You might have heard on our last podcast episode that I ran the Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans Marathon in 3:54:15.
A sub-4 hour marathon is not remarkable as far as finishing times go. I’m a middle of the pack runner. (I finished 597 out of 2633).
But I did run 37 minutes faster than my best time . . . which is remarkable for me.
And it was actually easier than I thought it would be. Much easier than running my first marathon.
Here are a few tricks I used to keep my run under 4 hours.
Have it in the Bank
I was more intentional in my marathon training this time. I stuck to the killer marathon training plan Angie designed for me which included tempo runs, hill runs, yoga, cross-training, and a few 20 milers.
I spent many days training on hills at a place I’ve come to love called The General Watkins Conservation Area. Watkins has a 5 mile loop with many lung busting hills. This loop became my leafy lap track.
By the time I got to New Orleans, a place devoid of hills, I was ready to run fast. I had the fitness in the bank.
The Things You Tell Yourself
Fitness is only one component of running a strong race. You must have mental toughness to push yourself through the latter miles of a marathon. This is where your mantras and mind tricks are especially important.
The fun begins at mile 20. This is when my strength is feeling spent and I desire to stop and walk. The closer to the finish line I get the stronger this desire becomes. The last mile is the most torturous. It is paradoxical to be so close yet feel so tempted to slow down.
I saw people walking the last mile of the marathon. And since I finished under 4 hours I know that these people had to run the first 25 miles.
The only way I kept running was to tell myself, “Are you crazy!? Don’t walk when you only have one mile to go. Grind it out! Grind it out! Grind it out! Grrrr!”
Stoking the Furnace
As my body burned energy to propel me forward I had an arsenal of fueling products to replace calories and electrolytes. I have learned what my body needs through trial and error – working out the particulars on my long training runs.
All total I consumed 4 gels, 8 Perpetuem Solids, 24 Endurolyte caps, some pretzels, and about 65 oz. of water. This picture shows some of the fuel I need to run 20+ miles (minus the fruit in the background).
When I posted this pic to our Facebook page a few weeks ago some people were aghast.
“Do you need a pack animal for all of this?”
“This all is unnecessary. I hope you’re not telling ppl this is how to train.”
“Who convinced you that 18 electrolyte pills are necessary to prevent cramping on a three hour run? You’re ingesting enough salts in your other foods to prevent that.”
Settle down ladies and gentlemen. I don’t run with a pack animal (I am the pack animal). And yes, we do tell people to train this way, sort of. You should do what works for your body. And as far as the electrolyte pills go, Steve Born at Hammer Nutrition says some runners may need to take up to 6 an hour. That’s me.
Angie doesn’t take any electrolytes. But I can’t get by without taking lots of them. Today I ran a 14 miler with no Endurolytes. I forgot them. By mile seven my legs were wasted. Not a stellar long run.
[Update: I have since adopted a high fat low carb diet and am using a different fueling strategy. Please see this post for details about running a sub-four hour marathon as a fat adapted runner]
Watching Your Time
The final trick has to do with awareness of time. I had to keep my pace safely hovering around 8:50 per mile.
I had to consciously run slower in the first half so as to conserve my strength for the latter miles. I had to pick up my feet as the marathon wore on because I frequently fell off pace.
I arranged my playlist so I would hear my best running songs during the final hour. I didn’t linger long at aid stations. I didn’t stop to use the porta potty until I found one without a queue. I took so few walk breaks that . . . a three fingered man could count them on one hand.
My time was my responsibility. There were no pacing groups at the Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans Marathon. Angie was back in corral 12. It was just me, alone with my Garmin -fighting to conserve every minute. Live by the Garmin. Die by the Garmin.
It feels fantastic to have made it to the finish line of another marathon alive. Completing it in less than four hours is the cherry on top. If I was 60 years old my finishing time could qualify me for the Boston Marathon!
Breaking four hours will hopefully be one of many milestones in my life as a runner. Now I’m wondering if I can hit 3:45?
If you have a time goal for your next race . . . train hard, have confidence, and go for it! We are here to help you succeed.