Mastering the Marathon - The Magic & Methodology
I wasn't a Boston Qualifier in my first 3 marathons, 7 years later I was invited to participate in the Elite Category... This is how.
From 2012 to 2019, in the last 10 marathons that I've raced (not including the ones I paced for athletes I was coaching), I have finished between 2:23 and 2:29. Coming into 2012 I had run over 50 marathons, since my first in 2006 (a 3:14 finish). I had a steady improvement in the first few years and then experienced a long lasting plateau where I could not surpass 2:42.
There are two major ingredients that led to my breakthrough. I have since applied these two areas of focus to hundreds of athletes and have had an overwhelmingly consistent success.
many great athletes will say that success is very simple. Just train hard and keep at it and the results will come. I call BULLSHIT...
**Disclaimer: Before we break it down it there are a couple of very important variables that must be mentioned. First, I was coming into marathoning with a very athletic upbringing, 12 years of which had a decent amount of running mixed with other sports. My starting point was as unique to me as it is with all athletes. The starting point should always inform the direction of training used for each individual. Secondly, the psychological state of an athlete is as important as anything physical. From motivation to consistency to purpose, this is an easily overlooked topic that drives all training. The performance fluctuations I have experienced since my breakthroughs are reflective of the psychological state I was in at the time more than anything physical. The same is often true for the athletes I coach.
***Lastly, many great athletes will say that success is very simple. Just train hard and keep at it and the results will come. I call BULLSHIT on this perspective. These athletes are failing to recognize the gifts they have that are allowing the hard work to perpetuate for long enough that the desired outcome was achieved. Whether accidental or with specific intention, the following ingredients are almost always present in fast marathoning.
To MASTER THE MARATHON it's very simple, and by "simple" I mean that it's not that simple at all. The TWO KEY INGREDIENTS I'm about to share each break out into many important specifics and though I don't believe any of it to be simple, it is absolutely understandable and comprehendible. Without further adieu, here is the MAGIC!
RUNNING FORM - "Numero Uno"
The results are simply staggering... Overwhelming!
There is no sport without movement. There is no movement without intention. Yet so many runners allow the specific movements of their bodies' to pass on by with no intention, actual education or control. The result... A multitude of complex inefficiencies that lead to less than optimal power, performance, efficiency and so many unnecessary injuries. RUNNING FORM is the foundation from which all else should be built upon. From 100 meter sprints to 100 mile ultra-marathons, the way the body moves matters and can be improved.
RUNNING FORM is the foundation from which all else should be built upon.
Over the past decade I have personally videoed and worked with somewhere around 1,000 athletes individually and in groups to overhaul their mechanical inefficiencies. The results are simply staggering... Overwhelming. As for those who doubt or argue the need and importance of optimizing running form, they probably have their reasons but they most certainly have NOT had the opportunity to see the "before and after" videos and photos of the runners I've worked with. The long term stories of these athletes' improvement and success is as obvious and apparent as the videos themselves. It is this process, the look on the face of an athlete transformed, that fires me up every single day. It's still my favorite thing about coaching!
ADD::: Check out my page on RUN FORM MAKEOVERS to schedule your one on one or group overhaul today - Live or Virtual.
That's that. Start from the beginning. Get good at running first. Then specialize the energy systems.
AEROBIC POWER - MARATHON PROGRAMMING - "Numero Dos"
Now it gets really good!
...the end goal; to arrive the runner at the starting line with the fitness and preparation to run 42k+ at the Goal Marathon Pace WHILE BEING AEROBIC!
For years I knew nothing. Then I learned a bit. I got pretty good. Then I learned a lot. I got really good... Finally, I learned I had so much of it WRONG! And now, well, now we are here... and it's a good place to be. Let me share.
When a couple training partners and I began the obsession of breaking 2:30 in the marathon in 2012, we were naturally introduced to the methods of Renato Canova.
**I wont be going into Canova too much here beyond saying he is, in my opinion (as well as many others'), the most brilliant coach in the history of run coaching. Look him up. Check out the rewards his athletes have racked up. Check out his "power points" and Let's Run threads. He is very transparent and whole heartedly tries to get the world to understand his methods. You're welcome.
Canova is important because he unlocked the 2ND INGREDIENT for me, the importance of PROGRAM DESIGN and SPECIFICITY. Now, program design itself is NOT unique and it seems everyone and their mother has a multitude of programs for marathon training. Just go online now and get instant access to hundreds of free training plans... Except before you do... don't! As I mentioned in the disclaimer, a lot of runners will arrive at a really high level by accident without any real knowledge of what it was exactly that got them there. Training Programs are similar. Sometimes a generic plan will work really well despite its arbitrary existence.
Here's the difference between a decent Marathon Training Plan and THE MAGIC! Relativity. Every single run in a buildup can specifically relate to Goal Marathon Race Pace using percentages. That's the first thing. Next, is understanding the end goal; to arrive the runner at the starting line with the fitness and preparation to run 42k+ at the Goal Marathon Pace WHILE BEING AEROBIC. The arrival of that specific fitness will determine the possibility of success. The workouts, both Anaerobic and Aerobic, are specifically and incrementally adjusted through the cycle to arrive the runner with the fitness for the next workout.
A progression in workouts is something that most plans will do, as well, but using percentages allows a specific understanding of progress made relative to the end goal. It takes out all guesswork.
To make this method work there must be a clear understanding of the Anaerobic Threshold (which is confusingly sometimes referred to as the Aerobic Threshold - either way it's the threshold between Aerobic and Anaerobic metabolism). The THRESHOLD itself will shift, relative to heart rate, over the course of the cycle so it's important to understand what paces and percentages are above or below the threshold, and to what extent, during each phase. *This can be measured as Lactate Threshold as well. It's essentially the shifting point in the body's energy systems.
We can't survive a full marathon on Anaerobic Metabolism because the total glycogen available in the human body doesn't add up. In turn, we "hit the wall" and performance decreases while our body goes into a state of gluconeogenesis - to answer the demands for glycogen. We can, however, survive a marathon using mostly Aerobic Metabolism as there is now the ability to utilize fat storage for energy needs, giving us access to a larger fuel source. AND... We can specifically train the body to produce greater power and speed in this AEROBIC zone! This is what we call, AEROBIC POWER. It is what a great marathoner specializes in whether they know it or not. This is what every key workout in a marathoner's buildup is supporting.
The two stimulus, coming from each end of the spectrum, meet in the middle at exactly the right time to arrive the athlete in that magical place.
The Long Runs, when done correctly, not only build muscular endurance, they build metabolic fitness. But the distance itself is not enough of a stimulus to create adaptation after enough training. The intensities must be tweaked as the cycle continues. The long run should always be long and I believe in going beyond race distance more than once, but the paces need to improve systematically, as well, AND they need to stay below THRESHOLD in order to build AEROBIC POWER.
The Speed Runs are strictly supportive in marathoning but no less important, meaning that we will not be racing at these intensities but we need to train here to push the actual threshold higher and improve cardio-respiratory fitness. As a cycle progresses most programs continue to build the duration and quality of pace in these workouts. This is NOT so in the Canovian style. We are actually looking to begin a cycle by tapping into the Anaerobic Zones in speed runs knowing that the specific fitness isn't there yet. So the overall workload at pace must be relatively low. As we go we can increase the workload volume and pace but eventually we need to recognize and respect the end goal - AEROBIC POWER. So, when the sharpening phases begin, we extend the volume of the speed runs but reduce the intensity. Now the speed runs start to look more and more like the Long Runs, which have been getting closer and closer to threshold pace at the same time. This is what it means to sharpen. This is how you hone the blade. Canova calls it a funnel affect. The two stimulus, coming from each end of the spectrum, meet in the middle at exactly the right time to arrive the athlete in that magical place. And man does it work!
WRAP IT UP
So there it is. RUNNING FORM plus AEROBIC POWER equal a MAGIC MARATHON RECIPE. You can arrive there in many ways, none better or worse than the other. Over the course of 15 years and 66 marathons I feel like I've tried it all. I can tell you, there is nothing better than knowing exactly how fast you COULD run if you execute properly - but execution is a whole other story. I am 41 years old now and when I find the passion to train for a race, it always amazes me at how much easier it is than when I was 31. Yes, the longer you train the easier it often gets but the smarter you get... well, that's just magic. I hope you find it! I hope this helps.
You know where to find me if you want a coach and are ready to GO FOR IT! See you on the RUN!!