Over the past 10 years, I’ve done countless 10s, half marathons, and Ironman marathons. But I seriously considered running a flat marathon quite recently.
Running a marathon was always teasing, but did not scare me. With the growth of the running audience, there is a place for everyone who can finish it. Dress up like a zombie or Cheburashka, announce your engagement, film your running, or even broadcast live on social media. Everything is allowed.
My motivation is time — I want to run against the clock. The faster the better. It would be good to beat a couple of closest peers, but I’m Ok with particular time result rather than ranking. My current target is 2h 40m.
With this mindset, I finally made up my mind in 2022. Lago Maggiore Marathon on 6th Nov 2022 was a natural choice to match family holidays with my ambition.
Over the past 1.5 months of preparation, I have accumulated 9 specific steps to run a better marathon.
If you are mentally ready to run a marathon and have run enough other distances and starts, do not stretch out the preparation for many months. 2,5 months is pretty much enough. Don’t force yourself into 100+ km of running per week or doing really hard training sessions for more than 3–4 weeks. 34–36 km progressive, 15–25 km at marathon pace, or 10 km on LT (lactate threshold) is not the greatest pleasure to repeat more than 2–3 times in one prep cycle.
Perfectionism doesn’t work.
Time to race day is running, but you missed important workouts. Just skip those. Don’t try to catch up with your ideal training plan. For your health. All you lose is 5 minutes or about 3% of your target marathon time. Better buy yourself Nike Air Zoom AlphaFly Next%. They promise to speed you up by the same 3% 😉
Sleep is more important than weight.
In the process of training for a marathon, we are too concerned about weight. Of course, a 60 kg runner is faster than a 90 kg ceteris paribus. But as they say, it’s better to be slightly overweight and undertrained at the start of a marathon than vice versa. Eat right, but don’t exhaust yourself with diets — especially 2 weeks before the marathon. And sleep at least 8–9 hours a day.
Find your “pacer”.
Find your ideal group, that can help with pacing. Sharp accelerations, changing pace, or starting too fast are critical for reaching your target marathon time. Let faster runners go.
In my marathon, I made a stupid mistake by running the first 19 km with those who ran 21.1 km. If I had run 5 sec/km slower for the first half, the overall 42,2 km result would have been 3 minutes faster.
Watch the weather forecast.
The ideal marathon temperature is +12C and clouds. Why is Berlin so good for Kipchoge’s world records? Yes, primarily because of temperature. Keep an eye on the weather forecast — the colder, the more food you will need on the run. Warming up before and during the race is critical. I used Bengay (warming cream) to not get frozen while standing at the start gate. But it didn’t help at +8C. I was dressed in running shorts and a T-shirt and it was just not warm enough. Frozen legs can destroy your running — especially after 30th km.
Use U-turns to check your position and play mind games.
Marathon courses often include U-turns. Use this to gauge your gap to those ahead and your advantage over those behind. Read about the faces of the opponents who you will meet face to face at this moment.
Many try to hide emotions and fatigue under glasses — as poker players do. But the grimace on the face will still be noticeable. Put pressure on them morally, and try to portray calmness and confidence on your own — this will have an impact on rivals, be sure.
Hear what fans are telling you.
Usually, fans are cheering you up: “Come on!”, “Allez! Allez!”, “Forza!” etc. Use this energy and keep running. Some are ready to give you specific information — do not miss it.
At 35th km, when my morale and pace started to fade away, someone shouted to me: “Keep pushing! The second is walking!” It worked perfectly — I couldn’t miss my chance to get to the 2nd place and began to catch up. By the 38th km, I overtook the guy and became the 2nd.
Listen to the applause behind your back.
As you run past the crowds, you hear applause. They give the same applause to those running after you. Listen for how soon they start clapping for the pursuer. At the next point, you will understand whether your opponent is catching up or lagging behind you.
My closest rival was catching up with me quickly and the situation was developing rapidly. By the 30th km, he was 3 min behind, by the 40th km the gap was just 40 sec and he was about to close this gap and he was running faster. As it turned out later, the guy was running at 3:50, and I was barely moving at 4:15. If I didn’t know this, I would probably slow down more, being sure my 2nd position is safe. But I needed to run away from him with all my might. With 400 meters to go, he was 50 meters behind. But I pushed 120% and managed to maintain 10 seconds advantage over him by the finish line. We shook hands — it was a crazy 10 km pursuit!
Know that your opponents are having a hard time too.
When your legs are no longer running — and this will certainly happen when running relatively fast — you are not able to distract yourself from your pain. Just know — it’s hard for all your opponents too. For some, it’s even harder. This will bring your mind into a combat-ready state and you will be able to get the most out of your marathon.
This thought was part of my mantra in the last 2 km of my first official marathon. Official time 2:44:09. 2nd overall.
Thanks to my wife, my son, and, of course, my workouts by https://omysports.ai.
Good luck to everyone who is going to run a marathon soon! May the force be with you 😎"
Oleg Mazurov, OMY! Sports co-founder