed over years of unfinished business on the track, that is now starting to come to fruition on the roads. As I see myself improving, my hunger grows stronger. As far as my focus, the marathon,"Run under 235" changed to "dip under 230" and has now grown to "get under 223" and hopefully culminates to "break 219" (Olympic trials B standard for men in the United States) by the Olympic trials. But if things came easier, and I had not been knocked down so many times previously, who knows if I would still be here sharing a journey with you?
By Chelsea D.
As a New Jersey native and former member of the University of Pennsylvania cross country and track teams, I have run in my fair share of cities and parks up and down the East Coast. My collegiate running career allowed me to compete with my teammates in England and eventually run in other parts of Europe as well.
As I have been competing since middle school, the majority of my family trips and summer vacations included taking time to get in my runs every morning. While most of these trips meant running on a treadmill, I now make my runs a way of exploring the places I visit—most recently when I visited Bali, Indonesia. I have been fortunate enough to travel to and run in so many amazing places across the world, but some of my favorite runs have been more local. When I think back on the long runs and tempos from my college days, Wissahickon was my park of choice.
You would think that spending 3-5 days a week at the same park for 4 years would make you sick of it, right? That couldn’t be any further from the truth in my eyes! Although there are the familiar landmarks and mile markers along the main trail, I always spot something new every trip to Wissahickon. Whether you’re doing a tempo or easy run on the main drag, running there via the Schuylkill river path, exploring the many side trails off the main path or doing hill repeats on the paved road offshoots, there is something for every part of your training.
If you have never been to Wissahickon, what are you waiting for? You won’t know what you’re missing until you check it out!
By Alfredo S.
Breaking four minutes in the mile is a feat that less than 2000 people in the world, 500 or so American citizens, and 3 Puerto Ricans have accomplished, me being in company of all. Ever since Roger Bannister ran the first sub 4 minute mile in 1954, which critics deemed impossible at the time, the mile has been one of the most popular track and field events in the world. Since I started training for the Mile, in late 2016, my goal was to be a part of that history. This year on January 13th I got a chance to add my name in the track and field history books by being able to get under that Barrier. This was a huge honor for me, seeing my hard training pay off and realizing one of my most important goals.
Training to break four was one of the toughest things I have ever done. There were days where I did not want to get out of bed and other days where I was ready for the challenge. However, I knew that if I wanted to accomplish my goal that I had to put in the work, especially when I didn’t feel like it. I had to do every little thing to motivate myself when I didn’t want to train on any particular day. I knew if I slacked off that could potentially snowball into more and more complacentness. I had to do the little things, like wake up 10 minutes early to stretch, do core, lift, etc., in order to reach my goal. These little things are what made training for that goal hard, because in a busy society the last thing you want to do is lose time on something so meager. Still, these are the things that kept me healthy and able to train.
After a solid fall of training and staying healthy I got my first chance to get after a fast Mile on the 13th of January. My teammate, Sadiki White, agreed to rabbit me through 1000 meters in about 2 minutes and 30 seconds. At about 900 meters I got antsy and passed him. I was left with just over 700 meters to run by myself, but I felt good. Lap after lap I was on pace to run under 4 minutes and the crowd was getting into it. With 200 meters to go I saw that I needed to run a 29 second last lap and from the help of the crowd, my teammates and family I was able to run 3:59.07. This meant the world to me, not only because I was able to get under the elusive barrier but because it showed that through hard work and perseverance anything is possible. It was fun to share that moment with my family, friends and teammates who all believed in me and helped me get there. The story is not done being written, as I am trying to lower my mile PR and qualify for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. The dream goes on…
By, Calvin W.
When I hit my mid-life crisis, I knew it was time to do something different. Like those who might also be prone to them, I’d been living my life in a conventional, painfully routine way and I had to shake things up. I was at a resort on Hainan Island at the very bottom of China and it was the 4th of July, 2012. I walked out onto the beach…never looked back and…
Wild and crazy, huh? Actually, I’d done a little running a couple of years before for a few months, was with my tennis-playing young Turk nephew on a family trip, and only did 2½ miles, but it really was pretty radical for a guy who’d done little more than play a little Ultimate in college.
Upon my return home a few days later, I found a route in the neighborhood up the street from my house and started running a one-and-a-half mile loop a few days a week—close enough to home to bail out if an injury struck or if I just ran out of steam. When that didn’t happen and I started increasing the mileage using a few daisy-chained 3 mile loops I mapped (mapmyrun.com), I really cut loose and started fantasizing about…
Nine months later (I know! Nine months, start to marathon!), I finished the 2013 Garden Spot Village Marathon in Kinzer, PA, in 4:24:22. A personal record as the old running cliché goes. Not terribly long after I started I discovered the Wednesday 6:30 p.m. running club at Jenkintown Running Company. There I really cut loose and started…
Craft beers, to be specific, IPAs to be precise. Yep, it turns out the group was a drinking club with a running problem. With pizza when the numbers are right. Ooh, hold me back. What was great about the JRC RC was the motivation of meeting people who also wanted to move. And it turned out to be a really likeable group of peeps. The pizza and beer helped.
The group’s been around for years, but we really upped the ante by organizing with the help of Drew, a store associate. One order of business was to adopt a real name. You heard it here first, folks, we’re now the JRC Growlers. We’ve historically started at 6:30 p.m. and we pace from 10 minutes and easier up to a blistering 7 minutes per mile for the overachievers. We typically run 6.5 mile distances. Join us and help shape the future of the Growlers!
For my longer Saturday runs, I graduated from running solo to enjoying the companionship of the Shawmont Running Club (check out Facebook) most Saturdays. (Saturday distance runs are also in the cards for the Growlers, so stay tuned.)
If a mid-life crisis really is the abrupt realization of a life lived routinely and the urge for radical change, then running provided the change I needed. It provided challenge, new relationships, and new experiences, both moving my legs and working my bottle muscles. Since I started, I’ve run 10 more marathons—5 of them Garden Spot Village—dropped that first personal record to 3:49:51 (Steamtown Marathon, 2016), made a host of new, fascinating friends, picked up that taste for IPAs, and started drinking coffee (not because of the beer). I’ve also developed the discipline of negative splitting—i.e., finishing faster than I started—and managed to shake off more than one injury (happily nothing major) as my body has gotten stronger.
My wife of 31 years also figures into my mid-life crisis…
Following in my footsteps, she started running again for the first time since high school as the goalie for the field hockey team.
Calvin Wang has been an assistant professor and the sciences librarian at Arcadia University since 2005.
By Mike T.
Now of course everyone says “So now you’re going to tell us to buy these particular shoes from you so you can make some money.” Cynical and potentially true in some ways, but what I want to talk about is the difference between a more expensive shoe and the $60 shoe you buy at a department or typical sporting goods store.
Sticker shock when you see a shoe at $120 isn’t an uncommon reaction for someone shopping for new shoes at a quality running store. So, what do you get for that extra sixty dollars?
First is the fit of the upper. The more expensive shoes, if they have overlays, use lots of stretchy materials and well-thought-out lacing patterns that result in a more comfortable fit than that of the $60 shoe. The current trend in more expensive shoes is towards an upper that has no overlays, which increases the shoes flexibility while decreasing its weight. Paying more gives you a more flexible, lighter and comfortable shoe.
A second difference is the midsole weight. Newer midsole cushioning systems last longer than the previous foams, gels and related midsole components while also being lighter. The $60 shoes typically use cushioning materials that were initially developed for top of the line shoes several years ago. As everyone realizes, a lighter shoe is generally a faster shoe. Paying more gives you a longer lasting, lighter, yet more cushioned shoe.
Third is extra cushioning. If you compare a $60 shoe visually to a more expensive one, you can often see the cushioning differences. With a brand like Asics you can easily see the size and placement of the gel units and although you can’t see that in every shoe, all brands reduce the amount and placement of the cushioning in their cheaper shoes. The extra cushioning is able to spring back into shape after the bending, stretching and compression that occurs during your running better than a less cushioned option. More cushioning also makes a shoe more durable. And as with the midsole weight, companies are rolling out newer cushioning systems that are lighter and more durable at the same time. Who wouldn’t want a more cushioned yet lighter and longer lasting shoe?
Finally, the more expensive shoe’s outsoles tend to flex where the foot actually does and be constructed of more durable rubber that lasts longer than the $60 model. This makes the “ride” of the more expensive shoe more comfortable while also lasting longer.
Which gets us to the point – spending more gets you a better fitting, lighter, more cushioned and longer lasting shoe. Does that mean that you should rush out and buy the latest $160 shoe and start training in it? Not necessarily and that’s where we enter your running story. For many people the $160 shoe is the wrong answer, just like the $120, $100, or $60 shoe might be. The only way to know is to be fitted in a shoe by someone who takes the time to not only learn all of the technical specs that would bore you but also learn about your running goals and preferences in fit, weight and cushioning. With many options available, we’ll be able to do that for you.
See you on the run!
By Alex H.
With hard work comes progress. From where you were, to where you are now, and where you are going, a journey takes development. Some of this comes with maturity, both physical and mental, and some just takes sheer will mixed with many trials and equally as many errors. It is learning from these errors that I have grown as an athlete and a person.
Every runner can point back towards a moment or time period when they first picked up the sport. I began running for soccer conditioning going into my freshman year of high school. I played soccer year round since I was 10, but was never very good. I knew I would have to outwork the more talented kids over the summer. I quickly began enjoying my daily runs more than I enjoyed the sport of soccer, and after two years sticking with it, I switched over to cross country. A big reason why I was not able to accomplish much as a soccer player was my size. When I started running competitively my junior year of high school I was a touch over 5 feet tall and not even 90 pounds. This didn't matter in running. I was always a really good trier, but in most other sports, If you're 60 pounds smaller than your competition, you're going to be at a major disadvantage. But my coach preached that effort is all he was looking for, and I bought in. After 2 years of high school running that brought me just enough success to fully buy in to my potential in the sport and commit to competing at the next level , I continued to run at monmouth university for the next four years.
Now, remember earlier when I said how a journey takes development? College is where I developed! Physically, I grew ELEVEN inches. Mentally, I would argue I grew even more. Next blog post, I'll discuss the 4 years of small gains and large setbacks that had to take place in order to pave the way for further successes.
When you are out for a run the mind often wanders. This may lead to many different types of thoughts. Some may be positive; "I am making myself better" or "I can't wait to smash my PR". Others are often negative; "Why do I do this to myself" or "I'll never get into shape". And many thoughts are just thoughts. When you are out training the mind often wonders to far off places and this blog in many ways is a way for runners to share those thoughts and listen to other runners who may have new and interesting thoughts for others.
Our store owes much of its success to our community. For decades our loyal runners have checked in to get new equipment and share their stories. Runners we helped to fit in high school often come back from college and let us know how their seasons have been going. Even new runners who have goals of being able to complete a certain distance come back to let us share in their personal achievement. Our brand is grounded in our community and it only feels right to create a place where community members can have an even greater voice in it.
This blog will serve as a place for runners to come together. You will see posts from many of the awesome members of our running clubs as well as employees of our stores. We will do product reviews, answer training questions and share our personal experiences while running. So please, take some time to share your thoughts and stories too. Running is a lot less boring when we do it together!
If you have something to share please email us at Jenkintownrunco@gmail.com
THE JRC COMMUNITY
Since its founding, The Jenkintown Running Co. has been at the center of a proud community of runners in the Delaware Valley. This is a place where runners can come together and share their thoughts and ideas.
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