By: Jeremy Wallace
I remember the day I ran my first big race, the 2009 Portland Marathon. That day I had dreams of qualifying for the holy grail of amateur distance running in the US, The Boston Marathon. I had a coach and trained hard in the months leading up to the race. I was able to run one 6:50 mile and had some mileage on my legs to back it up. Race day I set out at a 7:10 pace which would put me in the finishing chute in 3:07. I felt that with some grit I’d have no problem hitting my Boston qualifying time of 3:10. There was only one problem. It’s name was Mile 17. I hit a wall so hard it might as well have been made from brick. By mile 18 I was walking some. By mile 21, I was asking the nice Portland spectators for food… seriously. The truth is I wasn’t in shape to run a 3:10 or even a 3:30 that day and if I knew then what I know now, perhaps my pace would’ve been a bit more conservative (…or maybe not. I’m a hard-headed man, after all. Just ask Melissa). That first race I learned a hard lesson. Know what you’re capable of in a marathon and shoot directly for that time.
So, how do you figure out what you’re capable of? As it turns out, you don’t need a crystal ball. We can predict your marathon (or 1/2 marathon, or 5K) finishing time pretty accurately based on your current fitness. For example, my 6:50 mile a few weeks prior meant that, with proper training, nutrition etc, I would be capable of running a 3:49 marathon. My actual finishing time in Portland? 3:51. Don’t believe me?, look it up:) These days I can tell you with 95% certainty that if you can run a 10K in 49 minutes and you train properly, you can beat 4 hours in the marathon, or if your 5K time is 30 minutes, your dream of running a 2 hour half marathon isn’t ready to become reality. Here’s the thing: With targeted training, proper nutrition and a well-laid plan, you’re not that far off.
So what does that mean for you, your training and setting goals for 2014? When looking forward into the New Year, be honest with yourself and be ready to set realistic goals. What’s your current fitness? How hard are you willing to work this year? Do you have an actual plan or are you just winging it and hoping for a miracle on race day? If you’re happy with your current fitness level and not looking to improve much over the next year, sorry for wasting your time. Stop reading now and go for a run. If you are seriously ready to take your fitness up a notch, here are a few tips:
– Have a plan and make it specific. As in life, a dream without a plan probably isn’t going to happen. That being said, the best running plans are ones that are specific to you and your fitness. It’s difficult to follow a generic plan and have real success. Need help? Ask me.
– Test yourself semi-regularly. The people who know exactly what they’re capable of, are those who test themselves every once in a while.
– Be ready to gradually improve your performance by occasionally stepping outside your comfort zone. Running fitness develops over months, not one workout.
– Work on your limiting performance factor. Strength, flexibility, running form and nutrition are super important in distance running. Guess what? Runners are notoriously weak, inflexible and have crappy eating habits. I know I’ll get some flak for this one, but I’ll save the explanation for another blog post.
– Don’t forget the mental aspect. Distance running requires a degree of suffering. Look for it and be ready to embrace.
– Be realistic and patient. If you’ve run 10 marathons and your PR is 5:30, a sub-three hour event this year isn’t likely. Next year? Eh, anything could happen.
– Think big. You’re capable of achieving more than you think. Just be ready to put in the work.
So what’s the number one thing I want you to take away from this? Have a specific goal with a specific plan for success to match and you won’t end up begging for food in Portland.
Las Vegas Runners Coach and Certified Personal Trainer