As exciting as marathon race day can be, it doesn’t have to be such a giant roll of the dice. After all you’re not just hoping for a PR, you want to run the whole race. While every marathon runner starts with high hopes on race day, not everyone is able to realize their goals. This is due, in part to poor race execution
, but also to a fundamental training flaw: very few marathoners spend training time at their goal marathon pace.
Training To Finish, Not Race
What’s the big deal with only just doing long runs?
Before we get into specifics, let’s examine why marathon race day is such an unknown for most runners. The biggest single contributing factor is that most runners train for long runs, not for racing. Their goal is just to do 18 miles, to run 20 miles. Yet on the big day they want to race. There is a vast difference between just running 20 miles at a long run pace and actually racing a marathon at your goal pace.
Marathon Nation training structures around making marathon race day what "should" happen, not what "could" happen. We do this by de-emphasizing the role of the traditional long run, replacing it instead with a Race Simulation workout.
The three key Marathon Nation training components are:
- 5k Test for Fitness Benchmarking
- Quality Long Runs
- Properly Executed Race Simulation
Long Runs Aren’t Enough
Long runs are an important part of any marathon training program, as building up your endurance (even if you have to split the runs) is important. These long runs, however, shouldn’t be the center of your marathon training universe.
Endurance is important, but it’s not the only pre-requisite for having a successful race. A great race day requires that a lot of things go well at the same time. There are two types of variables:
Under your control: Fitness, Pacing, Nutrition, Gear
Outside your control: Weather, Competition, Disaster
Getting in your long runs can make sure that your fitness is in order, but it doesn’t put your ability to race to the test. Yes you might cover some of the other elements listed above on your long runs, but why put it to chance? Use a Race Simulation run to get everything dialed in and know, for sure, just how ready you are.
The Race Simulation Solution
With the goal of covering 26.2 miles on race day, it’s tempting to think that running "far" is your primary goal in training. At the same time, most of our long runs are endurance-focused. This means we run them at a pace that’s typically 30 to 40 seconds slower per mile than what we’ll run on race day. So while we are running longer, we aren’t really putting our actual goal pacing to the test. The Marathon Nation solution is simple: run fewer miles at a faster pace.
As any veteran marathon runner will tell you, the opportunity to waste your good fitness on a training run is never more than a few poorly paced miles away — so we need to proceed with caution.
The Prep: We’ll treat the actual workout as a race, so you should warm up accordingly with some light jogging and some 30 second pick ups at 10K pace / effort. Be prepared to track your splits per mile for post-run analysis.