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!

Sunday 23 July 2023

A Scorching and Somewhat Smokey Marathon Training Run Along Calgary's River Pathway

By: Justin Ferguson 

There are days in every runner's training journey that test both their physical endurance and mental strength. Today I had one such day during an 18km hot and slightly smokey run along Calgary's river pathway. As an avid marathon trainee, I've come to learn that sometimes, it's not about chasing records or pushing for personal bests; it's simply about getting the distance done.

Calgary, Alberta, offers a terrific river pathway that winds through beautiful landscapes, perfect for a long-distance run. However, today, the sun bore down relentlessly, and a faint haze from distant wildfires hung in the air. With each step, I could feel the intensity of the heat and the slight discomfort of the smoke in my lungs.

During marathon training, it's crucial to remain focused on the bigger picture. On days like this, when the going gets tough, the primary goal becomes conquering the distance. Rather than fretting over pace or time, I reminded myself that completing the 18km was the ultimate objective. Sometimes, a little mental adjustment is all it takes to turn a challenging run into a good experience.

Long runs also teach us the importance of pacing. With many miles ahead, it's essential to take a slower pace, ensuring that we don't burn out too quickly. By maintaining a steady rhythm, we not only conserve energy but also reduce the risk of injury. On my hot and smokey run, I embraced a deliberate and measured stride.

The sights along Calgary's river pathway provided a welcome distraction from the challenging conditions. Lush greenery, and the sparkling water painted a picturesque backdrop for my journey.

Marathon training is not just about smashing personal records; it's about perseverance, determination, and learning to embrace the journey. My 18km hot and smokey run along Calgary's river pathway reminded me of the value of pushing through challenging conditions, focusing on completing the distance, and taking a slower pace on long runs. Ultimately, each step brings me closer to my goal, and I am grateful for every opportunity to train in such a stunning environment.

Tuesday 18 July 2023

Conquering Hills: Elevate Your Marathon Training

By: Justin Ferguson 

Today marked a crucial milestone in my marathon training journey - another hill training day! While it might be tempting to stick to flat terrains, incorporating hill workouts is a game-changer for any aspiring marathoner. As I laced up my running shoes and tackled those challenging inclines, I couldn't help but appreciate the immense benefits that hill training brings to the table. It may feel like you’re climbing a mountain when you first start, and maybe you actually are, but by the end, you feel amazing.

Hill training isn't just about building strong leg muscles; it also enhances cardiovascular endurance and overall stamina. When running uphill, our bodies engage more muscle groups, promoting better balance and stability. Furthermore, hill workouts provide an opportunity to fine-tune our running form, teaching us to drive our knees and maintain proper posture, which translates into greater efficiency on flatter courses.

Beyond the physical gains, conquering hills instills mental fortitude. Pushing through the burn and reaching the summit empowers us to overcome obstacles in our marathon and life's journey. As I look ahead to race day, I'm confident that the incorporation of hill training will give me that extra edge to cross the finish line with pride. So, embrace the hills, and elevate your marathon training to new heights!

Friday 14 July 2023

From Reluctance to Bliss: Embracing the Unexpected Joy of a Quick 7km Run

By: Justin Ferguson 

We've all been there. That moment when the thought of lacing up your running shoes feels like an insurmountable task. But sometimes, it's precisely those moments that surprise us with the most memorable experiences. 

Today, despite my initial resistance, I decided to push through and embark on a quick 7km run. As the rhythm of my feet hit the pavement, my reluctance melted away, replaced by an exhilarating sense of freedom and release. The run felt effortless, with each stride delivering a surge of endorphins. 

This unexpected encounter reminded me of the impact a simple, light run can have on our well-being. It's during those moments of hesitation that we often stumble upon the most rewarding experiences. So, the next time you find yourself hesitating, remember that even the shortest, easiest run can be a great one. Embrace the unexpected, and you might just discover the magic that lies just beyond your comfort zone.

Thursday 13 July 2023

The Importance of Consistency in Marathon Training

By: Justin Ferguson

When it comes to marathon training, consistency is key. Every step, no matter how short, takes you closer to your goal. Today, due to time constraints, my run was limited to just 5 kilometers. While it may not seem like much compared to the gruelling distance of a marathon, every run matters. It's about building a routine, nurturing discipline, and staying committed to the process. Regardless of the distance, getting out and lacing up your running shoes is a victory in itself. Embracing the small victories keeps us motivated, inching us forward, one stride at a time, towards the marathon finish line.

Monday 10 July 2023

Embrace the Wanderlust: Exploring New Horizons through Travel

By: Justin Ferguson

Traveling has always been a gateway to new experiences, offering a unique opportunity to expand our horizons and venture into the unknown. From encountering unfamiliar cultures to immersing oneself in breathtaking landscapes, the journey of exploration offers a multitude of enriching encounters. Whether it's visiting far-off lands or exploring lesser-known destinations, the magic of travel lies in embracing the new and allowing ourselves to be captivated by the beauty that surrounds us.

One of the most exhilarating aspects of travel is the chance to experience things we've never encountered before. It's an invitation to step out of our comfort zones and open ourselves up to new perspectives. Whether it's savouring exotic cuisine, engaging in local traditions, or participating in unique festivals, every experience has the power to leave an indelible mark on our lives.

Travel is an incredible teacher, offering an immersive education in the diversity of the human experience. By delving into different cultures, we gain a deeper appreciation for the customs, traditions, and values that shape societies across the globe. It allows us to break down preconceived notions, fostering empathy and understanding. Conversations with locals, visits to museums, and exploration of historical landmarks enable us to grasp the intricacies of a culture, ultimately enriching our own worldview.

From towering mountains to pristine beaches, the Earth is a tapestry of awe-inspiring landscapes waiting to be discovered. Traveling allows us to witness the staggering beauty of these natural wonders firsthand. Whether it's admiring the majesty of the Rocky Mountains, traversing the beaches and local town in San Pedro, Belize, or sailing through the pristine ocean waters, these breathtaking vistas awaken a sense of wonder within us. The sights, sounds, and scents of these landscapes imprint themselves upon our souls, forever reminding us of the profound beauty that exists beyond our everyday lives.

Travel is an invitation to embark on a journey of self-discovery, enabling us to step outside our comfort zones and embrace the wonders of the world. By experiencing new things, learning about diverse cultures, and immersing ourselves in unfamiliar landscapes, we open ourselves up to a wealth of knowledge, understanding, and appreciation. So, let's embrace the wanderlust within us and embark on adventures that will leave an indelible mark on our hearts and minds. After all, it is through travel that we truly come alive and realize the boundless possibilities that await us.

Sunday 9 July 2023

Embracing the Heat and Fatigue: Pushing Through a Run During Marathon Training

Embracing the Heat and Fatigue: Pushing Through a Run During Marathon Training

By: Justin Ferguson 

Marathon training is a grueling journey that challenges both the body and mind. It tests your endurance, resilience, and commitment. As runners, we strive to push our limits and embrace the difficult moments, even when the conditions are less than ideal. This includes those scorching hot days when exhaustion threatens to derail our progress. But remember, marathon training is not always going to be easy, even for those of us who have run many races and trained for years.

Recently, during one of my training runs, I found myself battling the sweltering heat and overwhelming fatigue. Despite knowing the importance of hydration and proper nutrition, I had neglected to take care of these crucial aspects. As a result, I was forced to stop and take a much-needed break. It was a humbling experience, reminding me of the importance of listening to my body and respecting its limits.

However, this setback served as a valuable lesson. It reminded me that overcoming challenges is an integral part of marathon training. It's not just about the physical strength but also the mental fortitude required to persevere through tough circumstances. Running in unfavorable conditions and acknowledging our vulnerabilities ultimately makes us stronger.

While marathon training demands dedication and perseverance, it's crucial to remember that setbacks and struggles are an inherent part of the process. Embracing the difficulty of running in extreme heat and fatigue teaches us resilience, mental strength, and the ability to adapt to adverse situations. It's essential to prioritize proper hydration and nutrition to ensure optimal performance and prevent burnout.

So, the next time you find yourself facing a challenging run, push through and remind yourself that it's okay to struggle. Embrace the discomfort, learn from it, and use it as fuel to become a better, more resilient runner. Remember, marathon training is a journey, and it's the obstacles we overcome that truly define our strength and determination.

All of us will have the great runs where we feel unstoppable, but we also all have those challenging days that make us stronger.  

Friday 7 July 2023

The Marathon Experience: Unleashing the Power Within

The Marathon Experience: Unleashing the Power Within

By: Justin Ferguson

In 2007 I ran my first marathon; I then took a hiatus from races until 2013, but since then I have run races all over North America, averaging 1.5 marathons a year. I am often asked, how do you do it and/or why do you do it.

Running a marathon is not merely an athletic pursuit; it's a transformative journey that pushes the boundaries of human potential. Beyond the physical challenge, the marathon offers rewards that extend far beyond the finish line. Below are a few compelling reasons why you should lace up your running shoes and embark on this remarkable adventure.

Firstly, running a marathon tests your mental resilience. It demands unwavering determination, self-discipline, and the ability to overcome obstacles. The training process itself builds mental fortitude as you learn to push through pain, self-doubt, and the voice that says "quit." By conquering these mental barriers, you emerge with a newfound belief in your own capabilities, which you can carry over to other aspects of life.

Secondly, a marathon is an opportunity to embrace personal growth. The months of training require commitment, sacrifice, and a dedication to self-improvement. Along the way, you discover strength you never knew existed and develop a deeper understanding of your physical and mental capabilities. Crossing that finish line ignites an indescribable sense of achievement and pride, reminding you that with dedication and perseverance, anything is possible.

Moreover, running a marathon fosters a sense of community. The marathon brings together people from all walks of life, united by a common goal. The camaraderie, support, and encouragement from fellow runners and spectators create an atmosphere of shared triumph. Crossing the finish line is not just a personal victory; it is a celebration of collective achievement.  Often in races I am hyper focused, but there is always a bond with the other runners on the route, pushing themselves as I am.

Lastly, a marathon allows you to appreciate the beauty of the journey itself. As you train and prepare for the race, you witness your body transforming, your stamina improving, and your mind growing stronger. You become attuned to the rhythm of your breath and the rhythm of the world around you. Running through diverse landscapes, from bustling cities to serene countryside, you gain a new perspective and an intimate connection with the world.

Running a marathon is more than a physical feat; it is a transformative experience that will challenge, inspire, and empower you. If you have ever wondered can I do this, take that first step, embrace the unknown, and embark on a journey that will forever change your perception of what is possible.