Running a Faster Ironman Marathon–Part I: Introduction

The Ironman run course is where PR hopes and dreams go to die a painful death. The course is littered with the bodies of very fit people who've done all the right training—or so they think—but who slow down dramatically on the run.

In our opinion, traditional Ironman training has several weaknesses, and just gets several things completely wrong:

  • "If the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail." In the Ironman world, that hammer is training and fitness. A poor race is the result of poor training and can only be fixed more. In our experience, race execution is far more important than fitness. All the fitness in the world can't help you if you don't know to race.

  • The hammer above usually has "Volume" stamped on the side of it, the solution to all fitness shortcomings—just throw volume at it! The scenario is this: the Ironman athlete runs, and runs, and runs, counting miles, hours, and strategizing "how long should my long run be?" Then, before the race, they basically throw a dart at a dartboard to guess their marathon goal time (see below).

  • Traditional Ironman thinking doesn't offer a clear Ironman marathon goal time, based on current fitness, past PR's, or actual training/racing data. Ask the tri world "I run a 3:45 open marathon...what should I be able to run in an Ironman?" and you'll get a wide range of answers, all vague. This lack of precision, and advice that's not based on actual data, leads Ironman athletes to often set unrealistic goals for their race. They pace the run incorrectly as a result and implode magnificently in the last eight to 10 miles.

We've broken the Ironman run down into a three-step system, which we'll share with you in this series:

Step 1: Get Faster

Within Endurance Nation we prefer, whenever possible, to train and race with power and pace. While a power meter can be an expensive purchase, the price of running GPS devices continues to decline. The net is that many of our athletes train for and race Ironman with pace, creating a tremendous opportunity for us to analyze their data. In Part II we'll share with you what we've learned from the training data of over 400 athletes.

Step 2: Run More Efficiently

You can train your body to run more smoothly and efficiently. However, it's not as complicated and arcane as the rest of the tri world would have you think. In Part III we'll share with you how you can run much more efficiently with only a 20- to 30-minute investment per week.

Step 3: Execute!

400 athletes training with pace = 400 athletes racing with pace = a lot of data on what actually works! In Part IV we'll share with you a system that:

  1. Will predict your marathon time within three to seven minutes, based on your current measured fitness, not shoulda, coulda, woulda's.
  2. Will tell you exactly what pace you should run for every mile of the race.

Creating, implementing, and refining this system has been a long process, and we are eager to share the system and its results with...

? IM athletes knocking on the door to Kona, a podium spot, or racing with a performance mindset — The simplicity, and data/results driven nature of it's origins will appeal to you.

It will offer you an opportunity to increase your fitness a few ticks and then apply this fitness to a proven execution system, finally pushing you over that bar you've been chasing for a long, long time.

Ironman age group winners, podium finishers, Kona qualifiers and age group record holders have all followed this system. It works.

? IM athletes finishing in about 11:30 to 15+ hours — In our experience, you just live in a world where you expect much shuffling, plodding, and even walking on the run. You've come to expect this as your lot in the IM life.

However, we've been able to create one to three-hour PR's with athletes just like you by giving them the fitness, efficiency, and race execution tools that help them to not slow down. We call them our Ten-Minute-Mile Rockstars and their journey has been our most rewarding as coaches.

Looking for a breakthrough triathlon run this season? Our affordable training plans are in their seventh generation of improvement and have been used by thousands of long-course finishers, age-group winners and Kona qualifiers. Join our waitlist to save 15 percent on any plan and stay up-to-date with all of our latest triathlon training and racing advice.

Rich Strauss is co-founder and head coach of Endurance Nation, the world's only 400-person long-course triathlon team, with 25 to 35 athletes in every U.S. Ironman this season. Find out more at

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