I have 2 friends. Both decided that 2011 was their year to enter the marathon for the first time.
Friend number one, let’s call him David. Called me the week before the Canberra race and said, to my eternal horror, “Seany, I’ve entered the marathon.” My immediate thought was that surely he meant the half marathon. So i said “that’s ok mate, it’s probably only 90-100 minutes of running, you’ll be right.” His reply, “no mate the FULL marathon.” The kindest thing I could say was, “I wouldn’t recommend that” but since he is a good friend, supremely tough competitor and boasted a professional sporting career that lasted over a decade. If anyone could attempt a marathon with no training, he’d be somewhat up to the task.
Post-race, David was a mess. Completely humbled and made to look a fool by the most treacherous running event known to man. He bumbled up the finishing shoot, feet blistered, body broken and mind confused to cross the line in 4:10.31. Not a bad first attempt, one which he promised would be his last. But what could have been if he prepared properly for this event?
My father always mooted that “failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” The words rang true as we embarked on a sore trip home to Sydney.
Introducing friend number 2, let’s call him Adam. This man has a decent sporting and physical fitness history. He is less gifted than David and has not been a pro athlete for most of his life. This guy works on websites for a living, a less athletic job there could not be.
Adam trained moderately for the Gold Coast Marathon in July and with humble ambitions ran a solid first knock of 4:05.08. Not bad. But the burning questioned still remained, what could he run with proper preparation?
Under-achieved and hungry, Adam entered the Melbourne Marathon to be held 3 months later in October. Adam called me and asked if I could make him a sub-4 hour runner. Embarrassed I said “forget it,” … a long pause followed… “I’ll make you a sub-3:30 runner!” The campaign commenced.
I broke it down for him, in layman’s terms. To run sub 3:30 you need to keep 5 minute km’s. Easy. Go out 5min pace, come home in 5min pace. There’s a million clowns who will try to fill your head with all sorts of fanciful stories and formula’s about how to run a race. But it’s easy, develop a simple plan and stick to it. In my opinion, if you can run close to 4 hours on average training then you can do 3:30 on proper training.
I set Adam the goal – to absolutely, under no circumstances fail to complete 3 essential workouts each week. 1: The Long Run, between 30 and 40km’s. 2: Repeat Track Set, interval training that we would tackle together on the Queen’s Park grass track. 3: The Tempo Run, some say this is the most important of any training you can do, it’s a run over 15, 30 or 45 minutes at half marathon race pace. These 3 sessions would form the base of the training plan, they would teach him to run fast and how to control his pace, how to stay relaxed when the pressure is on. Supplementary runs and cross-training were to be included would prove advantageous come race day. I told him to believe in the plan and no matter how good you are feeling early, stick to the plan and forget about the emotion, this is a process, don’t let it break down. In the marathon if you set out to run sub-3:30, then aim to hit the finish line at 3:29.59.
He took to the training program diligently and completed all the sessions. Pleasantly surprising me with the high volume of his work. 40km long runs, 6 x 1mile repeat sessions, the infamous Yasso set, 45 minute tempo runs. The contract was fulfilled now it was time for pay day.
In Melbourne, Adam ran a smoking 3:34.42. Smashing his personal best by over 30 minutes. I know it wasn’t the sub-3:30 I’d promised but on a very windy course, especially in the latter half of the race, this was what I call the run of the year.
Why am I telling you this? Not to big-note myself or talk up my friends or anything like that. It’s simply an inspirational story that proves anyone can achieve significant results if they set the goal, train hard and think positively about achieving that goal. Another reason is to prove that any man/woman can and will be humbled in the sporting arena if they have not done the due preparation for an event. No matter who you are, hero of not, if you don’t respect the event and take it cheap then you will be absolutely demolished like my good friend David.
Recently deceased boxer and former heavyweight champion of the world Smokin’ Joe Frazier put it well “if you take short cuts on your running in the dark of morning, you will get found out under the bright lights.”
Train Hard, Win Easy