The technical side of running a successful Air Force Marathon - Chi Running

The technical side of running a successful Air Force Marathon

Posted by Danny Dreyer on Tue Sep 21st, 2010, 13 comments

After posting the blog about running the AF Marathon, I thought it might be informative for marathoners and marathon hopefuls to hear how I approach an event like this and what I did before, during and after the event to make it such an enjoyable event.

My Race-specific Marathon Training Program
Asheville is a hilly place. Dayton, Ohio (relatively speaking) is not. So, in the weeks leading up to the marathon I ran at least two of my weekly runs on the only flat road in town to get my body used to running for long periods on a flat surface. These runs helped to increase my aerobic capacity. The rest of my runs were my typical daily hour-long trail runs with my dog. These very hilly runs maintain my cardio conditioning. I ran 5-6 days a week and my average weekly mileage topped out at about 30 miles per week. My two longest training runs before the race were 13 miles and 14.7 miles… two weeks out and 3 weeks out respectively. It works for me, but I definitely don’t recommend this approach for others. On these long runs I spent the entire time working on my running technique, specifically my pelvic rotation and on totally resting my legs whenever my feet were off the ground. I also spent considerable time matching my cadence (90 spm) with my breath rate (3 steps out-breath and 2 steps in-breath) with a rhythmical gathering and issuing technique I’ve been testing lately with great success. It’s an energetic   blend of armswing and pelvic rotational focuses. All of this technique training worked wonders to improve my efficiency which allowed me to sustain an 8:24 mpm marathon pace without having to run tons of miles in training. The week before the race I practiced my starting pace (8:45min./mi.) during every run.

Days 6, 5 and 4 before the race I ran easy and ate meals heavy on protein which helped my muscles to rest, recover and rebuild from training. On Days 3, 2 and 1 before the race I ate only carbohydrates…no protein. This helped my muscles tank up on glycogen stores for use in the race. After the race I ate a couple of heavy protein meals accompanied by colorful salads rich in minerals.

My Chi Running Focuses During the Marathon:
• Breathing only through my nose, which kept me very relaxed (I wore a Breathe-rite strip).
• Not letting myself get boxed in by runners in front of me. I would position myself running off to either side. I run best with no one in front of me.
• Lengthening my spine and leading with my forehead (I’d hit my “refresh button” every time I passed a mile marker.)
• Dropping my arms once every mile to let my shoulders relax and rest. I also leaned into the downhills and allowed my legs to totally rest on every downhill section.
• Shortening my stride on every uphill section, and whenever I felt the slightest bit of fatigue creeping in.
• Drinking 1-2 oz. of water at every aid station (There were 21 in this race …which was fabulous!)
• Thanking as many volunteers and roadside supporters as possible.
• Taking a teaspoon-sized slug of honey/maple syrup mixture every two miles after mile 10.
• Taking a Succeed! cap every hour (and one after finishing) for electrolyte replacement.
• Varying the usage of my muscle groups throughout the race for maximum efficiency (I alternated between predominantly upper-body running and lower-body running).
• In the second half I frequently used my y’chi on the open sections of the course. I also focused on maintaining a perpetual sense of falling forward with each stride.

My Running Shoes
For the marathon I wore Mizuno Wave Musha 2′s which are racing flats but not as minimal as the Wave Universe 3′s. They worked great for me. They are a very fast, light-weight shoe and extremely comfortable at the marathon distance because of their flat ride.

The Mizuno Musha 2… fast and flat.

The Mizuno Musha 2… fast and flat.

Vital statistics for number crunchers:

Overall time: 3:39:44
Age Group placement: 2nd in 60-64
½ Marathon split: 1:48:29 (8:17 pace!) I’ll take full responsibility for this. Every time Pacer Dave and I would start talking with each other, the pace got faster. By the half we were 1:30 too fast…whoops! We should have come across at 1:50:00 or a bit slower. I’ll keep my mouth shut next time;-)
2nd Half split: 1:51:15 (2:46 slower than first half)
Overall pace: 8:24
Qualified for Boston!

My legs recovered very quickly after the race and I was able to hike the day after (Sunday) and do a nice 6-mile trail run on Monday.

I’d say that a huge contributing factor to the race going so well for me was the total lack of pre-race worries and logistics. The Air Force Marathon is so well organized that it created the ideal conditions for energy to flow… for the entire 26.2 miles.

This way of training and running a marathon, ½ marathon, 10k or 5k is the basis of how the Chi Running training programs are set up. They’re race-specific training programs that train your body, as well as your mind, to run a successful event by matching your training to the race you’re about to run and paying attention to every detail of your technique, fueling, and race strategy…before, during and after your race.

Train smart, run smarter.



  • air force marathon,
  • injury-free running,
  • marathon racing,
  • marathon training,
  • race-specific training,
  • running technique

13 CommentsLeave a comment below

Great stuff Danny! Congrats on qualifying for Boston. Enjoyed listening to you at the clinic. Where does one start with the transition to Chi running? Instructor or book or DVD’s?

Hey, Mike,
It’s always best to have a session or class with an instructor if there’s one near you. The personal check-in and feedback will help you learn more quickly. Book or dvd? Some people are better book learners and some are more visually oriented. Both were designed for optimal learning experience. The best, of course, is the book/dvd combo because the dvd is really just chapter 4 from the book (in visual mode) and the book gives you all the philosophy, technique, training methods, nutrition guidelines and a ton of other information. We offer a discount if you buy them together. Good luck with your learning and your running!

Kimberly Dredger Sep 22nd, 2010 02:44am

Danny, thank you so much for this.  Your words will be saved and much thought of as I prepare for NYC.  This non-athlete is getting nervous!

If you prepare well, you’ll be so present with what needs to happen, that you’ll forget to be nervous. Best wishes for a fun race!

Yet another thing I love about Danny.  He puts it on the line ! ! ! and kicks butt ! ! !

Danny, congratulations! I just attended your Asheville workshop where I thought you said you only use your core muscles. What did you mean by upper and lower body running along with varying your muscle groups? Thanks.

Hi Ronald,
When I “mix up” my muscle groups I’ll try to utilize one muscle group, or area of muscles (like upper body) and allow as many of the other muscles in my body to go as limp as possible so they can recharge or rest. If I want to rest core muscles that have been balancing me in a forward lean, for say two hours or more, I’ll switch to running almost exclusively with my upper body (arms, obliques, etc.) and let those core muscles rest a bit. I hardly use my upper body, so it’s a fresh set of muscles to use as a back-up if I need it.
Hope this helps,

Do you know what you heart rate (or average) was during the run?

Hey, Dick,
I wasn’t wearing my HR monitor, but I have been wearing one in training and I’d guess that my average heart rate for this race was in the 130-135 range. When I took off from the pace group in the last two miles I might have pushed it into the low 140 range.
See you soon,

Kon Chittavong Sep 22nd, 2010 12:28pm

Congrats on qualifying for Boston, Danny.  I’m new to Chi Running and it’s nice when someone practices what he preaches.  I learned many things from the ChiRunning clinic at the Expo and can’t wait to attend a 1/2 day clinic in a couple of weeks in Columbus.

Congrats Danny on qualifying… and thanks for your workshop on 9/11. I will never forget it.  I hope you have a Level II workshop in Asheville next year. I have the Hartford marathon coming up on 10/9 and your comments are an inspiration and very informational for me to practice.

Hey, Gary,
I wish you all the best at Hartford! Keep the Chi flowing!!!

Jon Weisblatt Sep 25th, 2010 03:41am

Congratulations Danny! My wife and I had the pleasure of taking your class at MIT about 5-6 years and are currently on the waiting list for the Kripalu class. I’ve always run marathons in the ASICS 2100 series with orthotics due to achilles isues. My arches are fine, but I was getting tendonitis. I started running without orthotics in June to go minimalist, and now I’m running in Vitruvian shoes ( more minimal than my ASICS, but going out of business) My question is can you recommend a minimalist ASICS shoe for marathon training/racing, or is Mizuno just a better shoe? I too have EE feet. I’m working on regaining my achilles length but the transition has been slow with some intermittent flare-ups. The Chirunning technique saved my running career, slow as it is, and gave my wife the joy of experiencing running, so we have a lot of trust in your judgement.
Thanks for any tips you can give and Happy Running!!
“THe Miracle isn’t that I finished. The Miracle is that I had the courage to start.”

Hi Jon,
Nice to hear from you. I’m happy to hear that Chi Running has really helped your running. In answer to your question about Asics…that’s the brand I have the least amount of experience with. I like the Mizuno’s because of how they feel on my feet mile after mile in a marathon. The rule I follow for any shoe is: the less I feel them, the better they are working for me.

All the best,

Great detailed report, Danny. Thanks for sharing this- I’m sure it will be helpful to many. I plan to pass it along to my clients for inspiration - it will mesh well with our theme for our mini-clinic this week - relaxation! Thanks again!

Hi Danny: I’m trying hard to get back into running after not having run for literally decades! I just read Born to Run and was struck by the account of “persistence hunting”. Don’t you think there’s a parallel between the way the hunters would try to keep their eye on the individual animal they were chasing, and what you say about y’chi?

Hi Simon,
Absolutely. It’s even more important to have your y’chi hooked up when you’re throwing that spear at the end of your hunt! Here’s an amazing video of persistence hunting with a very touching end.

Hi Danny,

I read that you take a teaspoon of honey/maple syrup every mile after mile 10. How do you carry that mixture with you?
Kind regards

Hi Peter,
I use a Gel Flask made by Ultimate Designs. It holds about 4 oz. and is small enough to hold in my hand. I actually take it at 10 minute intervals, so it’s less often than every mile. I also generally wait until sometime after the half marathon to start taking it.


I hate it when people can run marathons by only running 30 miles per week grin When I was doing two marathons/yr about 20 years ago when I was in the low 40s I followed Henderson’s Critical Point Theory, which is you must average 1/3 of your goal race distance per day.  This translates to 57 miles per week.  I have done couple of marathons only running 40-45 miles per week and the races were terrible.  I guess when you have natural ability you can get away running much less.  But for middle-of-the-packer, like me, I have put in the extra miles.  A great time with so little mileage!

Hey, Eric,
The only way I could possibly have a great time with so little mileage is by constantly working on my form during every run.

hello, great danny, i want to translate the blog into Chinese. it is Ok?

Yes, that’s fine with me as long as there’s a link back to our website included.


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