3 Pieces of Advice To Our Runners
October is nearly here which means the Chicago Marathon is right around the corner. We have seen a lot of new faces on the local running paths here in Frankfort, and as always we have quite a few patients who are looking to take on the challenge of 26.2 miles in the city (or other fall marathons).
If this is your first attempt at tackling 26.2 miles, we wish you the best of luck! We hope it is as fulfilling for you as that distance has been for both of us in the past.
We want to share a little practical advice whether it's your first race or if you're a seasoned veteran.
1) It may be a little late now since we're two weeks away, but your weekly mileage is more important than your long run. Many beginner runners place too much emphasis on the long run at the end of the week and ignore the importance of your weekly miles. The long run can be a good mental tool if you are new to running marathons, but we assure you that the cumulative miles you put on your legs during the entire training program are more important than the 20 mile run you are building towards at the end of the training program. The benefit to gradually increasing your total weekly mileage is that you are training on tired and fatigued legs which (with proper recovery) allows them to recover and develop more strength and stamina. Too often we see people skip runs during the week and place too much importance on completing the 12-22 mile run on Saturday or Sunday (we have also made this mistake). Those long runs can be beneficial but not as beneficial as the weekly build up.
2) Don't run your best race in training. 2 Weeks out from the big race may seem like the time to test yourself by seeing how well you can hit your 20 mile run, or seeing if you can set a land speed record on your shorter 3-5 mile runs during the week. This can be a recipe for disaster. Novice runners tend to make the mistake of thinking that if they train really hard now in these final two weeks they will perform better on race day. Many times they discover the exact opposite (ask Dr. Matt about his second marathon, and how that strategy worked for him). Now is the time to begin coasting to the start line. If you have trained consistently in the months leading up to this race, it is time to trust the miles you have put in up until now. Showing up to the starting line refreshed and recovered will serve you better than trying to run 7 minute miles these last couple weeks of training. The other mistake novice runners make is forcing the long run. Like we talked about in number 1, the long run has benefits but is not everything. If you are heading out the door and starting your last long run and notice that it just doesn't feel right, don't force it. If you're achy and sore and thinking about not completing that final hurdle of your training, THAT IS OK. Trust us. Forcing yourself to run through injury, illness, or soreness can often times keep you from finishing your actual race or sometimes keep you from even reaching the starting line (again, ask Dr. Matt about his 2nd marathon). If you are new to the sport, the final long run of training may seem like the most important training event, but we assure you it isn't. If you're not feeling it that day, cut it short and start to rest. Your best performance comes as a result of a good taper that allows your body to recover.
3) Last, but certainly not least, this is not the time to "try something new." Don't buy a new pair of shoes that aren't broken in, don't try that new supplement your friend just bought, and don't begin to drink or eat anything differently now that you haven't been doing during training. A friend of ours decided to exclusively drink coconut water during his first marathon without having experimented with it first. Let's just say that after his 3rd porta potty visit, he decided it was probably not the best idea to finish the race that day. Do what you have done up until this point, and don't change a thing.
In summary, if you have been training somewhat consistently, you will be just fine in the race. Enjoy the process and enjoy the experience (good and bad) that comes from running 26.2 miles!