Jump Start Your Marathon/Half Training

by Coach Michael Merlino, In Flight Running


Spring break has come and gone and for those who plan on running a marathon or half marathon this fall or winter, it is not too early to get things into motion. In Flight Running starts our official group training program on May 27th for both fall and winter marathoners.

We start training earlier than many in Houston because we have found that 1) Most runners need more time to knock the cobwebs off after last season and 2) Beginners need more time to build a base before ratcheting up miles to get them race ready 3) Fall marathoners (Chicago, New York, DC Marine Corps etc.) just don’t have as much time to train up for their races.

Between now and the start of the marathon training season there are a few things you need to do now to get back into that marathon training mindset, reduce your risk of injury and start building or amping up your running base. Here is a quick list of things you need to do now:

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Running On Different Surfaces

by Dr. Jeffrey Ross, D.P.M., F.A.C.F.A.S.


Ever wonder why so many people run in the parks, on dirt trails where it’s nice and soft, rather than that hard concrete we punish ourselves on during marathons? The answer is very simple: natural trail surfaces “give”; concrete does not.

As we all know too well, the legs, knees, and feet of a runner take on the full extent of impact trauma, shock absorption, and friction. Under ideal conditions, therefore, we look for surfaces that will absorb shock to the lower extremities while simultaneously providing energy return to the foot in a continued motion.

There are quite a number of surfaces one can run on artificial snow, asphalt, bark, carpet, cinders, clay, concrete, dirt, grass, hard synthetics, rock, sand, snow, and wood. In a report featured in 1983 in Athletic Purchasing and Facilities, John Sprague described 106 synthetic surfaces for sports.

At one point, you may have run on a majority of these surfaces. Which one did you like the best, and which surface gave you the best without injury? Which surface has the best efficiency, and yet lowers the risk for repeated trauma to legs, knees, and feet?

One frequently asked question is, “Should we run on a natural surface or a synthetic surface?”

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Get Into The Marathon Mindset

By Coach Michael Merlino



As you complete those final peak long runs 6-8 weeks before your goal marathon or half marathon race the best thing you can do is get your head into the marathon mindset while your body is racking up the miles you need for a great race.

With that in mind here are some final tips to refine and get the most out of your weekly peak long runs as you approach race day. These tips would work for anyone who is training for a marathon or half marathon, especially those who are about 2 months away from their goal race.

T
ake A Hot Shower Before Each Long Run

Allow enough time in the morning before you run to jump in the shower and rinse off with a nice hot shower. This helps loosen and wake up your muscles before you ask them to perform.

Treat Each Long Run Like A Simulated Marathon or Half Marathon
These final weeks are your final chances to practice how you will have to perform on marathon day. How you perform on race day has as much to do with the small things you do right just as much as the physical training. Go to bed early and lay out your clothes the night before each long run.  Get up at the same time pre-long
run as you would for marathon day. Practice eating a pre-race breakfast to test out which foods give you good energy while minimizing stomach issues.

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Don’t Always Focus On Pacing

Today’s subject is on pacing and both our obsessive love and occasional hate of it.

Getting to Boston one day for all of us, God willing, is of course all about pacing because you pretty much have to be a badass runner relative to your age to get there.

But I see many runners of every pace put waaay too much emphasis on their continued almost weekly obsession to get faster. I already covered the #1 reason runners get injured which is too many miles (see tip #1 post below) but the other huge reason runners get injured and defeat themselves is putting waaay too much emphasis on pacing every week.

GPS watches like the Garmin are great tools but they are fueling this even more since we all know down to the second what our pace is. Pace is the end result of your effort not the beginning meaning if your legs, muscular system, heart and lungs do not have a base or are trained up properly pushing pace will get you hurt or not allow you to burn fat stores and drop the garbage weight that makes many of us slower.

Over pacing during training when your body is not ready for it would be like taking a mis-aligned Ford Pinto (I am showing my age here) that is not tuned up that well and rolling it down the autobahn. Guess what will happen? The engine will probably blow a gasket, fuel economy will suck and the wheels will probably fall off. Not to overuse the car analogy here but your body is your car and how you drive it truly counts if you want to keep the car on the road or trade up to a Jag one day.

So during this spring off season run loose and just get good quality lower miles in making sure you are rebuilding base, your pacing is appropriate and you have some variance between your mid week running pace and your longer weekend run. Your longer weekend run should be very easy and conversational.  I know, it’s tough to do but the runners of any pace level who get that are the ones who I see excelling with their running.

I will give you upcoming tips over the next few weeks on other things to add to the mix during the spring including monitoring heart rate and foot speed or cadence, two things I will be preaching to my runners even more this next training season to minimize injury and become faster.

It’s a tough job keeping runners in check with pacing but someone’s gotta do it so I will continue to preach research running not just gut running. Remember all the running you do that is not on a race course is training and if your pacing during training is too close to racing speed then you are probably headed for an injury and we all get cranky when that happens.


Don’t worry we will handle ways to get faster (once again based on research not the latest get fast in 5 steps Runners World article) but during the spring just get the quality miles in, gently rebuild base if you have lost your edge and sneak in some strength training to build strength and toughness for the marathon training season that lies ahead.

Tough love man but I am a realist knowing that we are all wired around “how fast am I” or “how fast should I be”. Take the pressure off in the Spring, get out the door more consistently and don’t worry so much about pacing or mileage. In fact try running without a watch, Garmin or an Ipod and get a better handle of how your foot strike sounds when you run. Leave the gadgets home at least once a week. Tough to do but it is truly liberating!

Long Run Strategies For Those Pre Race Long Runs

Here in Houston we are just 10 weeks away from our Hometown Marathon on January 17th, 2010. Our group has already trained for 25 weeks but for those that have survived this far, execution and consistency are the keys to getting to the start line and having a great race. With that in mind here are some final tips to refine and get the most out of your weekly long run. These tips would work for anyone who is training for a marathon or half marathon, especially those who are about 2 months away from their goal race.

Take A Hot Shower Before Your Long Run
Allow enough time in the morning to jump in the shower and rinse off with a nice hot shower. This helps loosen and wake up your muscles before you ask them to perform.

Treat Each Long Run Like A Simulated Marathon or Half Marathon
These final weeks are your final chances to practice what you will do on marathon day. How you perform on race day has as much to do with the small things as it does all of the physical training. Go to bed early and lay out your clothes the night before. Get up at the same time you would for the marathon. Practice eating a pre race breakfast. You get the picture here.

If You Are Going To Try New Things Now Is The Time
If you have not experimented enough with what carb snack works best for you during a long run do it now! Don’t wait til race day. Go to your local running store and buy a selection of things to try out over the final weeks and stick with what works and feels best with your system.

Is It Time For Some New Shoes?
If you have logged more than 300 miles on your running shoes they may be spent. Another sign that your shoes are on their last legs are experiencing knee or heel pain that you have not had before. This is a sign that the cushioning in your shoes has worn down. I like buying a pair of shoes 9 -12 weeks before my race so I have some fresh shoes to tackle my longest long run in the 18 – 22 mile range. Then I would buy a second pair to break in a 1-2 weeks before your race as your official race pair. When you finish your race you will have 2 pairs to alternate in the off season when your mileage goes down which will make both pairs last longer.

Don’t Mess Around At Fluid Stops – Keep Moving Forward
Get more serious about keeping your body moving forward during long runs. Do not spend too much time standing around our chatting at fluid stops with your training partners. Stop, take down your fluids and move on even if you are walking first before you get back into your stride.

Are You Running Your Long Run Slow Enough?
I know this sounds like a stupid question but I spend 80% of my time on long runs reminding people to run relaxed and SLOW. Long runs are meant to build endurance and should not be run in oxygen debt. Running long runs too fast literally trains your body to slam into a wall on race day. Run slow and controlled on long runs and you train your body to use fat more efficiently as a fuel source. That is a good thing on race day and if you play your cards right and consistanly run slower on these endurance runs you may drop a few pounds of fat before race day. Just reminder that your body cannot utilize fat as a fuel source in the abscence of oxygen. If you can’t hold a conversation with your fellow runners drop them and run with a slower pack.

Are You Training At Your Pace Or Somone Else’s?
This goes hand in hand with my point above but at this stage in the game if you have done the training and some racing you should know your pace. If you are consistently running with someone who is way off your pace (too fast or too slow) you could be setting yourself up for failure on race day. Know your pace, practice your pace and execute your pace on race day. Don’t run someone else pace or race for that matter.

Become A Morning Runner Over The Next Few Weeks

Last time I checked most marathons, with the exception of Boston, are run early in the day. So if you are doing your long runs our even your shorter mid-week runs in the pm you may want to shift them to the am. This will get your body used to performing in the morning when your race will be run. Also, the best time to run is right after your body has been horizontal all night because important muscles like the calves are not yet fatigued from everyday activities. Most will find that their bodies will perform much better in the am. Of course caffeine always helps.

Add Some Terrain To Your Training Runs
In H-town we are lacking in the hills department. When you get a chance mix in some mid-week rolling hill workouts by shifting your workouts from the flat Memorial Park loop to the trails of Allen Parkway. Freelance and add your own hills by randomly running off trail on grassy surfaces where it is safe to do so. You will be amazed how this will improve your pacing.

Ladies – Stick With Flats & Please No Pedicures!
Every year we have a running foot catastrophe when I get a report of one of our female runners whose foot is riddled with blisters following a pedicure. A pedicure will strip all of the foot calus you build up from solid training. Get used to it ladies your feet will not be as pretty if you become a long distance runner. Save the pedicure for after the big race. Other than that minimize the use of high heels and wear flats every chance you get!

Minimize Extracurriculum Sports

If you plan on finishing a marathon and doing well that must be your primary sport. Minimize playing other sports, pick up games etc because with all of the running you are doing this increases your risk of injury dramatically. Save the tennis, pick up basketball games etc. for after race day. No one wants and ankle sprain just weeks away from race day.

Book A Massage!

If you have not figured it out yet every distance runner should find a massage therapist. The mileage will take its toll on anyone and you want to work out the kinks, sore spots and problem areas during your training season before they become larger problems. Stick with a set weekly, monthly massage schedule you can afford. Also book your pre or post marathon massage now before you therapist gets booked up.

Fine Tune Your Training With Metabolic & VO2 Max Testing

If you really want some good data on heart rate and pacing book a metabolic test. There are two major types of testing. A RMR or Resting Metabolic Rate determines metabolism level and how may calories per day you need to fuel your life, workouts and weight goals. The Anearobic Threshold (AT) and VO2 Max test is performed on a treadmill and deteremines heart rate at which your body becomes anearobic or lacks adequate oxygen to perform well. Determining your true heart rate zones allow you to run a pace that will not get you in trouble or hit the wall.