Rules to Run By (heh, heh, heh)
by Bob Schwartz
I've about had it up to my CoolMax hat. Everywhere I turn, there's another Marathon Training program designed to assist one in easily completing a marathon. Standing. In one piece. Well, it's just not fair to us veteran marathoners whose running history began with not only hitting the legendary wall but also becoming encased in it and staggering to the finish. When we began running marathons, the concepts of lactate threshold levels, VO2 max, energy bars, etc. weren't even around. We proudly wore the battle scars earned from running the last 10 miles of the marathon with mind-altering glycogen depletion producing a lovely hallucinogenic state. That was a true runner's high.
We overtrained, inadequately tapered and didn't drink or eat enough. Through sheer ignorance, we carefully violated every present-day cardinal rule of marathon running and went bonk big time.
I'm tired of now watching people cross the finish line with a big smile - having done everything correctly from pacing to fueling. They don't properly display my initial marathon look of having had a tryst with a fast-moving steamroller while pulling a tank stuck in quicksand. No, they look tired but not exhausted, thirsty but not dehydrated, sore but not spaghetti legs. It's just not fair!
We more seasoned runners need to stick together. We must give new marathoners the opportunity to experience the lovely agony we encountered - the complete enervation, the nausea, the cramps, the crater-size blisters.
Nietsche said, "What doesn't kill me makes me stronger." We'll help them get stronger than ever if they'd only follow our veteran words of advice:
1. Taper Schmaper. Taper? You've got to be kidding! You want to lose that finely tuned conditioning you worked so hard for? That rapid leg turnover? Cut back? No way. Keep that consistent training going right up until a day before the race. To gain that psychological edge, the knowledge that you can go the distance, it's always a great idea to do your last long run a day or two before the marathon. This reinforces that you've got what it takes. Don't worry about "dead legs" come race day. Adrenaline and fan support will overcome that.
2. Speedy Start. The key to a successful start is to place yourself as near to the front as possible. You want to get caught up in the faster pace of the elite runners and make certain you eclipse your planned pace per mile by a minute or so in those first few miles. This way, you'll already be well ahead of your goal target and the mental boost you'll receive is immeasurable.
Don't even think about negative splits. Just get as far ahead as quick as you can and the stimulus of the race will keep you going.
3. Bathroom Discipline. Let's talk anatomy. You drink fluids; you eventually have to expel. Do you want to have to stop for a port-a-potty at mile 18? I think not. The best way to avoid this is to forego all fluid offered at the various aid stations. You won't waste valuable time by slowing down to grab a drink. If you're really thirsty, there'll be plenty of fluids available at the finish line. And the nice people may even give them to you in an IV bag.
4. Coffee Combustion. Give yourself a great big kick-start. If you're a regular coffee drinker, simply quadruple your normal intake. If you're new to the caffeine connection, then three cups will do you just fine. Don't worry about upsetting your stomach. That's a small trade-off for a good opening mile time.
5. Try Something Exciting. You've worked hard in preparation for the marathon and should reward yourself with something new and special for the race. Best thing would be a brand new pair of shoes, a different make of socks - or even a new breakfast cereal. Maybe Bran Buds! Mix things up a little for the big day.
6. Uphill, Downhill. If you encounter any hills, you need to attack them vigorously. Get into some oxygen debt. Sprint up them as fast as humanly possible and then jog leisurely on the downhills. This way you'll get the hill out of the way faster and be able to enjoy the slow pace on the backside.
7. Goo Riddance. Do you think Frank Shorter won a gold medal downing gels or other goos over the last 10 miles? I think not! The only goo Frank was familiar with in the '70s was Shoe Goo, and you wouldn't want to ingest that. Don't rely on a shot of strawberry banana flavored pudding-like food to get you through the light-headed feeling of mile 20. Just close your eyes and plow ahead.
8. Post Run Recovery. Once you cross that finish line, you deserve to simply lie down. Don't expend any further energy - stop the strain train right there. Just take a seat and let those lactic acid pools build right up in your legs where they belong. You may be sore tomorrow, but tomorrow is another day.
If new marathoners would adhere to the above Rules to Run By, they'd bring a depraved little smile to the faces of some old time marathoners. Heh, heh, heh!