It’s been a while. I have to say that the experience I had on my last marathon has affected me more than I realized. As I reflect on this and prepare to do CIM this December I have some thoughts that may be useful to some of you. Essentially the marathon is a different creature than your typical 5k or 10k. I’ve been running for a while and if I’m in shape (or even not) I feel comfortable just jumping in a 5k with little or no preparation. Worst case is that I am sore for a few days. If I am seriously training for a shorter race, the margin for error is much larger and easier to recover from. With the marathon you not only have to be physically fit you need mental toughness and a solid fueling strategy to be successful (not to mention a healthy dose of luck). With 26.2 miles there is a much larger set of things that can go wrong and cause you to underperform on race day. The marathon requires a greater degree of respect than any other distance (save maybe an ultra, but that is a different beast as well).
In putting this into context, what will I change about my training this time around? Three major things: strength, mileage, and race day logistics. If you have spent any time around me or this blog you know that I am a huge advocate of strength work, both for injury prevention and improving running economy. I did some body weight strength work the last two marathon cycles and this time I am doing that and adding in some dumbbell work. There is a lot of scientific evidence that using weights and plyometrics can play big dividends in running.
Mileage. I got up to about 55 -60 miles a week in training. I pushed right up against my injury threshold as I took some time off but not enough to to really lose any fitness. My plan is that the increased volume and type of strength work will allow me to get up to 70 miles per week without injury. Increasing mileage is a sure fire way to continue building the aerobic metabolism and mentally train for running 26.2 miles.
Finally my race day logistics. CIM is my home town marathon so I will not need to travel to the race. It’s a point to point course so I can have my wife drop me off at a parking lot and ride the bus in to the start line. This greatly simplifies the race day logistics. No hotel. No strange bed. No packing of my race day breakfast. Also makes things very easy to simulate during some long runs. All of these things have to come together to have a successful marathon. The kicker is that even though you can execute well on all the elements of your training that you can control, there are still things that can cause a less than stellar performance on race day. In my last marathon the pacers took a group off course adding an extra mile and a half for some folks. Unexpected weather conditions can also wreak havoc on your plan. The key is not to spend a bunch of emotional energy on these things. If (and when) something pops up on race day you need to be smart enough to adjust your expectations. You still need to run your race just change what that is. This is where running by feel can be so valuable. Your perceived effort will be same even though you will need to adjust your time goal.
Enjoy the run.