As a virtual (online) trainer, I work with runners of different abilities living and training in various locations. I have noticed some trends amongst my runners. They typically fall into three categories: they belong to training groups but are in need of more one on one coaching/mentoring or they are within a few minutes of their Boston Qualifying (BQ) time, or have run their BQ but didn’t qualify with a large enough cushion of time to solidify their acceptance into the race. One of the many questions I ask runners when they approach me about training to achieve their BQ is, “Will you be happy with running your BQ time and not actually getting into the Boston Marathon or do you want to run the Boston Marathon”? Nowadays with the qualifying standards and the masses applying for the race, the latter is more difficult to achieve.
What is a runner to do when they are so close (within a minute or two), yet so far away from achieving their goal of being accepted into the Boston Marathon? Start training earlier to have a longer training season? Train faster? Train with higher mileage? Is running 60-75 miles a week better than running 35-50 miles a week? I’m going to say for most runners the answer is no to all of the above if the runner’s ability is that close to their BQ for their sex/age qualifying standard. Same story with a runner that has run the same time over and over and can’t quite conquer their PR.
A paper was published in the 2011 Journal of Applied Physiology titled, “The two-hour marathon: who and when?” The paper discussed what would be required for an elite male marathon runner to run a 2-hour marathon. Interestingly, after the paper was published, there were 38 unique counter commentaries from physiologists, professors, and researchers around the globe. At the time, the world record in the marathon was 2:03:38, so what would it take for the world’s best runner to improve his time by three minutes and thirty-eight seconds? What would it take for you to improve your time by three minutes and thirty-eight seconds, because that may be the cushion of time you need to be granted acceptance into the Boston Marathon? Guess what? Both you and an elite runner are human beings so if you are running your inherent ability, then the answer will be the same - well, kind of anyway. More on that later. I am using the example of a three-minute difference because you will see below how many runners were not accepted into the Boston Marathon over the years because the cushion of time from their BQ was not large enough to be accepted into the race.
YEAR/ FIELD SIZE / CUT-OFF TIME*/ AMOUNT OF QUALIFIERS NOT ACCEPTED
2012: 27,000 1:14 3,228
2014: 36,000 1:38 2,976
2015: 30,000 1:02 1,947
2016: 30,000 2:28 4,562
2017: 30,000 2:09 2,957
The difference between you and an elite when both are running at their inherent ability is that an elite is just that, an elite. They don’t make mistakes in training (normally a coach makes training decisions for them) or race day strategy execution. Whereas in my observations, recreational runners make small mistakes that have massive consequences. An elite will take 1-3 minutes off their personal best when the weather is favorable to long distance running such as a tailwind and cool weather or a race route that has minimal turns that typically disrupt pace and race “flow” momentarily. The world witnessed this last year in Nike’s Sub 2-Hour Marathon attempt. Scientists identified the most favorable weather day on a Formula One race track. Additionally, the runners in the Nike attempt wore a shoe that had a carbon-fiber plate embedded in the sole of the shoe that would require 4% less energy to run at the same pace. The shoe is banned by the International Association of Athletics Federations and is only one of the reasons Eliud Kipchoge’s 2:00:25 marathon did not count as a world record at the Nike Breaking-2 attempt. This was a two minute and forty second personal best for Kipchoge. Wait, what!? That may be what you need to secure your acceptance into the Boston Marathon or maybe improve your personal best. But the chances of you running a marathon on the most perfect weather day is slim, as well as you buying the Nike VaporFly Elite shoe for $1,000.
One of the things the elites in the sub-2hr attempt did was consume nutrition at very specific times in the race that was handed to them by scientists riding alongside them on bikes. That’s it folks, that is one of the mistakes many make that miss their BQ time or PR. They just don’t fuel their race properly, nor their training runs or their recovery nutrition from training runs is lacking. Like I said earlier, most runners make small mistakes that have massive consequences and nutrition is typically one of those mistakes
So, here is where my services come in. One of the things I do with my runners is problem solve their mistakes in previous training seasons and races. This is the benefit to having a one on one coach, even online. What I do with my runners that are willing to follow the plan (it’s a process), will normally lead to superior results than they had in the past, assuming they are well on race day and that their goals are within their inherent ability.
Thanks for reading my blog posts and I hope to hear from more runners in cyberspace so I can help you achieve your goals. Even if you just choose to shoot me an email or an IM on the Facebook page. If you are on Facebook, please like/follow the Run With Gina page and invite your friends to like it too!