Shaving Time Off Your Upcoming Marathon

On today’s Extra Kick, Coach Tony shares some tips on how to better your chances of a PR in your upcoming marathon. Listen in!


Audio Transcript

Coach Tony: Hello everyone. Welcome back to the Top Extra Kick podcast. I hope your day is going well and thanks for tuning in to the show.

I am here to answer your running and training questions so that you could train smarter, stay healthy, and achieve your goals.

Today we have a great question from Lauren.

Lauren: I’m looking to qualify for the Boston Marathon. To do so, I need to lower my pace by 40 seconds. What do I do?

Tony: Good question Lauren. It’s a smidge hard to answer specific to you because I don’t know what your overall pace is.

The reason I say that is if you are running an 8-minute pace, you need to get to 720 pace. That’s a little bit different than if you are at 12-minute pace and you need to get to 1120 pace.

With that said, the approach is still going to be the same and there’s three areas that we need to look into and I’ll talk about them quickly and then we’ll go into in depth on each one.

There’s strength, speed and there’s teaching your body pace. I think those are the three areas that we need to focus on.

Let’s first jump into strength. You need strength to hold pace. You want to do a schedule of long runs and you want to do as much long runs as you can. When it comes to long runs, the key is finding balance.

A lot of people settle in around 18-20 miles as their long run, which I think is good. There might be some people to try to go to 22 or 23. The problem with going too far is that recovery actually starts to grow almost exponentially, I think you could possibly say.

If you’re going to do an 18 or 20 miler, there’s going to be some recovery, but people that have done that distance know the recovery isn’t too bad. When you do 23 miles, recovery starts to become a bit more.

The problem with that is maybe you gain a little bit from that extra longer run, but the downside is you can [00:02:19 start on the recover in 48 hours] and start to do some good mileage again.

Maybe that’s 96 hours or 4-5 days. You to start to lose some training time. It’s really a balance in terms of, what you’re going to get from the long run versus the recovery associated with it.

You do need to get that schedule of long runs whether it’s two long runs back to back. This Saturday and the next two, take it down a little bit or if you alternate every other week but you do need to get that diet of long runs.

That can be the hard part of marathon training because it can be time consuming. Maybe do four to five hours for a long run on a weekend but also prior to that, there’s prep time, getting ready, getting up early, and the night before and things like that. A lot of things to factor in, but the key is you have to build strength.

The next area would be speed. You kind of have to teach your body how to run faster. Our body needs to be pushed into a discomfort zone.

You will you need to push your body into a quicker pace. It has to learn to develop the ability to run at a quicker pace. That’s something you have to be careful about. You can’t rush increasing your speed.

If your goal is to lower your time by 40 seconds, you want to be entering a training program that allows you the time maybe six months or so to first work on some good base building.

Once you get that good base build, then you can start to increase that long run schedule and then start to do some more speed work.

You’ve got to be careful not to do a lot of building strength at the same time of doing intense speed work out. From a speed standpoint, it’s probably less on the track and more on the roads.

If you’re going to be on the roads, it’s not going to be quarter or half mile distance; it’s going to be more time base. Maybe it’s workouts like 20 repeats of 1-minute intervals or 10 by 2-minute intervals where, what you’re doing is for two minutes you’re running a quicker pace and pushing the pace a little bit.

Once a two minutes is out, maybe you’re recovering for like one minute and then once that minute is up, you start the whole thing again. When I say 10 by 2 minutes, you’re basically repeating that process of 2 minutes hard, 1 minute easy for 10 total reps, if you will.

There’s a lot of different things that you can do, but the key is it’s not an all-out sprint. It’s trying to get going in a roll back where you’re having a hard time carrying on a conversation, because you’re trying to force that body to go faster and you are going faster than in marathon pace.

For example, you’re trying to run at 840 and you’re trying to race at eight minutes, you’re probably doing this maybe more at the 730 or 720 paces as far as the speed workout.

There’s a lot of different things that you can do, different types of speed workouts and things but the advice that I do give is, be careful.

You can easily get yourself if you push pace too quickly and you’re not going to be doing any all-out sprint there’s no need for that if you’re trying to lower your pace for a marathon or half marathon.

Teaching your body pace is important. So many people run especially first timers own to run shop in Boston. I grew up in Boston and run Boston, so I have plenty of experience with Boston.

Many people would do the first race, or second race and they’d say that I blew up at Heartbreak Hill because it’s so hilly. Next year I’m going to run more hills and this and that.

They didn’t blow up because of the hills, they blew it because they didn’t have the strength.

Heartbreak hill is not that crazy of a hill, it just happens to be where it falls but they just went out too hard; simple as that. They didn’t teach their body pace that marathon is you have to respect the distance.

Negative splits are a great way to run but it’s a hard thing to do. It’s hard to hold pace the very beginning of a race and not go out too hard.

You can tell. You can see people go by a mile 5 in a marathon and tell us they’re going to have a good race or if they’re probably not going to finish. The key is really holding pace. I gave an example of that.

Let’s say that your workout is 10 miles at marathon pace. You’re going to do maybe a mile warmup, 10 miles at marathon pace, and then a mile cooldown. Let’s say a marathon pace is 8 minutes. 10 miles is going to be 80 minutes.

That doesn’t mean average 80 minutes or run 730 pace for a couple miles and then you’re exhausted towards the end and you do a nine minute pace. What that means is getting a watch, going somewhere you know the mile markers, and literally start your workout.

Get to that first mile and it should say 8 minutes. If it says eight minutes, keep holding that pace. If you get there at 750, try to dial it back a little bit and try to get to mile 2 not at 16 minutes.

What you’re trying to do is you’re trying to get each single mile at eight minutes. If you get to the first mile at 750, try to hit eight minutes as best you can on that second mile.

Let’s say that you go on the first mile and it’s 820, don’t think that you have to hit 16 minutes from mile 2 so the average is 8.

What you’re going to be doing there is you’re be running like 740 pace you want to go to every single mile and try to hit eight minutes within a couple of seconds.

The body’s an amazing thing if you can dial and pace your body has a great ability to hold pace but you have to teach it that long run pace.

If you’re going to have a good long run schedule, try to find balance between how far those long runs, are the recovery time in between them, do some speed work in there but don’t do excessive speed work out, and do some pace work.

If you’re doing pace work at marathon pace and you doing 10 miles or 8 miles I don’t think that that’s going to be too big of a concern. So Lauren, I wish you the best of luck and thank you for your question.

That’s it for today’s show. If you haven’t already done so, please consider heading to iTunes or your favorite podcast directory and subscribing or leaving a review.

It helps us to reach more runners like you. Thank you for tuning and I hope you have a great day and I will see you on the roads.

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