Tim Adams: Lessons From The Road
At the age of 46, and after 20 plus years of running, I have made every mistake in the book. Not surprisingly, I've suffered from my share of injuries and frustrations, and an embarrassing DNF at my first attempt to break 3 hours in the marathon on my home turf. Rather than provide a laundry list of takeaways, I'll focus on the biggest lessons learned so that hopefully you can avoid the most common mistakes.
Building fitness takes time - a whole lot of time. There are no shortcuts, despite what some "experts" might try to sell you. The good news though, is that you can continue to improve as long as you are consistent in training. Developing a regular routine that gets you running week in and week out is key to developing the physiologic and anatomic adaptations necessary to run your best.
Learn to enjoy it. Let's face it, many folks who run view it as a dreaded chore to "keep the pounds off". Once you commit to running regularly, you will begin to improve and the act of running will become a whole lot easier. Rather than a chore, the daily run will become the highlight of your day. I am not suggesting you won't have bad training days because you will. Some days the legs will feel heavy and sluggish and you won't feel like a runner at all. Don't let it get you down. The bad days will make you appreciate the good days when you feel like you are floating down the road with ease.
Race day nutrition is critical if you are running marathons. I "winged it" for years and never got it right until I started working with a coach. You can train all season long and be in great shape, but ignoring proper fueling and hydration strategies come race day will invariably leave you disappointed and frustrated. Trust me on this - talk to an expert and then find what works for you.
Think about working with a coach. There is no shortage of folks willing to offer up free (and unsolicited) advice, but be wary of the source. You can also find plenty of "cookie cutter" plans for this distance or that distance. These plans aren't bad as a general guide, but training for a race over a 12 to 16 week period is not going to be a straight line. Life happens - demanding work schedules, family obligations, a minor injury or pain creeps up. You name it. Having a coach to help guide your training will not only help you navigate these obstacles but more importantly, he or she will drastically improve your odds of getting to the starting line healthy and ready to nail your next PR.