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Marathon Training Tips

Fifteen weeks until the 2010 Disney Marathon on January 10. This year’s mission is to run a full marathon. Last year, during my first marathon, I completed the marathon, but I practically crawled across the finish line. I ran 14 miles and started feeling tired. Fatigue before mile 20 means a lot a pain during the second half. I walked and jogged from mile 14 to mile 18 and then walked the remaining 8 miles. People who looked 20 years older were passing me. This was humbling for me. However, I was extremely proud that I did not quit. As long as I could put one foot in front of the other, I kept going. I was a humbled amateur marathoner baptized by fire.
Perhaps my previous athletic experience worked against me. Prior to training for a marathon, I was very fit. I ran the 2008 Disney Half Marathon in 2:03, and that time included walking a few minutes. I ice skated and did strength training religiously. I had a great half marathon training experience. However, the 2009 Disney Marathon taught me a few key lessons:

  1. No type of cross training gives you all the benefits of running (sport specificity);
  2. Never underestimate the energy demands of a marathon; shorter distances simply do not drain the body of energy like a marathon or an ultra-marathon (build your aerobic engine);
  3. Whenever possible, train in the environment in which you will race (environment specificity);
  4. Put your race day items in the car the night before.
Specifically, I think a few training mistakes led to an unremarkable finish at the 2009 marathon. First, I used the summer heat and humidity in Orlando as an excuse to do most of my summer training on a treadmill indoors cooled by plenty of air conditioning. While treadmill training has many benefits, I missed an opportunity to condition my body for high heat and humidity. The Disney Marathon practically comes with a guarantee of high humidity, and a “cool” high temperature is 70 degrees. My ego was not ready to run a slower pace during the summer months, but my aerobic energy system would have adapted and improved my endurance even running at a slower pace. Kick your ego to the curb while you train for a marathon, or it will kick you to the curb while you run the marathon.
Also, after I finished my peak 21 mile long run three weeks before the race, I spent the remaining three weeks in New York running indoors to avoid the cold during the holiday season. I flew back to Orlando the day before the marathon. I had barely enough time to pick up my race packet, organize my items for race day, and sleep. I did not leave any time to adapt to the climate.
Lastly, I kept my racing belt with my energy gels next to my clothing bag in my spare bedroom the night before. When I woke up at 3 am on race day, the organizational part of my brain was not firing properly. I grabbed my clothing bag, but forgot my belt with my energy gels. I drank sports drink during the race and ate a couple of bananas provided by volunteers. I broke a golden rule of fueling during a race: never try food or drinks during a race that you have not tried during training. It was like my body required diesel fuel and I filled it with regular gasoline.
I made some training mistakes, but I trained well enough to finish. Also, I finished without illness or injury. I had a great teacher guiding me into the next training year: experience.
This week, I just completed a summer of running 28 to 35 base miles per week all outdoors except for three treadmill runs at hotels. I still refuse to run outdoors in unfamiliar areas. Safety is always the first priority. The past four weeks, I ran two long runs per week of 8 to 9 miles with a total of 35 miles a week. I am running hills in New York several times that I thought were mountains last year. I most enjoy running early mornings in Orlando. It is a sweatfest, but early summer mornings in Florida are quiet and peaceful. Nothing moves except the crazy runners and bicyclists.
This year, I do not doubt that I will be better prepared for the marathon. I would love to maintain about a 10 minute per mile pace throughout the entire marathon except for short walk breaks at the water stations. This would result in a finish time of about 4:20. Really, just running rather than crawling across the finish line will be an improvement. In October, I will be gearing up for the Tower of Terror 13K run at Hollywood Studios on October 24. It is a fun Halloween run at night, and Disney keeps the park open until 2 am for the runners. It is great to ride the roller coasters without any wait in line. I want to complete the 8.1 miles in 1:15 and qualify for a corral at the marathon.
My big picture goal with running is to see what an adult athlete with no prior competitive history can do. There are myths that people over 30 years old cannot improve peak athletic performance. The over-30 athlete could only hope to maintain past conditioning. I question that theory. Master-level racing is already competitive, and it will be exciting to see what the current and next generation of older athletes teach us about performance and aging. I think I barely tapped into my athletic abilities during my younger years. I intend to explore my abilities during middle age and beyond and set a high standard for adult fitness.

This article was provided by Free Movement Fitness Inc.
For more information on Free Movement Fitness Inc., check out their full profile here.
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