Fundamentals to Run a Faster Marathon

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How do you run a faster marathon? I have been asked numerous times ‘Nate, what do I have to do to run faster’.

I have always answered in the same way. Getting fit and running fast is no different than building a house.

They both require extensive materials, time and effort to build.

I will discuss 3 key ‘house building’ pillars that have helped me run at a much higher level than others thought I was capable of.

They say your home is one of the best investments you will ever make. I totally agree but your health is an even greater investment.

You have to believe in what your doing when your out there alone, by yourself, putting in the miles.

It doesn’t matter if your a beginner or an elite athlete. No one gets results without a plan or a willingness to pursue that plan.

So what can make you a better runner? Well there are a lot of ways to get fit. You can pretty much google anything these days and get an answer.

I believe these three key points will bring you closer to running a breakthrough performance at the marathon distance.

The Bible states that a person who has a strong faith and commitment to what they do digs their plot of land on strong ground. It isn’t quick sand.

It is the perfect kind of ground suitable for the largest, best built homes.

If strong winds, torrent rain and bitter temps attack that home it will not be destroyed because it was built on an extremely strong foundation.

You are no different than that home.

Getting fit is not easy, trying to better your personal best time may not come in your time frame.

You may want it now but your achievement may come 2 to 3 years down the road, perhaps it will come much sooner.

Running is similar to building a home in that you have to invest your time before that beautiful house, the finished product, is built.

Here are a few three key ‘house building’ pillars to assist you in running your best time.

These are the same things I have done to get under the 2.20 and 2.30 barriers.

They will be the same pillars I will continue to use cause I know they work. Running fast is like building a house.

What do I mean by ‘gathering the materials’.

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Think of all the things you need to do in order to start this year in better physical shape than you were in last year.

Running entails getting your ‘materials’ in order.

What are they?

For me, it is making a time goal, getting a few pair of training shoes (which, they say, you should be swapping out every 3 to 400 miles).

For you, it could be to lose weight, run a 10K for the first time or run a personal best but making a goal is part of your ‘material’ tool box.

I try my best to set a realistic time goal, something I feel I am capable of and decide on the path I am going to take.

I set challenging goals, that is the way I have always done things.

Once you have everything in order.

Your goal is set, you have your equipment.

The next 4-6 weeks will be simply be about laying a mileage base.

What is most important thing you can possibly do to prep yourself to run a faster marathon?

You have to motivate yourself and get out the door.

You do that, you have overcome the biggest hurdle.

Consistency, motivating yourself to go run when you don’t want to is the winning half the battle.

I can assure you this will make the difference, weeks and months down the road, when you are on the starting line and you know you have prepared well.

Ever heard of the Nike advertisement that states, ‘there are clubs you cannot belong to, neighborhoods you can’t live in, schools you cannot get into, but the roads are always open’.

The roads are always open.

Lay your foundation.

Foundation meaning miles. It could be 10 miles a week at first, than 20 the next and so on. You don’t jump into sprints before warming up and training is no different.


Foundation first, results later.

I usually spend between 4-6 weeks running very easy mileage, no sprints, no checking splits.

Drop the watch before you go out the door if need be.

If you know the distance of your run, early on, pace should be completely irrelevant.

There is not a runner out there, regardless of ability level, who has not had days where they simply did not want to get out the door but this is the vital step.

Your foundation depends on if you will run a faster marathon or not.

I have trained with some of the best distance runners in the world, including Olympians, who showed me quickly that to produce a result you had better focus on putting in the work.

Your foundation is firm, it will not fall when the tough days come and you don’t feel like getting out the door and you won’t quit trying just because you have had a bad race.

Want to know why I finally got results?

THAT is why.

I have wanted to quit after putting in the best quality work of my life and still missed the mark.

What kept me going was the love for what I was doing.

It goes back to not being afraid to fail.

At least, if you have given every ounce of effort you possibly can give in the pursuit of achieving the goals you have set for yourself you will never question in your life that you didn’t give it everything.

No regrets.

You keep putting in the work, through the trials until you lay that fat golden egg and earn the goal you have been working so hard for.

You simply need to put in continual miles, day in and day out until your foundation is laid so you can…

Once you have built up a strong foundation or ‘base’ of mileage.

You can than begin to branch out and start the ground work in building your house, your race.

I perform best usually on 12 weeks of preparation.

I would not advise stretching your plan out any further than 20 weeks, otherwise you could break down.

12-16 weeks is optimal and I will write about this, at length, on another future post.

You need to start thinking progression.

You will read all over the net about various ways to train, how you should eat, how much sleep you need.

You really have to find tune what works best for you but when it comes to running fast,  training slow will not prepare you to run fast, training at a specific pace for a specific race distance will.

The only time you should be training ‘slow’ is on easy recovery runs.

Pay close attention to your heart rate after hard training sessions.

You may feel as though you are jogging but your heart may be telling you otherwise. This is why I am a a big advocate of heart rate monitors.

They can help sway you from running faster then you should after hard sessions.

I have known many runners over the years who got too caught up in running too fast.

We call it ‘anaerobic’ in the running community.

Your body builds up lactic acid at a faster rate than it is being cleared and it really is a counterproductive pace.

You would be better off not doing any physical activity than to run too fast over too many consecutive days.

It is a stressful point in any training plan when the stressful, hard work begins.

Your physical preparation or for the sake of this post, your house’s ability to weather the storm is going to be built around how smart you are in your build up.


You have to start thinking about a pace you want to run and practicing running at that pace.  THAT is key.

Have you ever watched the Kenyans finish a race? How do they usually look when they come in?

Relaxed, almost as if they did not even race. Why is that?

They took their easy days easy (and bear in mind ‘easy’ varies with the Kenyans as well as other national to elite level athletes) and they spend a significant amount of time training at or below their race pace.

That being said, some of the best Kenyan and American runners I have trained with run extremely slow on their easy days (as slow as 10-11 minute per mile pace).

Runners who can average sub 5 minute pace for 26.2 miles, that is extremely easy pace.


Kenyans and the ‘smart’ runners I have trained with have a complete disregard for what pace they run at on their recovery days.

This is where finding your pace, what works best for you, is key.

Frank Shorter, two-time Olympic medalist in the marathon put it this way, ‘my easy days are very, very easy and my hard days are very, very hard’.

I included that to remind you that if an Olympic champion can take it easy and relax on recovery days than so can you

Save the race for the race. You simply can’t expect to maintain a 12-16 week training block by not being aware of your recovery pace.

There are a few closing remarks on this pillar.

1) take your easy days easy, forget pace, relax.

2) focus on training at goal race pace

3) learn to lengthen your goal race pace effort.

The longer you can spend at that magic pace, that goal pace, the better prepared you will be to maintain it once  you have tapered (dropped your mileage).

The marathon, is one of the most complicated events out there to master. You will have ups and downs. I had to run slow before I eventually ran a fast marathon.

I am still seeking how to run a faster marathon.

I dream of  breaking the 2.15.00 marathon barrier (5.09 per mile pace).

I had to fail several times before I ran under 2.20, it hurt to fail so I understand athletes who ask questions so I have their interest in my heart. I can relate to the ups and downs.

The best advice I can give, in closing, is to be smart.

Build your house on a strong foundation, take it one week at a time and think long-term. Fitness does not come overnight and neither do results.

Keep practicing race pace.

The longer you can go at goal race pace the better equipped you have made your body’ ability to clear lactic acid at maximum effort and this is what you are looking for come race day.

Remember, race pace efforts are not tempo runs. Race pace is working at 90-110% effort and should only be practiced after two to three days of easy recovery

You want it to feel effortless, almost as if you are on cruise control.

If you are seeking to run a faster marathon or have the sub 4 hour barrier in mind stop in and get the blueprint.

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