Some people will tell you that how well you perform on marathon race day will depend largely on the weather and other environmental factors that may affect your time. While these do of course matter they are not the be all and end all, indeed the majority of your race day success will come down to your advance preparation.
The four-hour barrier is something that many starting out, and those who have been running for a while, and want to improve, aim for. Don’t be fooled however as a marathon in four hours isn’t an easy challenge. You have to be well prepared.
There are four main points to consider when looking to beat that four house time: fuel, training, judgement, and outlook.
If you want to have enough fuel to get you to the end of the race without losing too much power you need to ensure that you have an adequate glycogen store. Maxing out these stores is essential as even with the maximum load in reserve your body will still need more fuel to get you through the entire race. Not enough fuel, and you’ll slow down too soon and there goes your “under four hours” hope.
Some might believe that constant training, cramming extra sessions in before the big day is the key to success. It isn’t. Over-working yourself is more likely to damage you which will of course have a knock-on effect on your times. If you want to be at the top of your game you actual need to wind down your training somewhat in advance. Do your biggest, hardest pre-event run around three weeks before the marathon and then reduce the intensity and distances over the next few weeks.
Don’t stop altogether as this will have a detrimental effect, however, if you make sure that your last really good workout is around ten days before the race you’ll be in great shape and have recovered sufficiently to prepare you for success.
You know yourself better than anyone else and provided your listen to your body and consider your training you should be able to work out a decent pace that you can maintain (and your glycogen reserves will approve of!) throughout the stages.
You’ll naturally slow down a little after you reach the half way point so aim to reach this at around 1h 55minutes in. Remember that in order to make the best time you don’t want to be pushing too hard, you need to be constant and you need to plan your pace for those times when your energy reserves have started to dip. Practice makes perfect on this one.
A large part of succeeding when it comes to longer running events is motivation. Your outlook, and how positive it is will go a long way to help you achieve those all-important goals. Do what you need to get you going, play music in your head, have a mantra, visualise each stage and your eventual finish; whatever you need to stay steady and succeed.
Consider these training and food-related points and arm yourself with a go-get-em attitude and you’ll be well on track for coming in under four hours next time you run a marathon.