Marathon Training Tip #16: FAMILIARITY BREEDS CONTENTMENT (and Relaxation)


This week’s ‘20-miler’ long run is the longest training run of the season – just three weeks before the 2017 Bank of America Chicago Marathon. After this long run, we begin the ‘taper phase’ of training–our final stage leading up to October 8.  We have successfully negotiated 16 weeks of marathon training and the goal – Marathon Day – is within reach.

For safety reasons, this ‘longest long run’ should be the LESSER of 20 miles or 4 HOURS of running or run-walking time on your feet.  Yes, many of you will not complete 20 miles in 4 hours, but for safety reasons, please limit the length of time of the long run this week to 4 hours.  Even if your expected marathon pace is 5 hours, 6 hours or more, a 4 hour long run will provide an adequate base for marathon preparation.

Let’s take a moment to review some of the important Training Tips from recent weeks:

  • Nothing new on Race Day! We should all have experimented with sleep, nutrition and pacing for Marathon Day. Practice this week as if this were the week before Marathon Day to see how our bodies respond on the long run this Saturday.
  • You should have purchased your shoes for Marathon Day. Shoes purchased at the beginning of the season will have too many miles on them for Marathon Day. The shoes you wear on October 8 should have 50 – 100 miles logged before Marathon Day. Hopefully, you have recently just started running in a new pair of shoes and the long run this Saturday will account for approximately 20 of those miles.
  • Review your goals. If your fitness level has improved, now is a good time to set a higher goal. If ‘life got in the way’ and training went less well than expected, revise your goals to be more realistic. Be honest with yourself and make your goals realistic and achievable.
  • Review how to best ‘fuel up’ this week and on the long run this Saturday. Which foods provide the best base before the long run and which products work best during the long runs (gel paks, blocks, pretzels, etc).
  • Don’t Over Train – if workouts (especially long runs) have been missed, they are gone and cannot safely be made up at this point. Do not increase aggregate weekly mileage by more than 10% and do not increase your long run distance by more than 1 or 2 miles from your most recent longest long run. A greater jump in mileage brings a greater risk of injury due to overtraining.
  • Limit the time on your feet for the longest run. For your safety, limit the length of time to 4 hours for the long run this weekend. After 4 hours in training, the law of diminishing returns sets in and the risk of injury increases. Training is cumulative and the accumulation of miles in training and time on your feet throughout the season will bring success on marathon day.
  • If injured, the first course of action is R.I.C.E. (Rest. Ice. Compression. Elevation.), and if the soreness persists – see a medical professional or an ‘endurance sports’ physical therapist. Our window for recovery is slowly closing. Do not ‘push through’ minor injuries to the point they become major injuries.

And this week brings another opportunity to establish and practice our race pace. Throughout the season, we have run our Saturday long runs at a Long Slow Distance (“LSD”) pace, as much as 1 – 2 minutes per mile slower than our race pace.  Training at LSD pace has built our endurance.  The time on our feet for the training runs has taught our bodies to burn fuel more efficiently with a mixture of glycogen and fat.

The next few weeks are a time to run closer to race pace on our weekday runs, and to mix in a few faster miles on the long run. For most first time marathoners, and especially for those new to running, the Saturday long run pace IS your Marathon Pace.  There is no need to run faster.  And, indeed, you should NOT run faster than your training pace throughout the season.

If you are following Running Schedule 3 or Run-Walk Schedules 5 or 6, you can run up to 4 miles of this weekend’s long run at a faster pace to see how your body adjusts. These faster miles should be in the second half of the long run, approximately at miles 14 – 18.  If you are following Running Schedule 1 or 2, you can run a few more miles at a faster pace, and these too should be in the latter part of the long run.

This week’s long run is another opportunity to practice mental skills as well. When we run the same course throughout the training season, there are certain places along our run where our minds and bodies perform better, on a subconscious level.  I think of this as the ‘sweet spot’ of training.  Pay attention to the course and try to discover where this point (or points) is.  Once you recognize your sweet spot(s), keep those in mind, and bring them with you on October 8.

On Marathon Day, it’s normal for all athletes to experience a letdown somewhere along the race course. If this happens, bring back the images (and the feelings you experienced) from your sweet spot.  Think about the landmarks from your familiar route and visualize these landmarks on the marathon course.  This will help you get back into the groove and finish stronger.

And in all your training from now to Marathon Day, remember the good running form techniques on which you’ve worked throughout training. Above all else, remember ‘Good form will carry you through’®.

Coach Brendan

“Good form will carry you through”®


Mind Game

For most of us, this coming weekend is our ’20-miler.’

And no matter whether this is your ‘first-ever’ marathon, and the first time that you will ever be running 20 miles, or your ‘10th-ever’ marathon… this is a “BIG DEAL” run.

When you started this journey some three months ago, the “spirit’” of the marathon was somewhere inside of you—either in your head; or your heart; or in your legs.

The ’20-miler’ is when that spirit takes flight… when you (and it) finally soar—knowing that the next time you run 20 miles, you’ll be running 26.2.


20 miles?

You’ll do it.

Just like you did 14 and 16 miles. And 18.

One mile at a time.

And once you run 20, you WILL run 26.2.

Trust me. (I’m not making this stuff up.)

And yes… after you finish your ’20-miler’ there’s a good chance you’ll say to yourself, “How can I possibly run another 6.2?” (Hey. I’ve been there.)

But it’s a “mind game.”

The reason you’ll say that to yourself is because all week long, all you thought about was running 20 miles; and because on the day of your 20-miler, you started the morning knowing that “20 miles” was what you had to run.

Not 21. Not 22.

Not 26.2.

You knew you were running 20 miles–and when you reached that 20, your mind and your body said “STOP.”

(Just as it did on earlier long runs, when you ran 16 and 18 miles.)

On October 8 you will be standing at the ‘START’ mentally and physically prepared to run 26.2 miles.

Which is what you told yourself you would do on Marathon Day.

Which is what you trained yourself to do.

Which is what you will do.

Train safe. Run strong.

And (of course), finish proud.




Marathon Training : Nothing New on Race Day!

Nothing New on Race Day!

CONGRATULATIONS, runners–we are in the final stages of training for the 2017 Bank of America Chicago Marathon. Depending on your training schedule, most of us probably have just one more long, long run left; and after the last long, long run we begin our ‘taper’ for race day.

These last several weeks are the time to practice for race day. Practice what clothes to wear; practice what we eat during the week and on the morning of a long run; practice our fuel (gels, blocks, ‘sport beans’) and hydration during our long runs; and practice sleep patterns and time to awaken before our long runs.

‘Nothing new on race day!’ is sage advice for any marathoner, but particularly a first time marathoner. If you have not tried something (shoes, clothing, fluids or food) in training, do not try it on race day.  Regardless of how many miles we have logged or how many races we’ve run, our minds and bodies will handle a lot of stress over the last few days leading up to the race.  Now is the time to reduce race day stress by determining what works best for YOU.

Paradigm shifts have occurred – the marathon goal (distance and finish times) are now tangible due to the effort we’ve put into training. Patterns have developed over the last 3 months.  Many changes have occurred in our diets, fluid intake and clothing.

We may be thinking – “What else needs to change between now and race day?” and how to adjust our training.  Reflect back on your training log–what has worked well in training and what has not worked so well… types of shoes, shorts, tops, food, fluids, rest (or lack thereof), support of family and friends.  Focus on those things that have worked well and make sure you include them in your training routine for success.

Wearing shoes and clothing we have worn in training will help avoid or reduce the risk of blisters and chafing on marathon day. It may be tempting to buy new clothes or shoes at the Health and Fitness EXPO on marathon weekend, but without practice we do not know where those shoes or clothes might rub.  Save the EXPO purchases for after the race.

Knowing which foods to eat and how early to eat before our long run reduces risk of intestinal problems. Knowing which gels, blocks, fluids or snacks work well (or not so well) during long runs helps avoid detours on the marathon course looking for ‘port-o-lets.’  Practice eating foods you know will sit well in your stomach for a few days before these last few long runs and for race day.  Practice using products on training runs (gels, snacks, fluids) to determine what will be best on race day.  Leave the exotic foods for your celebration after Marathon Day.

Learn how our bodies prepare for and adjust to long runs. Notice sleep patterns.  How many hours of sleep do you need for a good run?  Practice going to bed and arising at designated and consistent times – developing a pattern for race week and weekend.  A note on sleeping – the critical night of sleep is the night before the night before the run (Thursday for a Saturday long run, Friday night for a Sunday run or race).

Learning what works and doesn’t work these last few weeks will set us up for a satisfying and successful experience on Marathon Day.

Coach Brendan

“Good form will carry you through”®

Reason(s) Enough

For many of us, this past Saturday was an 18-miler…

… and no matter whether you ran your “best ever” 18; your “first ever” 18; or had to ‘dig deep’ and push through 18… YOU RAN 18 MILES!

To any of you who may have struggled through 18 (or through any of your long-runs) it’s time to accept the fact that none of us are really going to win the marathon (gasp!)… so believing that we need to have our “best ever” run every time we run really isn’t the point.

“The point” is… we’re training to run a marathon—competing with ourselves to be our best and to run our best on Marathon Day.

We’re training to either get ourselves fit, or keep ourselves fit.

We’re training so that on Marathon Day, we can have a SAFE (read: ‘injury free‘) run; and have a GREAT time doing it. (A “great time” experience-wise… in your heart. If you also happen to have a “great time” clock-wise, so much the better!)

And we’re training to support children and families served by Ronald McDonald House Charities who are running a whole other kind of marathon—persevering through weeks, months or even years of hospital visits, surgeries and outpatient recovery.

These are the “reasons why” we’re doing this… “reasons” I encourage every one of us to keep tucked in our hearts every mile we run.

According to most training schedules, there’s just one more “really long” long-run left.

(Okay… two, if you’re going to count the marathon. Although I don’t think of the marathon so much as a ‘long-run’ as much as it is “The Big Dance.”)

In these last few weeks of training, besides JUST focusing on Marathon Day, take the time to feel good about everything you’ve accomplished over the past 3-4 months… and to feel the joy of letting your heart ‘beam‘ with pride over the fact that you have become an endurance athlete!

(Which is what you have become.)

And enjoy the joy (the rather ‘twisted’ joy) of getting up at 5:00 AM on a Saturday morning, so you can out-run the sun.

Oh… and speaking of joy, “They say that money can’t buy happiness… but it can buy new running shoes. And that’s kind of the same thing.

(Works for me!)

And thank you, runners…

… for the commitment you’re making to your own health and fitness by training to run with Team RMHC; and for the fundraising commitment you’ve made to support the health and well-being of the children and families served by Ronald McDonald House Charities.

You’re THE BEST!

Train safe. Run strong.

Finish proud.




Marathon Training Tip #14: Review, Reset and Recommit

THE “THREE R’s” OF MARATHON TRAINING—Review, Reset and Recommit

A marathon is a long way to run. And training for a marathon is a HUGE commitment of energy, effort and time… and as we get into the ‘dog days’ of August, it may seem as though the bloom has begun to fall from the rose.

What seemed like a great idea in February, when registration for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon opened; or in May, when training first started often takes on new meaning when the alarm clock goes off at 4:30 or 5:00 on a Saturday morning with a 14, 16 or 18 mile long run ahead.

Most of us established some sort of goals at the beginning of the season – ‘to run my first marathon’, ‘to improve my finish time’, ‘to raise money for a favorite charity’, or one of a hundred other important reasons motivating us to mark the calendar on October 8, 2017, – Marathon Day!

Now is the perfect time to Review, Reset and Recommit to our goals.

Review the goals you established at the beginning of the season. (Hopefully, you wrote down those goals before your first training mile was ever logged.)  Studies show that goals are most likely to be met when they are specific, measurable, achievable and realistic.  And when they are written down!

How do the goals you set stack up?

Were they realistic and achievable? Are they still realistic and achievable – or has ‘life’ gotten in the way to the point where goals need to be revised?

Take time this week to review your training season so far; and to review your goals in light of your progress to date–in terms of your aggregate mileage; the number of days you’ve been able to train; your overall physical and mental well-being; and in terms of funds raised for your favorite charity.

This is the perfect time to review our goals and to evaluate whether we are on pace to achieve them.

Reset your goals, if necessary. Perhaps the goals you set were too idealistic.  If this is your ‘first ever’ marathon, it may be that you just didn’t have the experience to set more “realistic” goals. That’s okay–sometimes we need to take ‘one step back’ in order to take ‘two steps forward’ to improve our performance.  That’s the purpose of cutback weeks in training and long runs, and it’s true of the goals we set at the beginning of the season.  If ‘life got in the way’ or training has not progressed as well as we predicted, reset the goals to be achievable and realistic in the context of our life and training.  Keep the training experience and the goals positive.

Or, perhaps our initial goals were not aggressive enough. For many of us, training and/or fundraising has progressed better than we hoped.  Maybe the challenge was not set high enough and we can aim for a more aggressive goal, one that is more realistic and still achievable.  Don’t hold back, take stock of how your training and fundraising has developed and set a more aggressive goal if warranted.

Moving the bar a little higher stirs the soul.

Recommit to your training; to achieving your goals; and to yourself. We have invested a great deal of ourselves getting to this point.  Recommit to what got us here, whether it is fundraising for our charity, setting a new marathon record for ourselves or successfully completing our first marathon.

After reviewing what has gone before, and resetting our goals (either more or less aggressively)—now is the time to recommit to finishing the task at hand.

The goals may have changed, but the rewards are still great. And attainable.

Don’t stop now.

Bonus tip – Injuries and Overtraining

This is a point in training where our bodies and souls speak to us. We look at the calendar about to turn to September and we feel we must do more training, harder training and that we have fallen behind.  In many cases, we also start feeling aches and pains in our hips, knees, calves, ankles and plantar fascia (who even know what plantar fascia was when this training started in May???????).

If you are feeling aches and pain which affect your training – here are suggestions to handle the situation:

  • If you change your stride or your gait while running to compensate for the pain, seek professional medical advice to determine the severity of the injury.
  • Do not try to run through the injury – doing so carries a greater risk of derailing your marathon than trying to hang on until marathon day. If you continue running on the injury and it worsens (and it most likely will worsen), recovery time is getting shorter. Best to take care of the injury now and recover before the marathon even if it means you run fewer miles than on the training schedule.
  • If you have fallen behind in training and missed some long runs, adjust the mileage of the schedules (downward) instead of trying to make up for lost runs.
  • Follow the general rules of training: do not increase long run distances by more than one or two miles at a time and do not increase aggregate weekly mileage by more than 10% from week to week.
  • These bonus tips are to help you reach the start line healthy because “You cannot reach the finish line if you do not reach the start line”.


Coach Brendan

“Good form will carry you through”®

“With A Little Help From My Friends… ”

For many of you, this past Saturday was a ‘cut-back’ week…

… which is actually a good thing, because our bodies can probably really, really use a ‘cut back’ week; and because it gives me a week to talk ‘not so much’ about training, but to say THANK YOU for ALL that you’re doing to train and run and fundraise for Ronald McDonald House Charities.

At this point, you should definitely be seeing your fundraising support begin to “gain traction”—especially as we approach the Labor Day weekend, and the closeness of the marathon begins to ‘sink in’ with prospective donors.

(Donors… “IT’S HAPPENING!”)

And if you’ve already reached your fundraising goal (or are about to reach your goal)… please, don’t stop fundraising! In fact, raise your goal!

As you might imagine, prospective donors who have not yet made a donation to your fundraising page will be much more likely to support you (or support you more generously) if they see that you still NEED their support.

And remember, once you reach your “minimum” fundraising commitment, you are not liable for any increase in your goal—you’re simply ‘raising the bar’ for others to support you… and to support Ronald McDonald House Charities!

And please don’t be ‘shy’ about asking friends to support you—you’re training for 20 WEEKS to achieve a rather amazing personal goal, of course these people want to support you… THEY’RE YOUR FRIENDS!

Experience shows that when you write them a second (or even a third) time, closer to Marathon Day… they really are grateful for your reminding them, and they really will make a donation.

And now, a couple of thoughts about marathon training

These next three weeks include your 18 and 20-mile long runs. If you’re not already part of a training group (or you don’t have a ‘training buddy’ that you run with) PLEASE try to recruit a friend or two to meet you on your route and run a few of those long-run miles at your side–especially on the “back half” of your run.

Doing so will give you something to look forward to as you’re running ‘on your own’ during miles 6 through 10; and the company of friends will help make running miles 12 through 18 (or 20) a lot more manageable.

If you don’t have any ‘runner’ friends, recruit a friend to bike the second half of your run alongside you. (But no trading places!)

(And again, don’t be shy about asking friends for this kind of support. Of course these people want to support you… THEY’RE YOUR FRIENDS!)

Finally, thank you (again!) for the important difference you’re helping make possible in SO MANY lives as a Team RMHC runner.

(I know I keep saying that… but it’s only because I keep meaning that!)

Train safe. Run strong.

Finish proud.



Marathon Training Tip #13: Finding Your Marathon “Race Pace”

Finding Your Marathon “Race Pace”

At this point in training, it’s natural to eye the calendar – looking ahead (with a mixture of excitement, anxiety and confidence) to October 8 when we toe the line for the 2017 Bank of America Chicago Marathon.

Our perspectives (and our goals) have likely changed since Memorial Day weekend when we ‘officially’ embarked on our training ‘journey’. We have either improved beyond what we thought possible at the beginning of the season, or we may have fallen a little ‘off track.’  Either way, now is a good time to reassess our goals and to find our marathon “race pace.”

I raise this point now, because many of you have asked how to set a realistic time goal for Marathon Day.

Some of the questions – “What is the difference between my long run ‘training pace’ on Saturdays and how fast I can (or should) run on Marathon Day?”

“How do I determine how fast I should be running on Marathon Day?”

“How do I run the marathon faster than my Saturday ‘LSD’ (long slow distance) pace if I haven’t been running faster all season?”

For many of you who are running your first marathon, and especially those who are fairly new to running, the long, slow distance pace of the Saturday long runs IS your marathon pace.  You are training your body by building the endurance to run 26.2 miles on Marathon Day.  Your efforts will be rewarded with a finisher’s medal on October 8 (and with a very satisfied smile on your face)… and there is no pressure (and no need) to run any faster on race day.  Enjoy the experience and savor the accomplishment.

For others, the goal of achieving a particular finish time is beginning to come into focus. Review the goals set at the start of the season.  Ask yourself, “Are those goals still realistic?  Can I run faster?  Should I run faster?  Or do I need to adjust my goals to a slower race pace in order to finish safely?”

So how DO you determine a realistic Marathon Pace?

Our race day predicted finish time should be a realistic and achievable goal. Use objective criteria, based upon the results of your training to date, and preferably, race finish times (from other ‘events’ in which you may have participated) throughout the summer.  Look at recent race results; compare those finish times and distances to predictors for the marathon distance.  One such predictor calculator can be found at:

In addition to these predictor calculations, check your training logs to see how you felt at the end of the long runs this season. If you have consistently noted you could have run longer at the LSD pace, coupled with the predictor, you are in good standing.  If, however, your training logs noted that you often struggled to maintain the pace during the training runs, and felt completely spent at the end of the training run, that is an indication that the training runs have been a bit too aggressive.

You’ll note that the pace per mile for these ‘predicted’ marathon finish times will likely be faster than the LSD pace of Saturday long runs—especially for ‘veteran’ or improving marathon runners. For these runners, your speed component is developed on the shorter runs during the week—specifically ‘tempo runs’ and ‘speed workouts’.  These shorter workouts are paced faster than our goal marathon pace to improve our bodies’ endurance and speed.  And since these are shorter than the long weekend runs, we are able to recover more quickly from these more intense workouts.

For veteran and improving marathon runners, the pace for marathon day should be set somewhere between your LSD runs and the speed/tempo runs–generally, between :45 to 1-minute quicker per mile than your weekend ‘LSD’ runs. (But again, for ‘first time’ marathon runners, your Saturday ‘LSD’ training pace IS your “race pace”.)

Examining our current physical condition and “preparedness” will help us establish a realistic and achievable race goal, and the correct race pace. If you have run races (any distance from a 5K to a half marathon can be a good marker) during the summer, use the predictor to set realistic ranges for race day.  If you have not run any races, run a few midweek workouts at an established distance (for example, 5K or 10K distance) and check the predictor.

Once a Marathon Pace is identified, we’ll have the opportunity in the remaining weeks to practice running a portion of our long Saturday runs at Marathon Pace as another check on how realistic and achievable we’ve set our goal

Examining fitness levels and reviewing objective criteria helps to establish race day goals which are specific, measureable and realistic.

And achievable.

Coach Brendan

“Good form will carry you through”®