The technical side of running a successful Air Force Marathon

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How I trained for this specific Marathon

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 ChiRunning 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.

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 ChiRunning 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.


Posted in Technique

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