January 8 2018
Our resident run coach advises on the point at which runners should enlist trained help to reach their running goals.
The Boston Marathon has become so popular, you’ll need to think about running a minute and half to two minutes faster than your qualifying time. I have seen so many runners disappointed because even though they ran the qualifying time, they still DID NOT get accepted into the marathon. Here are my best tips for getting to Boston—after qualifying multiple times, I finally get to go this year!
The biggest mistake you can make is piling on a lot of mileage before your body is ready. Give yourself enough time to build a base of mileage before you start your actual training. Consider hiring a coach to guide you. If that is out of your budget, there are online training plans that can help you. In fact, I have used an online training plan for each of my BQ marathons. I recently hired a coach this fall and it is the first time I have had a coach since college!
For example, if your current marathon time is 4:30, and you need to run 3:40 for a BQ, know that it will most likely take patience and time to whittle 50 minutes off of your time. Running excessive mileage (at a fast pace) too soon can lead to injury. Gradual progression rather than big leaps is your friend!
Make things a little easier for yourself and pick a fast course for your BQ attempt. Whether it is a flat course or one with rolling hills, do what appeals to your strengths.
I knew the Chicago Marathon would be perfect for me, as I tend to run well on flat courses. Some runners love rolling hills. Now is not the time to try a super hard uphill course!
Also always make sure the course is USATF or AIMS certified. If you are not sure, ask the race director. Think about what is going to work well for you. Maybe a small race near your home (zero travel) with rolling hills will work much better for you than a big city pancake flat course a plane ride away.
This is no walk in the park. It’s not going to be easy. Think about the time commitment and whether you are willing to sacrifice some things to achieve your goal. You are going to have long runs on the weekend. You’ll be running most days of the week. You will need to get plenty of sleep each night. Your nutrition is extremely important (eat some sort of protein within 20-30 minutes of finishing your run. I love almond butter and apples, a banana or a glass of chocolate milk) and don’t forget to hydrate (I drink 100 ounces of water each day).
A big mistake a lot of runners make is not running easy on the easy days. There will be plenty of days to run fast. On the easy runs, you should be running 1 to 2 minutes slower than your marathon goal pace. Enjoy these runs! Run with a friend (make sure they aren’t pushing the pace), don’t look at your watch, enjoy the scenery and let your body recovery from the previous hard workout.
Speaking of hard workouts, make sure they are fitting into your training. Tempo runs, track workouts and progression long runs are going to be part of your vocabulary. One example is running a few miles at marathon goal pace during a long run. You want your legs to know how it feels to run fast when they are tired.
By this I mean core work, strength training, foam rolling and massage. Running, well, is not just all about running—it’s about all the little things. Having a strong core is essential to becoming a better, faster runner.
Strong hips and glutes are very important. You will also want to do some strength training for overall fitness. Weight training at home or at the gym can make a huge difference in your performance. Foam rolling can speed up the recovery process and scheduling a massage for yourself can do wonders for your body. I also do 20-35 squats every single day and a 10-minute dynamic warm up (including lunges, open and close the gate, and leg kicks) before every run.
Sometimes we have the best training cycle and the worse race day. It happens. We get sick, injured or just have an off day. Try not to let it ruin your entire race. At the end of the day, smile and realize we GET to run! Isn’t that awesome? Even if something happens that you don’t achieve a BQ, you can always try again. Chances are you’ll come back stronger and faster the next time!