Sunday 13 August 2023

Marathon Training: The Art of the Slow Run

Justin Ferguson during his Boston Qualifying run
Mid-race during my Boston Qualifying run

By: Justin Ferguson

When it comes to marathon training, advice abounds, and every seasoned runner seems to have their own secret formula for success. However, there's one piece of wisdom that stands out among the rest - the importance of slow, deliberate long runs. It might sound counterintuitive, but slowing down your pace during long training runs can be the key to unlocking your best race day performance.

Here are some elements to consider:

1. The Tortoise's Approach to Long Runs

In the whirlwind of excitement surrounding marathon training, the temptation to push your pace on every run can be irresistible. But seasoned athletes know better. Long runs, those backbone workouts that build both physical and mental endurance, are meant to be slow. A general rule of thumb? Run about a minute and a half slower per mile or about 1 minute per KM than your target race pace. This might feel like taking two steps back, but it's actually a giant leap forward in terms of preparing your body for the demands of a marathon.

2. Kipchoge's Wisdom: Slow and Steady Wins the Training

Even the legendary marathoner Eliud Kipchoge, often hailed as one of the greatest runners of all time, adheres to the principle of slow-paced training runs. He reserves his speed runs for a specific part of his training regimen and maintains a slower pace for the majority of his runs. This method allows his body to recover, adapt, and build the necessary endurance for the race day challenge.

3. Race Day: Trust Your Training

When race day arrives, it's natural to feel jittery and anxious about your pace. But rest assured, if you've been consistent with your slower long runs during training, you're setting yourself up for success. The energy and excitement of race day, coupled with the adrenaline of competition and the support of fellow runners, often lead to a faster pace than you might expect.

4. Tempo Runs: A Glimpse of Race Pace

While long runs should be slow, there's a place in your training for some faster-paced workouts. Enter the tempo run, a training technique where you run at a pace just below your race pace. These workouts help your body become familiar with the sensation of running faster and can bridge the gap between your slow long runs and your target race pace.

5. Embrace Variety in Speed Workouts

Variety is the spice of life, and it's no different in marathon training. Once a week, incorporate a speed workout into your routine. Mix things up with ladders, fartleks, intervals, and tempo runs. This not only prevents monotony but also challenges different aspects of your running abilities, making you a well-rounded and adaptable athlete.

6. The Unpredictability of Running

Remember, every day is a new opportunity to learn and grow as a runner. Sometimes your best runs come from the days when you didn't feel like stepping out the door, while occasionally, even on days you're excited to run, things might not go as planned. Embrace the unpredictability and acknowledge that each run contributes to your overall progress.

7. Accepting Setbacks and Learning

Not every run will be a triumph, and that's okay. There will be days when you can't finish a run or when you need a helping hand to make it back home. These moments teach us resilience, and the importance of listening to our bodies. Every setback is a chance to reevaluate, adjust, and come back even stronger. I remember a particular long run, I had done everything right in preparation, but I couldn’t finish it.  I was 5 weeks out from a race and was heartbroken, but I didn’t stay down for too long. I got back out there, kept my training going and crushed my personal best at the race.  

Marathon training is a journey that demands patience, discipline, and a willingness to challenge your preconceived notions about pacing. By incorporating slow long runs, following the footsteps of running legends like Kipchoge, and adding a touch of speed work to your training, you're setting yourself up for a successful race day. Embrace the variability of running, learn from setbacks, and above all, enjoy the process of becoming a better runner with every stride.

Sunday 6 August 2023

Conquering Goals: Qualifying for the Boston Marathon

Revel Mt. Charleston Finisher medal with the Boston Marathon Qualifying Tag

Personalized video created by the race

By: Justin Ferguson

Achieving a goal is a journey that often demands unwavering determination and unyielding effort. As a passionate runner, I've always dreamed of standing at the starting line of the prestigious Boston Marathon, knowing that I had earned my spot through qualifying with a remarkable time. Although I have run Boston twice before on charity spots, the desire to earn my place through qualifying always lingered in the back of my mind. On April 1, 2023, the day finally arrived when I conquered my goal by running a 3:08 race, and it was an experience unlike any other.

The path to qualifying for Boston led me to the Revel Mt. Charleston race, set amidst the breathtaking landscapes outside of Las Vegas. As I began my descent down the mountain, I was captivated by the majestic beauty around me, but I knew I had to be mindful not to get carried away. Saving a bit of energy for the end was crucial as the course would flatten out, and I would face a challenging uphill section near the finish.

Preparing for this unique race involved specific training to condition my body for the downhill portions. Many runners focus on uphill training, but the pounding your legs endure while running downhill requires a different set of skills. My training regimen included strengthening exercises and technique drills to reduce the risk of injury and optimize my performance.

The race day itself was an extraordinary adventure. Starting at the top of the mountain amidst snow-covered peaks was a surreal experience. The biting cold only fueled my excitement, knowing that I would eventually finish in the blazing desert heat. It was a testament to the resilience of all the runners on that course, battling through the extremes of weather to achieve their goals.

One aspect that needs to be mentioned was how incredibly well-organized the Revel Mt. Charleston race was. From registration to race logistics, everything ran smoothly, allowing runners to focus solely on their performance and the exhilarating journey ahead.

Crossing that finish line with a 3:08 time filled me with immense joy and accomplishment. Qualifying for the Boston Marathon has been a dream nurtured over years of hard work, and finally, it had come true. The sense of achievement was unparalleled, knowing that I had earned my spot on that iconic starting line.

This journey back to the Boston starting line, this time as qualifier, reminded me that goals are not just achieved; they are conquered through dedication, perseverance, and the courage to push beyond your limits. The road may be challenging, but the rewards are worth every step. As I now prepare to run Boston once more, I carry with me the fulfillment of knowing that I earned my place, that I am not just a participant but a true qualifier, and that is a feeling like no other.

Justin Ferguson is an avid runner

Wednesday 2 August 2023

Conquering the elements: Marathon Training Hill Runs in the Hot and Smokey Conditions

 By: Justin Ferguson 

Some days in marathon training, it's all about the grind. As runners, we know that pushing our limits is essential for growth. Today, it's was a grueling, hot, a little smokey 50 minutes of hill running that test ed my determination. With each stride, I reminded myself of the bigger goal – the marathon finish line. It's not always easy, but as runners we embrace the challenge. These tough days build mental and physical resilience, shaping us into stronger runners. So, let's hit the hills, embrace the struggle, and inch closer to our marathon dreams.

Sunday 30 July 2023

The Art of Post-Long Run Recovery: Embracing the 70-Minute Recovery Run

By: Justin Ferguson

After conquering the challenges of a long run yesterday, today's 70-minute recovery run becomes an essential component of a good training routine. As dedicated runners, we often emphasize pushing our limits, but it's equally crucial to give our bodies the time to heal and rebuild. The focus of this recovery run is simple: take it easy and allow your legs to recover.

Embracing a slower pace and a relaxed mindset during this run is key. Resist the temptation to compare it with yesterday's accomplishments. Instead, let the rhythmic strides help flush out toxins and promote blood circulation. A 70-minute duration strikes a balance, providing enough activity to prevent stiffness, yet gentle enough to facilitate recovery.

Amidst the blazing hot sun, remember to stay hydrated and protect yourself from excessive heat. Embrace the meditative nature of this run, connecting with your body and appreciating the harmony between mind and muscles.

Incorporate this recovery run into your training schedule regularly, and witness the magic it works in enhancing your overall performance and well-being. Happy running!

Saturday 29 July 2023

My Journey to the next Marathon: Conquering a 21.1km Training Run

By: Justin Ferguson

Today was another step in my marathon training journey as I tackled a 21.1km run. As I ventured out for today’s training run, I reminded myself of the importance of pacing and staying focused on form during long runs.

Embracing a slower pace during these training sessions is crucial. It allows our bodies to adapt, preventing exhaustion and potential injuries. The objective is to build endurance gradually, ensuring we have enough gas in the tank for the marathon itself.

However, slowing down doesn't mean losing focus. Maintaining proper running form is equally vital. It minimizes strain on muscles and joints, enhancing efficiency and reducing the risk of long-term injuries.

Today's 21.1km run was a reminder of the significance of balancing pace and form in marathon preparation. Each step brings me closer to my goal, and I'm excited to continue this journey to my next race. Remember, slow and steady wins the race, and a strong focus on form will pave the way to marathon success.

Thursday 27 July 2023

The Bliss of a Relaxed, Fast-Paced Run: Embrace the Joy of Running!

By: Justin Ferguson

There's a unique joy in lacing up your running shoes and hitting the pavement with the intention of taking it easy, only to find yourself embracing the exhilaration of a fast-paced run. Today, I experienced just that during a 7km jog that turned into an unexpected burst of speed.

As a runner, I've come to learn that our bodies have a remarkable way of surprising us when we least expect it. The purpose of my run was to enjoy a relaxed and leisurely session, letting my mind wander amidst the calming rhythm of my footsteps. However, my muscles felt alive, and before I knew it, my strides naturally quickened, propelling me into one of my fastest paces in this early part of my training cycle.

The beauty of such a run lies in the freedom it bestows upon the mind and body. Unburdened by the pressure of setting a new personal record or competing with others, I allowed my senses to soak in the surroundings – the gentle breeze, which was sometimes a strong headwind, the rhythmic sound of my breath, and the rhythmic patter of my feet on the ground.

As I reached the endorphin-induced joy that often accompanies a good run, I couldn't help but revel in the sense of accomplishment that came with unexpectedly surpassing my own expectations.

Running has a magical way of unveiling our untapped potential, and it reminds us of the innate joy that exists in the simple act of moving our bodies. Whether we sprint like the wind or jog at a leisurely pace, the essence of running lies in the happiness it brings. So, embrace the spontaneity of a relaxed, fast-paced run, and let the bliss of running uplift your spirits and strengthen your love for this timeless sport. Happy running!

Tuesday 25 July 2023

Embracing Flexibility: When 6.5km Triumphs Over 10km in Hill Training

By: Justin Ferguson

In the world of marathon preparation, setting goals and sticking to them is essential. However, sometimes our bodies have a different plan, reminding us of the significance of listening to our physical cues. Hill training, renowned for its intensity and benefits, can present both challenges and rewards. Today, I embarked on a 10km hill run with unwavering determination, but the journey unfolded differently than expected.

Around the 6.5km mark, my body signaled its limits, and I made a crucial decision – to shut down the training run. Initially, I felt a tinge of disappointment, but this experience became an invaluable lesson in self-awareness and self-care. Pushing through discomfort is part of training, but knowing when to draw the line is equally vital, otherwise, injury can shut you down a lot longer.

Recognizing that my body needed rest, I found solace in embracing flexibility. Training plans are not set in stone, and modifying them based on our well-being is not a sign of weakness. Acknowledging our limitations and honoring our bodies fosters long-term growth and ensures we can continue pushing ourselves without risking injury.

In conclusion, today's 6.5km hill training taught me that success is not solely determined by meeting pre-set goals. Rather, it lies in acknowledging our body's signals, understanding the value of self-care, and adapting our plans to maintain a healthy and consistent marathon training journey. Remember, there will be more opportunities to push boundaries, but only if we prioritize our well-being along the way. Happy training!