Runners Wanted: “Next Level” Training for 5K and Beyond

“I feel the need, the need for speed!”  — Maverick & Goose [Top Gun]

I mentioned a while back that I wanted to write my 3rd place in 1 mile 7 1 2014next running book about how to attain the next level.  I want to answer the question:  “When you have reached a plateau, how do you break through to faster personal records?”  I have done a lot of reading and a lot of experimenting over the last year.  Not everything has worked out… BUT, I think I have finally found a combination of research-based techniques that will do it.  This combination will bring runners to the next level!

Is this a magical elixir?  

It is certainly not magical and it is not a quick-fix.  It requires hard work and a precise combination of specialized training.  In other words, you can’t just go run whatever you want.  You also can’t skip days or change workouts based on how you feel.

What kind of workouts will it include?

My “Next Level” training for breaking plateaus is a combination of 4 types of workouts.  Each of the four workouts have a very specific set of purposes.  Each of the four workouts have been proven to be effective for those purposes.  What is truly new about my program is the combination of the workouts.  In his book Running Science, Dr. Owen Anderson identifies 7 variables that impact running performance:

  • Maximal aerobic capacity (VO2 Max or VDOT)
  • Running Economy
  • Minimum velocity for maximal aerobic capacity (vVo2 Max or vVDOT)
  • Velocity at lactate threshold
  • Maximal running speed
  • Resistance to fatigue
  • Running-specific strength

Of course the variables overlap, with each one affecting several if not all of the other factors.  Still, any balanced approach to enhancing your performance in running must account for all seven.  If you design separate workouts for each variable, you would not have enough time or energy to get them all done and see the changes you are seeking.  Hence, the real trick is in finding specific workouts that lead to significant positive changes in several of these variables.  For the purposes of the Next Level training system, we will call these types of workouts “Super-Workouts” because they do super things for several of the variables.  Like superfoods, superworkouts are powerful.  The right combination will make you much more fit and help you break through to the next level.

Runners Wanted

Before I publish that next book and share the specifics of this new system of training, I need to assemble a group of 20 runners who want to try out my Next-Level Training System.  Interested runners would hire me as their coach for the next few months, following the fee structure outline on my coaching page.  We would start by discussing the specifics about your current level of training and performance.  I would then tailor the Next Level Training System to your specific needs in terms of your paces, goals, and lifestyle.  Then we would closely track your progress and tweak the program as needed.  Runners that stick to the program will then be featured in the book about the Next Level Training System.

Eligibility:  Are you ready to go to the next level?

Runners at all levels are welcome to participate as long as you are willing to stick with the program for at least 8 weeks.  16 weeks is preferred but not required.

Reply Now by emailing me your request to participate.  I will take the first 20 runners regardless of current performance level.  Send me a message as soon as possible to make sure you are included.

“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”  — P. Mark Taylor

 

Keeping Things in Perspective: Down, But Not Out

“On your worst day of running, you still inspire someone.”  This is what I remind myself when I get down.

Unfortunately, I have been down a lot lately.  Just over a year ago, I made a mistake while lifting weights.  I hurt my knees.  I ran the Secret City Half Marathon last year on hurting knees, but then I took almost the entire month of December 2013 off to allow my knees to recover.  2013 had been a year full of personal records.  I was up, up, up and flying high.  I was strong and fast.

secret city 2013I entered 2014 by racing a 5K on New Year’s Day that was considerably slower than my recent 5Ks.  This was not a big surprise since had just taken a month off.  What did surprise me was that it would take me a full year to get back to the shape I had been in before the knee incident.  I suppose that bike wreck and concussion in February didn’t do me much good either.

I trained hard and fast.  I took breaks after the longest races.  I did many things right.  Still, I have been plagued with “bad days” time and time again in 2014.  At my first Boston Marathon, I struggled very early.  I started out as planned, but got slower every mile.  I finished nearly 2 hours slower than my goal and required medical attention.

I focused on shorter distances in the summer more than ever before.  Still, I fell short on the personal records set in 2013.  I was getting closer as I went into fall, but my fall marathon had the same difficulties I had experienced a couple of years ago.  I struggled to maintain pace after the half way mark and gradually faded.  I managed to qualify for Boston 2016, but just barely.  I finished about 10 minutes slower than I had in both of my marathons in 2013.

The only course PR that I set this year was at the Townsend 15K.  I believed I had finally gotten my speed back by the end of November 2014.  I was training very well.  I expected to compete for a PR or come very close at the Secret City Half Marathon in 2014.  Unfortunately, I was ill on that day.  I was nauseous on the way to the race.  I tried to ignore that and started the race as I had planned.  I was fine until mile 4.  I slowed from 6:28 in miles 2 and 3 to a 7:30 in mile 4.  I considered stopping.  I considered puking, thinking I would probably feel better if I could let it out.  I decided to press on and make the best of it.  I pushed myself as hard as I could.  I managed to squeak out a 7:00 average pace by the end of the half marathon.  It was not race-day jitters.  I was ill for the next 36 hours.

I am frustrated.  I am as fast as I have ever been, but I just can’t seem to show it.  Staying positive is the only defense against such thoughts.

  • I am grateful that my knees did recover.
  • I am grateful that I survived the bike wreck (car involved) without anything but a concussion.
  • I am grateful that I have made a strong comeback, even if I have not shown it in a race just yet.
  • I am grateful that I have a loving wife who is patient with me as I go through all of these struggles.

Not everyone has these things.
I am privileged.
I am blessed.

I am frustrated, but I will not give up.  My training is working.  I am enjoying running.  I can’t let performance on race-day detract from that.

“On your worst day of running, you still inspire someone.” This is what I remind myself when I get down.  That is when I find the strength to stop the pity party and keep running.  They are my legs.  It is my effort.  It is my time.  Still, it’s not all about me.  That makes it worth the effort no matter how I do.

 

“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”

– P. Mark Taylor

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Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:

The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & Future Runners Wise Running Book COVER mockup

&

Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life

.

.

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Wise Running Shirts & More

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Giving the Gift of Running

As Christmas quickly approaches, here are some gift ideas for the runners in your life:

GIFT CERTIFICATE:  Give the gift of running!

A $50 or $100 gift certificate from Wise Running can be used to buy a training plan for an upcoming race, run coaching, video gait analysis, or some combination.  See http://wiserunning.com/run-coaching-custom-training-programs/ for details on the services offered.  Contact me directly to purchase a gift certificate.

BOOK ABOUT RUNNNING:  Give the gifts of knowledge and inspiration!

Runners are often avid readers.  Books on running tend to be appreciated by runners because they entertain, inform, and inspire.  Here are a few ideas:

 

Click here for the Current Best-Selling Books on Running

RUNNING GADGETS:  Give the gift of data and/or accessories!

Runners love technology!  Whether it is a well-designed hydration belt or a data-generating device like a GPS watch, these gifts will be appreciated.

Most importantly, nothing says I love you more than the gift of safety.  Here is the most important gear that a runner can wear at night.  It is less than $20, but it is the most important gear to wear for night running.

Let me know if you have any questions about what to get for your runner!

 “Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”

    — P. Mark Taylor

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Winners and Athletes: Runners Who Inspire Me

It is an honor to be the coach of any runner. To have that position of trust is a big deal. Runners love to win. Runners want their training to lead to special moments. It is an important position and I do not take it for granted. In the case of these athletes, it is a double honor. They are winners and athletes.

Winners

Runners at the race expo for the Farragut Half Marathon were able to sign up for a chance to win a 12-Week customized training program designed by me. Melissa and Vickie 4I had intended to award this prize to just one winner, but that is not what happened.  All of the names were written on little slips of paper sitting in a big bowl.  When the time came, I turned my head away and reached in to pick the winner.  At first I had to many pieces of paper in my grasp, so I shook my hand gently until only one slip of paper remained.  It only had one name on it:  Melissa Peplow.  I knew immediately that I had given the plan away to two people.  You see, Melissa is 1/2 of a running team; two people that run as one.  Melissa and her running partner Vicky Wallace register for races separately.  They wear two bib numbers.  Still, they run as one.  Two bodies on three legs and a wheelchair.  Each runner serves the other.  Melissa is legally blind.  Sometimes she can see things clearly, but other times she can’t see much of anything.  Vickie serves as Melissa’s eyes.  Vicky suffered a stroke and presently only has control over the right side of her body.  Vicky wants to use her one good leg to be a runner.  Melissa serves Vicky by pushing the chair from behind.  Two runners working together so that each can give it their full effort.  Every time they finish a race they are winners regardless of what the final standings say.

Athletes

It should not need to be said, but I will say it anyway: theseMelissa and Vickie 3 ladies are athletes.  Not everyone believes that.  The fact that each one has some assistance from the other is enough for a few naysayers to complain.  Any true athlete, however, will recognize Vicky and Melissa as fellow athletes. They are not heroes.  They are not zeroes. They are athletes the same as you and I.  They have grit.  They have goals.   Both of them are facing huge challenges.  Both are out there training to improve their performance.  Both of them give all they have during a race.  The vast majority of runners are not racing each other as much as they are racing against themselves, trying to get better.  That is what an athlete does.

Coaching

Every athlete I coach faces challenges.  Every athlete inspires me as they find new and intersting ways to overcome those challenges.  These two are no different.  Yesterday I met with Vicky and Melissa to have our initial coaching session.  I observed their form, discussed their training habits, discussed their goals, and talked about how to move forward with developing their training plan.  That is what I do with all athletes.  I usually meet with runners one-on-one.  These ladies run as one.  I looked at their form as individuals and as a team.  I am giving them strength training to do as individuals and run training to do as a team.  That is what they need to do to improve.  That is what they want.  They are not trying to beat you in a race.  They are in a race with their limitations… and they are winning.

You can find them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/With-a-Will-There-is-a-Way/581877085167519.

 “Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”

    — P. Mark Taylor

_____________

Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:

The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & Future Runners  Wise Running Book COVER mockup

&

Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life

.

.

_______________________________________________________

Wise Running Shirts & More

Find yours HERE:

I love running shirt

 

Happy Runiversary! Savannah Marathon 2014 Race Report

Sometimes the race is not the main event.  While it was most definitely the event we planned around, this Savannah trip was much more than a marathon.

THE RACE

As for the actual race, I had yet another marathon when I tried out a new fuel.  I have never been totally happy with the gels or bars I have used in the past.  This race was no different.  Although I had practiced using Bonk Breakers bars in training, they did not work as well as I had hoped during the actual race.  That savannah 2014 resultsbeing said, I still had a reasonably strong run.

My main goal was actually to remain in the 6:50s for average pace for the first 20 miles.  I slowed a little faster than anticipated but still managed to average around 7:12.5 for 20 miles.  Not what I was shooting for, but still pretty good.

Although I was following my race plan as closely as I could, I gradually became weaker.  By mile marker 23, I had to start taking some walking breaks to avoid cramping.  I kept the best pace that I could without cramping.  I was running by feel rather than pace.  I could have tried to push the pace, but I am very familiar with this feeling.  I knew that pushing the pace would lead to strained muscles that could take a long time to heal.  Time to ease up and stay healthy.  Although I was a little disappointed, I still managed to finish in 3:22:44.  This is about 10 minutes slower than my PR, but it is still a Boston qualifying time by over two minutes.  That’ll do.

savannah 2014  muna jennifer meThe Run-iversary

It wasn’t the best time I have run for a marathon, but it was the best of times at the Rock’n’Roll Savannah Marathon.  The town of Savannah is great.  The course was supported well and the streets were filled with the citizens of Savannah cheering us on!  More importantly, Muna (left) and I were celebrating our first anniversary.  Is it odd that we would celebrate it by running a marathon?  NO!  We were married exactly one year before when we stopped in South Carolina to be married at the church where her uncle was the pastor.  You see, last year we were on our way from Knoxville to Savannah to go run the marathon.  We decided to “elope” just a few days before the marathon.  We got married the day before the race.  During the race, I stayed with my new bride to pace her to a PR.

That was 2013.  This was 2014.  It has been a good year and we were in ready to celebrate by running.  Our friend Jennifer (right) traveled with us to run the half marathon.  We had fun on the road.  We enjoyed the massive race expo.  We took the ferry across the river and enjoyed historic downtown Savannah, GA.  We got up early on race day, raced, and celebrated with thousands of other folks at the post-race party.  After an hour or two of reloading with Gatorade, Power Bars, and Michelob Ultra, we began to waddle back to the car.  On both days, Muna would stop us at every historical marker in Savannah to narrate with the words on the placard.  We love Savannah. We love the marathon.  We will be back next year for another try at a personal record.   We will be back to celebrate our run-iversary.

 “Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”

    — P. Mark Taylor

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Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:

The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & Future Runners  Wise Running Book COVER mockup

&

Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life

.

.

_______________________________________________________

Wise Running Shirts & More

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I love running shirt

10 Days Before the Marathon

wise running logo 7_25_12The hay is in the barn.  It is October 28 and I just ran the last key workout for the Savannah Marathon.  That leaves 10 days between today and race day.  It takes a full 10 days to see the full benefit of any particular workout, so this is a logical stopping point.  I will not get any faster.  Through rest and easy running, however, I will keep my speed and increase my health.  The little bumps and bruises, the sore parts, the cramps, strains and all of that, those things need time to heal.  They need to be gone by race day.  Fresh legs with no soreness but all of the speed I have earned through a thoughtful and hard-fought process of training.  Yes, 10 days ought to do the trick.

Getting to This Point

Much of my summer was focused on track meets and developing raw speed.  It was in mid-July that I first started sprinkling in some marathon-specific workouts.  I still had a few track meets left as well as a half-iron distance triathlon, so I was not fully devoted to marathon until later.  My long runs began to get longer and I sprinkled in some tempo runs here and there.

In August, my monthly mileage gradually went from somewhere in the twenties to somewhere in the thirties.  Throughout September, I averaged 41 miles per week.  Through experience, I have learned this is the sweet spot for my marathon training.  I make the most progress at about 40-44 miles per week.  Some people can handle a lot more.  This is me.  I have stayed right around there through the first 3 weeks of October, too.

My longest runs are every other week.  At first I was measuring by miles, but after 16 miles I start measuring by time.  My long runs went from two hours and twenty minutes, to two hours and forty minutes.  I completed two 3-hour long runs.  The Sundays between these very long runs were in the 10 to 12 mile range.

My training paces have changed over the months as well.  In July and part of August, I was doing a lot of short (200 meters to 800 meters) intervals at 5:40 pace or faster.  I gradually decreased time at those ridiculously fast paces while increasing time and distances at paces ranging from 6:30 15257355495_c5aa8f7266_oto 6:50.  These are the paces that I want to run during the marathon, so I have run a lot of mile repeats and tempo runs in this pace range.  No, I do not plan to average 6:30 miles in the marathon.  I would like to average in the 6:50 range.  I have to plan for time to walk through water stations and take a potty break.  Hence, I practiced 6:30’s and 6:40’s to aim for an average in the 6:50’s.  :)

I have done races along the way, but I considered them all to be training runs for the marathon.  I wanted to maintain two to three key workouts per week.  That meant that I could not afford to rest up to really kill any races along the way.  So, they were just training at a good pace.

The 10 Days of Taper

So here we are, 3.5 months after the first marathon-specific workout.  The hay is in the barn.  I will take it easy.  All runs will be at 8:00 pace or slower except for a few strides now and then.  This is enough effort to maintain my speed but easy enough to heal completely in 10 days. My scheduled miles for this week add up to 26.  Next week, I will run 9 to 12 miles before race day on Saturday.

Not only am I going for a personal record (PR) at the Savannah Marathon, but it also the one year anniversary of our wedding.  Muna and I got married on the way to the race last year.  It will be a great day no matter how the race turns out.  Gotta keep things in perspective.

 ______________________________

“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”

    — P. Mark Taylor

_____________

Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:

The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & Future Runners  Wise Running Book COVER mockup

&

Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life

.

.

_______________________________________________________

Wise Running Shirts & More

Find yours HERE:

I love running shirt

2014 Progress Report on My Own Training & Performance

In the midst of watching my run coaching clients make progress and set personal records, I have forgotten to reflect on my own progress as a runner.

A lot has happened in the last year or so.

  • I injured my knees in late November of 2013 and did not run for 4 weeks in December.
  • I was clipped by a car while riding my bike in February 2014, suffering a concussion.
  • I ran my first Boston Marathon in April, which turned out to be my second slowest marathon time.
  • I focused my summer training on the 800 meters and 1 mile distances.
  • I competed in my first “USA Track and Field” sanctioned track meet.
  • I became a RRCA certified running coach.
  • I ran two mile races on the road and 5 track meets in the summer.
  • In between track and mile events I also completed my very first triathlon, the “Storm the Fort” Half-Iron Distance.
  • I did a total of three triathlons in 2014, two half-iron distance triathlons and one sprint triathlon.

Townsend 15KSetbacks

Due to the time off from the knee injury and concussion, my fitness level suffered.  I lost a lot of progress.  I have been pushing hard all year just to get back to level of fitness that I had a year ago.  I have loved the training.  I enjoy pushing myself.  On the other hand, it has been extremely frustrating to work that hard and not achieve any personal records.  Very discouraging.

Progress

Yesterday was a big victory.  No, I did not win a race.  I was even a full minute behind the winner in my age group.  Still, it was a big victory.  I set a personal record (PR) in the 15K distance (about 9.3 miles).  That feels pretty good.

I still have a ways to go.  I am still a bit behind where I was in February of last year.  That is when my fitness last fully peaked.  I ran a 1:27:42 on a hilly half marathon course.  This is 9 seconds per mile faster than the 15K I ran yesterday.  Hence, I am close, but not quite all the way there.

When will I get there?  Well, I have 2.5 weeks left before I taper (ease up and heal) for the Savannah Marathon, which is on November 8.  I will have 5 key workouts in that 2.5 weeks.  I may not reach a PR at Savannah, but I should be very close at that point.

Conclusion

Whether I peak at Savannah or not, I know the time is very soon when I will be able to earn a few more personal records.

  • My training is balanced, pushing just the right amount.
  • I am eating healthier than ever.
  • And, most importantly, I am enjoying my training.

When I am not enjoying it, I change it up.

Remember This:

Enjoying the run comes first!
It is more important than progress and personal records.

 ______________________________

“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”

    — P. Mark Taylor

_____________

Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:

The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & Future Runners  Wise Running Book COVER mockup

&

Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life

_______________________________________________________

Wise Running Shirts & More

Find yours HERE:

I love running shirt

Assessing Progress: Keeping Race Results In Perspective

 

wise running logo 7_25_12At last night’s track meet, my 800 meter result was two seconds slower than last year.  My first reaction was disappointment and frustration. I am sick and tired of not making significant progress.  Upon reflection, however, my slower performance is a sign of good things.

How could this be?  When you look at race results you must ask yourself some key questions:

Was that the best I could do on that given day, under those specific conditions?

For my 800 meter race last night, my performance was solid during most of the race.  My first lap was a couple of seconds slower than the plan, but the strong wind accounts for that.  Good start.  I lost some mental focus in the first 100 meters of the second lap.  By the time I realized what was happening and managed to refocus, I had run about 130 meters slower than the planned pace.  From there, I was able to regain my intended pace and then accelerate for the last 150 meters.

Does it show progress from recent performances?

Yes.  Even though I finished slower than last year at the same event, I did make progress.  My most recent 800 meter race in June was 2:29.  This was 4 seconds faster.  So, compared to recent performances, this 2:25 is progress.

Moreover, the comparison to last year might not be fair.  There have been three events that occurred in the last year that made me slower: two wrecks and a knee injury.  In light of the fact that I took one full month off from running, it is a pleasant surprise that I am only two seconds slower.  That is a fairly good recovery.

What did I do well during the race?

The thing that went very well in yesterday’s 800 meter race was mental focus.  In many recent events, I have lost my mental focus about half way through the race and never regained it.  I have tailored my training to overcome this by practicing getting fatigued and then running at race pace.  It has pushed my body to prepare to battle through fatigue.  It has prepared my mind to recover focus.

What aspect of your race do I want to improve on before the next race?

I still had 130 meters in this 800 meter race where I did not maintain focus, so I will continue to work on that.  I know that training is working.  I see the improvement.

With all of this in mind, I know that my current training is effective.  I have every reason to expect some personal records to fall over the next few months.

Every race is another opportunity to assess progress and make changes if needed.  I have another 800 meter race in four weeks.  I would like to see a 2:15 this year.  :)

Remember This!

Aim high, but keep in touch with reality.
Give yourself credit for every little bit of progress.
This becomes your courage to push for your best in the next event.

 

“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”

    — P. Mark Taylor

_____________

Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:

The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & Future Runners  Wise Running Book COVER mockup

&

Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life

Experimental Training: Staying the Course

Back in January, I reported that I was engaging in “experimental training” focused on building speed.  I summarized by saying:

  • I will run less frequently, but with greater intensity.
  • The speed-work I run on the track is going to be much faster and more intense than I would ever recommend to a client.
  • I will work harder on power through intense speed-work and additional weightlifting.
  • My long runs will still gradually increase as I prepare to run the Boston Marathon.  This remains the same.  There is no substitute.  The experimental side of the long runs for now is that my tempo runs will be embedded within those long runs each week.
  • I will replace my easy running days with cross-training on the bike and in the pool.

Has the experiment paid off yet?

No.  At least not in terms of scoring personal records.

In fact, I have had some relatively slow races lately.  Am I getting slower?  No, I am not.  I am training as fast as ever. ImplementationDip

What I am going through right now is called an implementation dip.  I am challenging my body in new ways.  Hence, my body is changing in subtle but important ways.  In the graph at the right, I am somewhere in the red zone.  My performance had plateaued, so I implemented alternative training and my performance dipped down.  As I continue with the new training, the performance will begin to rise again.  When the change is complete, I can expect my performance to not only match my prior level but to begin exceeding it.  By staying the course on this plan, I should begin setting personal records again before fall rolls around.

On a related note, this is messing with my head a little.  In races this year, I have not felt exactly the same as before.  As a result, I have not been able to make good pacing decisions.  When I get past the implementation dip, the feel of races will be more consistent.  This will help me better adjust my pacing during races and maximize my race performances.

Have I seen any benefits so far?

Yes.  I am healthier, with fewer aches and pains.  At 46 years old, that is a big deal.

I am running fewer miles and doing more cross-training that causes less wear and tear.  I am still doing a lot of cardiovascular work to enhance endurance.  It is just in different formats.  Fewer aches and pains means I am more comfortable doing strength training.  This in turn allows me to get faster.

It also breaks up the daily grind by offering alternative training sites and experiences.  Having fewer runs per week makes my runs feel even more special than before. Even though I have added biking, swimming, and some triathlons, I am still a runner.  That is where my goals are.  That is where my heart soars.

“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”

    — P. Mark Taylor

_____________

Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:

The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & Future Runners  Wise Running Book COVER mockup

&

Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life

 

 

Boston 2014: My Race Report

I was aiming to finish the 2014 Boston Marathon in about 3 hours.  It took me almost 2 hours longer than expected.  My nerves got the best of me.  It was my first Boston.  I was so excited and nervous that I made a few rookie mistakes.  Most of them revolve around my usual routine.  If your routine gets you to Boston, keep following it!

The Mistakes

The mistakes have nothing to do with training or my race plan.  I was well-trained and had a solid plan.  I boston 2014 runningfollowed the plan almost exactly for the first 5 miles.  a 6:40 pace almost exactly.  This is what I had trained for.  It was the right strategy.

Then the bottom fell out.  I was gradually getting weaker and my top pace was slowing.  I tried to slow things down for a bit and then level out to a 7:00 pace, but that quickly fell by the wayside.  I was getting weaker.  This is how the last 6 miles of a marathon feels when I am doing well, but this struggle was not at mile 20 or 21.  No, this was mile 6.  And I was getting weaker at a much more quickly than I would at the end of a good marathon.  Something was very wrong and I knew it.

By mile 8, I had gone from Goal A (3 hours), to Goal B (3:05), to Goal C (3:25), but I had to give that up too.  No, the rest of the race would be about survival.  It was time to move to Goal D: finish the race without an injury.  By the last mile, I was struggling hard to get a 15 minute pace.

My mistakes were made before I ever left the hotel room to go to the starting line.  First, I didn’t eat carefully enough for the month before the race.  I have a gluten intolerance and I was “glutened” at a restaurant about 3 weeks before Boston.  I had mostly recovered but I was not 100% going in to race day.  Second, I drank Gatorade for a couple of days before the race.  Good for electrolyte loading, bad for carb loading.  The sugar spikes your metabolism and causes you to deplete your carb supplies.  Rookie mistake.  Got nervous and forgot my own rule: stick with the routine that is working.  The third mistake probably had the biggest effect.  I forgot to take my electrolyte supplements with me to the start line.  Everyone has their own level of need for electrolytes.  My need is much higher than the average person.  I did not even think about this until I was struggling in mile 6.  I am a coach.  I blog about these things.  I teach these lessons.  I am more embarrassed than disappointed.  I knew better on all three counts, but my nerves got the best of me.  Not going to happen next year!

The Positives

Even though I struggled hard for over 20 miles, there are a lot of positives in this experience too.  First, the race is extremely well-organized and extremely secure.  The Boston Marathon is a class act and the runners are all class acts as well.  The whole environment was uplifting.

Cheering fans lined every step of the course, all 26.2 miles of it.  There was no break.  The support was overwhelming and I was thankful for it.  Whenever I got too down on myself for my errors, I just looked over at the side, waved my hands a little, and the crowd went wild.  Awesome support.

This is the year after the bombings.  At every moment in the entire experience, we were safe.  A guardian angel from law enforcement and/or our armed services was there watching like hawks.  It wasn’t just the course.  There was a wide perimeter of security around the entire towns of Hopkinton, Boston, and every town between.

Did the terrorists scare the crowd away?  No.  The crowd was double the usual number.
Did the terrorists scare the runners away?  No.  The crowd of runners was MUCH larger than last year.
Were the crowd and runners focused on a possible bombing?  No.  We thought about it, but the security blanket offered by the law enforcement agencies was enough to let us focus on excellence and fun.

Boston 2014 with MunaLast but not least among the positives was the presence of my wife, Muna.  Muna is a running coach, too.  She hasn’t run Boston yet, but she is really close to qualifying.  It will happen.  Even though she ran a 19-miler on Sunday, she was not there as a coach or a runner.  She came to support me.  She stood by me and tried to calm me down before.  She was there encouraging me after.  Muna knew what my expected time was and she saw the reports of my progress throughout.  She knew I was struggling.  She knew I was getting worse as I went.  I had two extra hours of struggle during the race.  Muna had 2 extra hours of worrying about what might be wrong.  Then she had to wait as the medical support got my electrolytes back to a stable range.  She took care of me.  Despite the enormously positive experience with the people of Boston and their marathon, Muna was my biggest positive of the race.  Thank you, Muna.

How Do I Feel About My Race?

boston and Knoxville

My first marathon was the Knoxville Marathon in 2010. My first Boston Marathon was in 2014. Both were slow and painful. These are the ones that mean the most.

If this had been a goal race, my bad day would have been much more devastating.  To be sure, I am disappointed.   I am embarrassed by my rookie mistakes.  But it was not a goal race.  Even though I trained for the distance, the focus of my training is presently on shorter races: the 800 meters and mile.  No, it was not a goal race.  It was a victory lap.  It was a victory lap for the 4.5 years it took to go from novice to Boston.  Hence, it was not as devastating as it could have been, because I still have that progress.  I have still qualified for Boston 3 times over the last two years.

Looking ahead, I am determined to come back next year and get a sub-3 hour marathon at Boston.  I have been inching closer to sub-3 for a couple of years now.  I will take another shot at it in Savannah in November, but most of my training will still be focussing on the short races.  After Savannah, I will turn my attention to Boston without being distracted by the short races.  I will follow my safe routine.  I will bring my electrolytes.  I will conquer the Boston Marathon.  I always return to the site of a bad run to conquer it as soon as I can.

The Boston Marathon is a great race with awesome runners, and super fans.

I just had a bad day.

I shall return.

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“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”

– P. Mark Taylor

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Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:

The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & Future Runners Wise Running Book COVER mockup

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Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life