It’s summer—and here on Oahu it’s the time of year when the hot topic of conversation in running circles is the Honolulu Marathon held in December. Hawaii Running Lab would love to help you on your Honolulu Marathon journey and we thought we’d put together targeted areas for your consideration as you start your training build up. There are many mental, emotional and physical factors that need to blend together for a successful training program and race outcome. We hope this outline will get you started on the right foot.

Before we begin, please remember this—Your training and goals should always be realistic and based on 2 key factors—-You must be Happy and Healthy! We firmly believe that happiness and good health are the cornerstones to success in running and in life. Now that we have built that solid foundation, let’s proceed with the marathon training tips.

Goals: Your goals should be based on:

  • Adequate preparation in getting you to the starting line healthy and confident. This includes a training plan built around your specific, individual strengths and opportunities.
  • Development and execution of a proper race plan to get you through the finish line happy and healthy. This race plan will be developed in conjunction with the successful execution of your training plan.

A great goal for first time marathoners is to simply finish the event. This mentality can help beginner runners enjoy and savor their first time instead of stressing over splits. For runners taking on the distance for at least a second time, goals are typically based on achieving a specific time. Examples of common time goals are: a new Personal Record or beating last year’s time, a sub specific hour time or a Boston Marathon qualifying time.

Training: Quantity and Quality

Quantity: Develop a solid mileage build-up that allows you to increase your fitness and race preparation while staying healthy. Mileage changes should be gradual, but enough to cause the necessary training adaptations and benefits. A conservative build up is 10% mileage per week. More experienced runners can increase their mileage based on past success with volume changes and their current fitness and health status.

Quality: Your training should include a mixture of marathon specific workouts and easy runs. Marathon specific workouts are runs that are geared towards your current fitness and your goal marathon pace. More experienced runners should incorporate steady state running at a pace faster than goal marathon pace as well as hill workouts to build up running strength and endurance. Workout mileage should be about 20% of your total weekly mileage.

Nutrition/Hydration on the run: Find hydration and nutrition products that make you feel good both while you are running AND after you are done running. Avoid food/drinks on the run that can cause you GI distress. Everyone has different food triggers especially when running at long distances. Long runs provide and excellent opportunity to trial real food, bars, gels and hydration products prior to your race. Use this time wisely to iron out nutrition issues so that there are no surprises on race day. It’s best to prepare for food needs appropriately and pack anything you think you’ll need. Races won’t always provide snacks that will cater to you so plan ahead.

Daily Diet: Often overlooked during marathon training, daily diet should get as much focus as your on-the-run nutrition. Consume foods that make you feel good and manage your calories appropriately. Adjust your caloric intake if you notice weight gain or loss to maintain a healthy weight. Avoid foods that cause you to crash minutes later or just plain make you feel like garbage after you eat them. There are volumes written on diets and some work better for individuals than others. Sticking to whole foods and minimizing processed meals is always a solid plan. If you have food sensitivities experiment on your body until your diet incorporates only foods that make you feel good and fuel you well. It just takes some practice making good food decisions and keeping a log will help you until it becomes second nature. Remember race training is not an excuse to gorge on unhealthy food because “hey, I’ll burn it off!” Whether you are working hard to finish your first marathon, or you are training your tail off for a new PR, give your body the fuel it needs to be successful. 

Recovery/Sleep: Do not underestimate rest…this is HUGE! Run easy on your easy days, rest on your rest days and make sure you get plenty of sleep. Find pockets of time to nap if you can…your body will thank you. Remember your body requires periods of rest and recovery in order to improve from workout to workout.

Auxiliary training: Body weight circuit training is an inexpensive and effective way to increase your strength and can be performed wide variety of locations. Many endurance runners have weak hip flexors, glutes, and hamstrings. Couple these weak spots with a weak lower back and abdominals and endurance runners often open themselves up to biomechanical breakdowns in their running form as they fatigue. These breakdowns can lead to injuries that derail all the hard training you’ve put in prior to your arrival at the starting line. Like nutrition guidelines, there are numerous resources out there with great exercises that hit these important areas for runners. Whichever circuit you choose to follow, be sure to address hip flexors, glutes, hamstrings, back and abdominals at least 2-3 days a week. Many runners stack their circuit training on easy run days for time management purposes. On easy run days, also try to incorporate 4-6×100 meter long “strides” into your routine. These strides are 75-80% efforts, which might feel fast. During these strides, you should work on staying relaxed and maintaining strong running mechanics. Focus on positive thoughts like the feeling of accomplishment as you cross the finish line of your dream race—looking good, feeling happy and staying relaxed. These strides will help your body remember these optimal running mechanics when you are tired and the mental practice during the strides will carry over to race day.

The staff at Hawaii Running Lab wishes you the best as you get ready to embark down the road ahead. We would love to be a part of your journey. We offer individualized coaching as well as hourly consulting. Please reach out to us whenever you are ready, we are here and we are excited to help!

Looking forward to seeing you on the road, trail and track!