Long-distance runner Ryan Hall shares his tips on going the distance in the marathon.
Even as a professional long-distance runner I used to view a marathon as an insurmountable mountain peak – something that was to be admired from afar but not to be challenged.
Now that I have run six marathons, including the 2008 Olympic marathon in Beijing, and the London, New York City, and Boston marathons, I have a new perspective on the metaphorical mountain peak. I have absolute respect for the enormity of a marathon, while recognising that it also offers the ultimate thrilling and fulfilling experience to those who are bold enough to take on the challenge.
I believe that, other than those with physical injuries or illness, anyone can undertake the life-changing challenge of training for, and finishing, a marathon. Here are a few tips that I have learnt on my journey that I hope will empower you on yours. One of the most important characteristics of a marathon runner is patience. My coach, Terrence Mahon, reminds me at the beginning of every training session that we are starting from scratch.
When beginning your training, start with a very manageable distance. Run only as far as you enjoy running; the first couple of weeks are not the time to challenge yourself. A good starting point is to begin with 30-minute runs, and over a couple of weeks build to 60 minutes.
Nutrition is one of the most important aspects of training effectively. For 48 weeks of the year I try to eat natural, unprocessed, wholesome foods. I don’t completely give up all the sweets that I enjoy in the off-season after a marathon, but I eat them sparingly, opting instead for more nutrient-dense calories. My basic nutrition plan is to never go more than 3 to 4 hours without eating.
In each of my meals and snacks I try to include wholesome carbohydrates, healthy fats, and protein. Before the big marathon day, rather than eating a huge bowl of pasta in the evening, I try to spread my carbohydrate intake out over 5 to 6 meals and snacks.
Planning is a big part of not only succeeding in the marathon, but also in making running the marathon a pleasurable experience. I recommend picking a marathon that gives you plenty of time to work from your current fitness to achieving your goal. Also, consider choosing an event that excites you. Perhaps it’s a destination marathon, such as Paris or Rome, or maybe a fast course to achieve that elusive Boston marathon qualifier, such as London, Chicago, or Rotterdam.
However, I find that the greatest source of motivation in my training and racing is running for a cause. I remember being at mile 17 at the 2009 ING New York City Marathon, falling off the lead pack, when the thought of dropping out crossed my mind. I realised immediately that dropping out was not an option because I had pledged my prize money to the Hall Steps Foundation (www.thestepsfoundation.org), a charity that my wife and I had started a couple of months earlier to combat global poverty. With this thought in mind, I was able to rally from 9th place to finishing 4th. While I hadn’t run as well as I had wanted to, I had pushed myself harder than I thought I could, finished the race, and, most importantly, helped others in need.
Runners World International magazine previews 2010’s latest running shoes. Watch preview videos online at www.runnersworld.com
Salomon Wings XT Slab II
Elite racing shoe, with multi-directional lugs that give excellent grip on a variety of surfaces. Complete bonded upper (no stitches), with quick-pull zip. US$160 Available now. www.salomon.com
Brooks Green Silence
30% of the upper and outer-soles are made from recycled material, as is 50% of the mid-sole (which is also bio-degradable) and uses 100% recycled laces. US$100. Available February 2010. www.brooksrunning.com
Ecco Biom C
The Biom collection gets the foot close to the ground, and lets the foot move more naturally, yet the polyurethane mid-sole gives excellent cushioning and support. US$195. Also in Yak leather US$220. Available March 2010.
Asics Kayano 16
The women’s version of this high-end shoe has a heel that is 3mm higher, which has been shown to reduce the chance of Achilles tendon injuries, and has softer, lighter materials. US$140. Available March 2010.
Mizuno Wave Nirvana 6
The upper uses stretchable mesh fabric in the forefoot, and increased support for the ball of the foot. Includes a more durable mid-sole and single-layer sock liner. US$140. Available March 2010. www.mizunousa.com