A photographer friend sent me a photo after yesterday’s Fox Valley Marathon. There was some guy named Chris that looked like me who was running the race. Perhaps I ran 26.2 miles yesterday and did not even know it. That’s how easy it can be folks, if you have friends in the right places.
But actually, a friend of ours named Jamie Meyer actually ran the distance and won the women’s race in 3:19. Jamie is an avid running competitor and superb mother who juggles training with raising her children and all the other events of life. She is not tall in stature but she is quick on her feet. Here’s a pic of Jamie with some of her friends that completed the race.
It’s a tremendous accomplishment for anyone to run a marathon. 26.2 miles is not an easy distance to cover. And while the lead runners make it look easy, they feel the same sensations that most mid-packers feel. It typically hurts.
But with the right amount of training, and on the right day, it might not hurt as much as it typically does. Your running can come together in fascinating ways if you put in the effort. Basically, the trick is to spread your suffering out over a period of weeks and months in hopes that your fitness will make race day feel tolerable.
As has been noted many times in this blog, too many runners and triathletes forget to fun faster than their actual race pace in training. The principles are simple. Do time trials and intervals at a faster rate than your goal pace so that your body is trained to sustain that tempo. Then the actual pace of racing is not such a strain.
If you plan to run 7:30 pace as Jamie did, that means doing interval training at 7:00 or even below that at times. The body needs to be stressed beyond race pace, and so does the mind. Then come race day much of the race can feel tolerable. That’s how you run a marathon without really trying.
Granted, at some point the pace will catch up with you. There will be discomfort. But it is much wiser to be able to get through 15 miles in a perceived state of comfort than to be feeling like you’re suffering to keep up with your goal pace from the start. Right?
There are some ironies in all this. One of the best ways to prepare for the “second half” of the race, when you do begin to feel it a bit (15, 20 or 23 miles, it all depends…) is to run very long, slow runs at well above race pace. Then the trick is to throw in some hard miles at the end. This is the concept of creating a “brick” at the end of your runs. Triathletes do that by getting off the bike and running. Marathoners need to do it by adding speed at the end of their long runs.
A group with whom I once trained would do 17 miles at 7:30-8:00 pace and close with three miles in 15 minutes. They were all talented runners, for sure, capable of 10K times under 30:00 in some cases. But some ran marathons as well, and that’s how they prepared for the miles that hurt, and that really count.
So congratulations to Jamie Mayer for a fantastic Fox Valley Marathon race. She’s been an inspiration to her many friends for years. Now she’s an inspiration to all who shared those race miles with her as well.