The “marathon trap” is widely understood but generally overlooked on race day for a number of reasons which we’ll explore below. The Trap, if you will, applies to any running race not managed properly but it’s deeper and more common during the marathon. The New York City Marathon is even more unique in how it magnifies the factors that lead to it.
In 2013, Runner’s World published a piece by Amby Burfoot that concluded most runners are better off listening to their bodies versus following a formulaic pacing approach, according to a study he cites.
Amby reviews the marathon data and writes…
The runners held their pace for 13.1 miles, but then slowed dramatically. But wait. We all know The Wall doesn’t hit you until 20 miles. There’s no physiological reasons for marathoners to suddenly fatigue at the halfway point. What gives? Why did the runners crash at 13.1 miles?
My guess: The runners were relying too heavily on high goal-setting, heart-rate monitors, GPS systems, equivalent-performance tables, and the like. In other words, they used one or several of these tools to pick a goal pace faster than their actual race-day fitness. That’s what we high-success, high-determination, Type A runners often do.
Another Run SMART coach comes out against the “magic 20 and 22 milers” for beginner marathoners. We all know Jack is very adamant about his 2:30 hour cap on long runs for beginners and we pretty much rest our case there but in an interview with Run SMART Media, Ann Alyanak says “20 and 22 mile long runs are not necessary” for a first-time marathon runner looking to finish the race.
RS: When you get a client who wants to run a marathon but has never run a race before what do you tell them?
ANN: I would not discourage a client from running a marathon even if they have not raced before but I would encourage them to run some shorter races first like a 5k and 10k and maybe even a half marathon. I would want them just to experience a race environment before jumping right into a marathon.
We asked Run SMART coach Ann Alyanak what her marathon warm-up routine is and what she recommends to her clients.
Ann: My typical marathon warm-up is a mile shakeout about 3 hours before the race. I do this right after I wake up and before I eat breakfast. This is just to help me wake up and get some blood flowing. Then about 30 minutes before the race I will run very easy for about 10 minutes and do some light stretching. I will do a couple very light strides as well. I don’t do anything hard or long because I want to conserve my energy for the race. The first couple miles of the marathon kind of serve as a warm-up too.