Well, I wouldn’t necessarily call these instant tips for marathon success as this is a distance that can’t be mastered overnight.
I don’t like the word ‘can’t’ so am going a bit out of my comfort zone in writing that. I think the marathon would not be as unique of a distance as it is, if it was an event we all could master easily.
I had to run a 2.40 and 2.51 marathon (and numerous other crash courses in learning how to race 26.2 miles) before I broke the 2.20.00 marathon barrier.
What can be done is doing things in your training routine that will instantly make a difference in how you perform before you toe the line and while your executing the race itself.
Instant Tips For Marathon Success
#1. Believe in the Impossible. I don’t care if you are a 5 hour marathoner dreaming to break 4 hours. You can do it. It is far better to find a reason to believe in what is ‘unrational’ than what is ‘rational’. What I am saying is that you have to be thinking big.
Small thinking never got anyone who is successful anywhere, so think like the champion you are and don’t associate with anyone who will tell you otherwise. You have to believe in yourself and what you do far more than anyone else.
#2 Follow Your Passion. No one is going to get you out the door to train. This is where you will have to use your intuition, your drive. I am going to be real with you.
Marathon success doesn’t come easy, but you have to make up your mind that you truly want it. It is one of the the toughest sports anyone can participate in.
You are asking a lot out of yourself to race for 26.2 miles and people who do it well spend an enormous, almost unhealthy, amount of time sharpening their skills to be successful at it.
If your half assing the effort, don’t expect miraculous results. Half assed efforts get half assed results.
#3 Research Everything You Can Find On Hydration Techniques. Mens Health did an outstanding article called, How To Hydrate For Running I highly recommend reading it, just so you are thinking ahead of how important using different hydration strategies in your training is.
This is should be the #1 instant tip for marathon success on your agenda.
Why? You can do everything right leading into a marathon, but if you don’t take fluid intake and calorie consumption seriously as your racing, the marathon will eat you alive.
I say this because I have learned my lesson the very hard way. I got in the habit of thinking a few sips here and there in the race was enough.
Sure, I practiced in training during long runs drinking, but training and racing are two different things. You get caught up in the hype and excitement of the race and forget what is most important, hydration, we get more concerned with the crowds, people around us and the next person up ahead.
Do not neglect hydrating well in your race, grab more than one cup at the stations. If you have to walk temporarily so you can drink, do so, but don’t miss this vital instant tip for marathon success. It will make the difference between you either running a 10 minute PR or 20 minutes off your best.
This is one small thing you can control which will pay huge dividends in aiding you during your race.
#4 Run The Race You Have Planned, Not Someone Else’s Race. This is easier said than done because we make our pre-race plans and far too often we never follow them. You plan on going out conservative and end up running the first 10 miles at 20 seconds per mile too fast and wonder why your struggling come mile 15.
I am not harping on just you, this goes for me, your friends and anyone else regardless where you are in the world. I have done this and payed for it dearly. You have to take this seriously. Run your planned race and one you know you have control of.
The idea that you can’t lose contact with the leaders has cut more throats than it has saved.” – Arthur Lydriard
If you have as your goal to hold 7 minute mile pace for 26.2 miles and someone your running with is holding 6.15 pace, it is wise to back off from them and stick to your plan. It is better to be wise early than to be foolish the first 10 miles and pay for it come mile 20…which brings me to the #5 instant tip
#5 Don’t Be Afraid To Fail. Is running your race important? Absolutely. That being said, I think it is just as important to be able to branch out your thought patterns and consider adjusting your race plan as the race unfolds.
There will be times, if you nail your taper correctly, that you will be running 20 seconds per mile faster than your goal pace and it feels as if you are jogging. This is, of course, a normal feeling the first 5-7 miles, but if you are still feeling that good at mile 17, 18, 19…keep going for it…
…just don’t be afraid of failure if your feeling good and wondering if you can hold it. If you have trained yourself to hold 7 minute pace for a marathon, there is no reason why holding 6.45-50 per mile average is out of reach.
You may fail (or you may drop 21 minutes off your PR or more), but it doesn’t hurt to venture out of your comfort zone and try something extremely difficult, something you think you can’t do.
Don’t fear failure. — Not failure, but low aim, is the crime. In great attempts it is glorious even to fail. – Bruce Lee
I ran my fastest marathon, a 21-minute personal best, by letting go of preconceived race plans. I knew I deserved to break 2.22 and despite my PR at the time prior to breaking 2.20, was 2.40, my preparation gave me the confidence to take some risks, to not be afraid to fail and give it a shot.
I hit the half-marathon point 3 seconds off my best time for the half-marathon itself (1.07.09, PR is 1.07.06). I went with the lead Kenyans, took hold of that golden moment and capitalized on it.
You won’t know for sure until your in the moment. There are countless scenarios we, as runners, play in our minds before the starter gun goes off.
It isn’t until we are in the heat of the battle can we truly gauge how our body is reacting to the pace. I knew I did the work to run with those guys on that day and from a time stand point, I didn’t belong.
I was a 2.40 marathoner prior to the start of that marathon running with 2.12 guys. I didn’t care. I had done the hard training and most importantly, my training had proved I could do it.
You have to have the confidence that you are ready to do something like that before you make that leap.
If you are a 4 hour marathoner and want to drop 30 minutes off your time in your upcoming marathon, have you done the workouts necessary to make that kind of leap?
When your moment arrives and you know it, you can’t back down!
I have said this before, wanting and doing are two different things. We all want to run a great marathon, 5K, 10K, 10 miler or half-marathon. You may just want to get to a goal weight and find the joy again in just running one mile, to do that you have got to crush the want and do the do baby!
You want an instant tip for marathon success, that is one for sure.
#6 Focus ONLY On Things You Have Control Over. It is cold outside. So what, what control do you have over that? Don’t let a cold day put a damper on your enthusiasm for achieving what it is you have in mind.
There are countless individuals out training in inclement weather and they still come out on top? Do you think the runners in Kenya are not out in 90 degree weather training in sweats? I have seen this first hand.
There was a runner I trained with by the name of Patrick Maturi who did this all the time. We all thought he was nutts but it was his state of mind that was far more impressive than his running times (he ran 2.08.59 for the marathon in Chicago).
I did a 15 mile run with him on the High Line Canal in Denver, Colorado. It had to have been about 80 degrees that day and he shows up with a nike sweat suit on and ran the entire run with all that one. This guy was hungry and persistent.
He was also a former member of the military unit I was a part of for three years, the Army World Class Athlete Program.
Do I necessarily think you have to wear tons of clothing to be a determined runner….oh hellllllll no, but the portrait I am painting here is you have to monitor your state of mind, how you think when it comes to things outside of your control. It is of no use to you to give weight to anything outside of your control.
There is no such thing as bad weather, only soft people – Legendary Distance Coach, Bill Bowerman
Is it hot today? What am I going to do about it? Hydrate well, wear cool clothing…those are things you can control. Forget the rest. Focus on what can be controlled and disregard what cannot. This is an instant tip to make you mentally successful for marathon performance.
#7 Study The Greats. If you are a 5 hour marathoner, what does it take to run 4.30? How do runners who are running 30 minutes faster than you get to that level? What does a 3 hour marathoner do, that a 4 hour performer doesn’t? What can you learn from them?
There are endless books, podcasts, websites where you can go to learn. I like Matt Fitzgerald’s books Run Faster From The 5K To Marathon and RUN: The Mind-Body Method of Running by Feel Two, great books, out of multitudes of others that you can learn from to better your marathon performance.
I’d be biased to say 197 Ways To Running And Achieving The Race Of Your Dreams is a personal favorite of them all, but that is just me.
The point is, to run great, you have to make use of all the tools available to you that you can learn from and adjust your training so that it works for you, not against you.
Great runners make the effort and have little room for anything that doesn’t work. If it doesn’t work for them, they continue to fine tune their strategy until something does and they run with it, literally
Find power in that. You too, are great, so don’t spend your time focusing on things that won’t get you closer to your goal.
#8 Take Breaks, Sometimes LONG breaks. There is a prominent runner (just recently ran 2.11 in London) and friend of mine contemplating quitting the sport. I quite honestly understand his reasoning for it, being tired of living around the poverty level like most runners trying to make it on the world stage are.
We all, regardless of our ability level, get stressed and tired sometimes. Running is a great sport, but if it is taking all your time and energy and giving nothing back. It may just be your body telling you it needs a long break. It doesn’t mean your best running days are behind you.
I spent the last two years chasing a sub 2.19.00 marathon. My training clearly indicated I was capable and having already run 2.19.35 the time doesn’t intimidate me, but I was stressed out, putting far too much weight on myself trying to hit a time to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials.
I can surely write in-depth on the importance of taking breaks and know how vitally important this is. Don’t wait until your old sitting on a rocking chair looking back wondering if you did everything you possibly have done to achieve your dream time. I can do that.
I flew to Vancouver, Canada, ran 2.40 (after a 1.08 opening half) to finish 10th in March of last year. Missed it. Took 3 days off, started training for the Monumental Indianapolis Marathon. I ran a 1.08.44 half-marathon to take second to Kenyan Micah Tirop’s 1.08.28 at the hilly Germantown Half-Marathon leading into it.
I than flew to Indianapolis after some solid training including doing a solo 20-miler in 1.50.02 (my best solo 20-miler prior to running 2.19 was a 1.56 at 6000ft). I was ready, ended up with a 2.26 at Indy. Took 3 days off and did something I will never do a again, running two marathons four weeks a part.
The 2.19.00 marathon was not to be gained as I flew to Sacremento to compete in the California International Marathon and ran 2.32.24 (after a 1.09 opening half and still in 2.24 pace at 20 miles). The same course where I ran my PR of 2.19.35.
I desperately needed a break. I didn’t enjoy running, wasn’t truly fired up about it. I contemplated retiring from serious training and wanted to move on. All that changed after I took the most time off I had ever allowed myself in 20 years of running, three months.
I could retire today and live with myself. I am at peace with what I have done but goals keep me going. I want to break 2.16 before I hang my serious shoes up. What is your dream? Are you doing the things needed to achieve it? I share the struggle with you.
Personally, I know a sub 2.16 time is going to take an enormous effort out of me to obtain but we have to keep hustling.
To say that I am not fired up about attacking the distance in 2013 would be an understatement, all I needed was some time away from the sport to contemplate and think.
I beg of you, take some time away from the sport if you wish, but don’t let the pressure of times you want to run, winning age groups, breaking records diminish you or the love of the sport.