More than just a Marathon (Speed Reserve)
It is true that at the center of the distance running world is the glamor of training and racing or even just completing the mighty marathon..that holy grail of a 26.2 mile foot race...to some it may seem that I have raced many myself, 27 to be exact with 26 completions but in full disclosure this was over a 23 year span and thus spread out over a good period of time so the relative density was quite low. It is also true that for coaches such as me a good deal of our athlete clients employ us specifically to accomplish exactly that~ complete the marathon distance. Don't misunderstand me, I loved training and racing the marathon just as I do sharing the journey to marathons around the globe with the athletes that I coach~ and yet somewhat ironically it is the other races, namely much shorter race distances that ultimately made me a successful marathoner. My former coach and mentor Greg Brock told me on more than one occasion that if I wished to be a better marathoner then I better become a better miler..For some runners and indeed for some coaches,they struggle to make the connection but the answer is all in 'speed reserve'. The greater our speed reserve (the difference between our maximal speed and the pace at which we wish to race a certain distance at) the more efficient/comfortable we are at sub maximal paces and therefore the faster and further we can travel at this sub maximal pace...There still requires a specificty in training for each particular race distance, none more so than the marathon itself but in short, perhaps the great British Miler Lord Sebastian Coe put it best "If you want to become a fast runner then you need to run fast"...simple enough but very true...the implication here is not one of random out of control sprinting but rather measured intelligent training over a period of time with a specific goal of training adaptation to increase maximal and sub maximal paces. It is not however just about the physiology- the greater the training and ultimately racing speeds over shorter distances the greater the stress, the greater the pressure, the greater the physical and psychological discomfort. This is difficult and also why many runners, to their detriment stay away from this type of hard nosed training- I feel this to be a mistake because this high pressure environment hones your skill set, your ability to remain calm under pressure, remaining in the moment and working on said skill set, be it intrinsic awareness such as breathing cadence,body position,arm carriage, and of course foot strike...it takes a while to figure things out, to master the mind and body control but when you do, it allows you the opportunity at all race distances to exclude all distractions, to focus on remaining calm blocking out negativity remaining positive and true to the task at hand, keeping the mind relaxed yet occupied with key physiological and biomechanical cues to help you maintain your rhythm and pace over the length of the interval, repeat, workout or race...invest in some lightweight trainers to give you maximal feel on the fire roads and tracks and explore your inner speed, explore shorter race distances from 100 meters to the 10k distance and work on your game....you may find a new home here or indeed you can use this new found speed to help you run the marathon of your life......either way it is a win win....so in the words to me directly from the late great Payton Jordan, "GP, never ever stop working on speed"
Walk in peace and let the good times roll !