Q: I stumbled upon your website as I was looking up tips for getting faster. I have been running for about 6 years now. And am on a running team. I have run 9 marathons, and a variety of other 5ks,10k, 5 milers, and 10 milers. I try to do road races as often as possible, just to keep pushing myself toward my goals. I just finished doing a fall marathon and PR'd. Although I was extremely happy about this, I feel like I could still take ten minutes off my time. I currently run my marathons about an 8:10 pace. Which, is fine, I guess, but I would like to run them at sub-8:00. I feel like I can do this because this past spring I ran a half marathon in 1:35. I would love your advice on workouts and/or training needed to accomplish this goal. Thanks! - M.P., 11/18/04

A: Congratulations on your P.R. You've got the first thing you need to get faster: Desire. Now, the hard part.

Marathons are not my strength and you are more experienced than I am at that distance. Nevertheless, I've run 6 and can tell you what works for me.

First, I am a believer in runners being realistic about who they are (e.g. understanding their strengths and weaknesses). Strength and endurance are my biggest weaknesses (I am 5'7" and weigh about a buck thirty five...and marathon training usually takes me down to about a buck thirty) so I try to remember that in what I concentrate on. I know I have decent speed, but I also know my speed is basically useless unless I have the strength to push through the toughest parts of a course and hang on to my goal pace in the last 10k of a marathon. For me, my best finish was a 42 minute last 10k and a 6:40 last mile. I believe this was a combination of adequate preparation, but more attributable to a well executed race plan (more on that below).

Second, I am a believer in more quality in my training as opposed to quantity. So I lean toward doing hills and intervals more than long slow junk mile runs. However, in preparing for the marathon distance, I still understand the need for having an adequate number of long runs in before game day. Just not too many long runs such that I show up too tired, which I did once. However, I also showed up with not enough long runs and too many mile repeat sessions and didn't do as well as I had hoped either. So the key for me, is finding the right balance of long (e.g. mile) interval sessions. I'd do my long runs every other Sunday and do mile repeats in between. Some like 800s. I have had my best marathon times doing mile repeats instead...at about 40-50 seconds faster than my goal race pace. However, don't do them too fast. You don't need to and will just end up tiring yourself out.

Third, a moment about hills. I raced my best at all distances when I added a particular hill to my workout routine. It's the one we refer fondly to as Kong. It's a 30 minute climb over about 3.5 miles, with parts of it exceeding a 20% grade. I did it twice per month. It is the hardest workout I have ever done.

Finally, don't forget about race tactics on game day. This is as important as all of the preparation you have put in. I have run 6 marathons and believe I have had only two strong finishes as measured by my last 10k split times. Both finishes were set up by a smartly run first half, and resisting the temptation to go out too fast. Two words on smart racing: Deena Kastor. She ran the smartest race ever in the Athens Olympics. Nuf said.

Hope this helps. Good luck to you.

The Rage (11/18/04)

[ Home ] [ Races ]
[ Rage ] [ Guest Rage ]
[ Result ] [ Road ]
[ RunnerSpeak ]
[Q&A ]
[ Q&A Archives ]
[ Quotes ] [ Links ]

10kTruth.com is a place for runners who have the attitude to train harder and smarter, who want to race faster and stronger, to better their race times and lower the chance of injury. The Rage and Manciata answer running and training questions with their own unique insight and spew. You'll also find running advice and inspirational quotes by sports legends and others who epitomize the spirit of 10k Truth.