Learn a few lessons from today’s race and get started now.
Written by: T.J. Murphy
- Let go of your mental limits. Although it won’t be recognized as a world record because of Boston’s huge net elevation drop, Kenyan Geoffrey Mutai’s 2:03:02 win today was an example of a runner unleashed from any limits about what he’s supposed to be able to do. In fact, the lead men didn’t appear the least bit surprised that they were on route to what averages out to be faster than 4:45 per mile over 26.2 miles. The lesson for all runners? When thinking about a goal like qualifying for the Boston Marathon, the first step is to discard the notion that it’s impossible.
- Nutrition is huge. One change that’s beginning to sweep through the running world is the idea that all you need to do is log tons of miles. No—you need a comprehensive approach to achieve a goal like qualifying for Boston, including speed training, restoration and recovery work, proper strength and—extremely important—is nutrition. The idea that you can eat whatever you want because you run is not going to allow you to achieve your true potential. Eating high-quality foods in place of processed foods is the most valuable move you can make—lean meats, fish, vegetables, nuts and fruits should make up the core of a good running diet. Eating a junky diet is going to retard the effect of all the training.
- Start now. One of the biggest mistakes made by first-time marathoners is when they fail to use a long-term training program and instead try to cram for it like a college final. First-time marathoners who make this mistake are often so discouraged by how bad they feel on marathon day that they will give up the running life for good whether they cross the finish line or not. One of the most potent weapons a marathoner—regardless of talent—can put to use is a long-term, slow-growth training program. Want a shot at qualifying for Boston 2012? Start today.
- Find a plan and follow it with precision and passion. In addition to committing to a long-term training plan is the value of day-to-day discipline of carrying out each and every week. Small adjustments are fine—such as changing things up during a week a bit, or easing off when you get sick or hurt, but be determined to do all the little extras like eating right, getting your rest and using cross-training if you have to miss some running. You want to rack up months of quality training, and when you do, you’ll be stunned at how much improvement this brand of slow-growth discipline will yield.
- Work toward the goal of being injury-proof. Building strength in the core, hip and hamstring muscles and practicing good posture will help transfer the stress of running from the knees to the trunk—and this means not only lessening the chance of a knee injury but tapping into extremely powerful muscle potential for increased performance. Talk to a coach or personal trainer to learn the basic exercises to help you do this.
- Stoke the fire within. You start a goal like training to qualify for Boston all fired up. Be sure to keep the fire. Keep passion fueled by reading running magazines, keeping company with other runners and imagining the satisfaction of being a part of the 2012 Boston.
- Be patient. American Desiree Davila put on a brilliant demonstration of how patience within a marathon—sticking to a tactical plan and being mentally prepared to stay calm and execute it put Davila squarely in the hunt for the victory. Balance your passion to achieve your goal with the patience to never get rattled when things appear to go poorly. Don’t let speed bumps derail you from your mission.
- Seek out expert guidance. Make a game of the entire training plan—to get stronger, faster, smarter and healthier through an education in all the topics we’ve mentioned—training, nutrition, strength and proper rest. Make your training plan a mission to transform your body, your life and your mind through the game of training for a marathon, and the best way to do that? Seek out the best experts in all of these areas and follow their advice.
- Live like a clock. Did you notice that Kara Goucher sliced a minute off of her marathon PR with today’s 2:24:52? Tailwind or not, this is an amazing fact when you figure she had a baby back in September—not just having a baby, but all that the first six months of having a baby brings. At the press conference she talked about how taking care of Colt, her son, forced her to achieve a new level of discipline and focus in her training. The point? Goucher’s example is a good one for those of us who similarly juggle jobs and families. By “living like a clock” we can tend to all of our life responsibilities and still be able to carve out the key blocks of time we need to get in our running program.
- Enjoy it. Don’t let running become another stress—let it be an escape from the stressful parts of our lives. Go for the goal of qualifying for Boston but do it in a way that savors the process and so that in the end—whether the qualification goal is met or not—the journey has been worth every minute.