I know, I know. “A marathon blog entry on a triathlon team website? How does that fit in here?”
Well, I’ve done Sprint and Olympic/International Distance triathlons in my previous 2 years racing but had never done a Half or Full Iron Distance event. So I decided this was my year to do both. So I figured that since I was going to do a Full Iron Distance event, I had better run a marathon first. So when getting ready for a marathon (or any race), I always seek out people who have done one before and ask for their advice. (I advise this as a good step for any race!) What I heard most often was “Oh, the marathon doesn’t start till Mile 20! That’s when you might ‘hit the wall’!”. So there is some debate over whether you should actually run 20 or more miles in your training leading up to your marathon. There’s no question in my mind that I think running several training sessions over 20 miles makes sense. I didn’t want to have to wait until race day to know what it was like to hit that 20 mile mark and keep running. The extra confidence in knowing that I had done it before was worthwhile just to have more peace of mind and confidence in myself. My race day strategy was to follow a pace group, 3:25 in my case. I’d recommend this if you can tie into a pace group in your race. Now our pace group actually finished in about 3:24 so it’s not exact but pretty close. I think keeping a constant pace for the whole race throughout is key. If you can allocate budget for a coach, I’d recommend that if you really want to be effective. If you can’t do that now, you can get some free training plans on Hal Higdon’s website (http://www.halhigdon.com/training/51135/Marathon-Training-Guide)
What did I learn? I’d highly recommend training for a marathon in the offseason. Get in several training session of over 20 miles in distance. That will help your confidence on race day. And running a marathon will not only prepare you for the longer distance triathlons, but it makes a 5K or 10K race seem short! Nice by-product!!