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TRAINING FOR FALL MARATHON SEASON, (WITH NO MARATHONS!)

Tips to Keep Training Even Though Your Marathon Was Canceled

By Brian Metzler

So this was going to be your big year to run a marathon, wasn’t it?

Well it was for me, too! Last December, I was stoked to make it through the Chicago Marathon lottery and get a spot in this fall’s race.

I circled Oct. 11, 2020 on my calendar. I organized a training plan that would start on June 1, but I actually started my training in earnest on Jan. 1. I grew up in the Chicago suburbs and this was going to be my fourth time running it, and I was going to do everything I could to make it my fastest.

Chicago marathon - virtual only in 2020
The Chicago Marathon is all virtual in 2020

And then the coronavirus swept across the globe and wreaked havoc on everything, including marathons. In the spring, the Boston and London marathons had been postponed, setting up the potential for five Marathon Majors in a six-week span this fall — Boston, Berlin, London, Chicago and New York — but by mid-summer all of those races and hundreds of others had been postponed until 2021.

It’s a sad reality, but we all know that the health crisis that is still ravaging the world is much more important than our personal running goals. Still, it’s odd to face the fall without a race on the horizon.

Professional runners have found ways to compete as makeshift events with strict social distancing races have emerged. So like the rest of the running world, I’m forced to create a Plan B and make the best out of it. Instead of running a marathon through the streets of Chicago with 40,000 other runners on Oct. 11, I’ll be running a half-marathon time trial alone that day near my home in Boulder, Colorado.

We all have to keep running, keep training, keep testing ourselves, keep living our lives with passion and purpose.

That’s the advice of Dathan Ritzenhein, coach of the newly formed On Athletics Club in Boulder. He was a three-time Olympian and the fourth-fastest American marathoner in history with a 2:07:47 personal best time before retiring from competitive running this past spring.

“Yeah, it’s been a crazy year and I feel for all of the runners who had been training and gearing up for marathons,” says Ritzenhein, who placed ninth in the 2008 Olympic Marathon in Beijing. “It’s disappointing that so many marathons have been canceled because of all of time, miles and commitment you have to put into preparation. I think all you can do is keep training, stay fit and keeping looking ahead to 2021.”

marathon training - coach advice
Olympian and coach Dathan Ritzenhein advises to keep training, stay fit and keep looking ahead.

TIPS ON KEEPING FIT, KEEPING TRAINING AND LOOKING AHEAD

1. Keep Running.

You can’t stop running because races have been canceled. Keep running as a part of your daily routine, but make sure it’s something you enjoy, Ritzenhein says. Not all of your runs will feel great — especially during the heat of summer or without the carrot of a goal race dangling in front of you — but if you make sure to remind yourself that running is something you love to do, you’ll continue to get a positive boost of energy from ever run, even amid the disappointment of not training for your fall marathon.

Need a inspiration to keep going? Run new routes. Strap on a hydration pack and go trail running. Run with friends (distanced). Try out those new shoe brands you’ve always wanted to. Now is the time to experiment with nutrition brands and fueling strategies.

2. Keep Training.

Don’t give up on yourself! Keep your body in the rhythm of training by sticking to a training plan and going through a variety of training stimuli and workouts, Ritzenhein suggests. Even if it’s not the training plan that would have led to your goal-race marathon, you should still engage in a variety of types of running every week — long runs, recovery runs and some kind of speedier effort like a tempo run or interval workout.

Training — as opposed to just running — will keep you physically, mentally and emotionally fit, Ritzenhein says.

Try some new workouts and reward yourself with your favorite meal if you hit your marks.

3. Run a Time Trial

Even though most races are canceled, you can still stay motivated to run fast. Consider planning for a half-marathon time trial this fall, perhaps on the weekend you had planned to run your marathon. Sure you can try to run a new PR for 13.1 miles, but even if you don’t run faster than you ever have before, the inspiration you’ll derive from training and the thrill of racing will give you something to shoot for.

Plus, it’s a lot easier to recover from a half marathon than a marathon and going through the motions of training and racing (in a simulated fashion) will keep you motivated for what’s next in 2021.

Not ready to race that long? Run a 5K or even a mile time trial once a month for the next few months and see how much you can improve. Need more motivation? Engage your friends to race too. Or enter a virtual race.

“Even if it’s not your goal race, any kind of racing is a good thing to get your competitive juices flowing,” says Lee Troop, a three-time Olympian for Australia who coaches 2021 U.S. Olympic marathoner Jake Riley in Boulder. “You’ve got to keep yourself sharp and time trials are a great way to do that.”

no marathon? try trail running
Try something new, throw on a pack and take to the trail

4. Trust the Process.

The world situation is going to improve and you will be able to run a marathon again soon, and hopefully as soon as next spring. Once the world is a safer place, marathon running will return with an incredible swell of excitement that will help motivate us individually and collectively.

In the meantime, continue doing the things you’ve been doing with consistency — running, training, eating healthy foods and getting plenty of rest — and you’ll be in a good position to excel whenever races return.

5. Think Positively.

This too shall pass! As frustrating as 2020 has been, running can and should remain a part of our lives as we start to see 2021 approaching on the horizon.

While the pandemic has been devastating, life will go on and so will running. There might be a new normal and new protocols for big-city marathons, but we will continue running. Just keep showing up in your daily life and keep running woven into the fabric of your healthy lifestyle and it will help guide you through this crazy time in the world.

“It’s been a crazy year, for sure, but first and foremost it’s important to remember that a lot of people have died, a lot of people have gotten sick and a lot of people are out of work,” Troop says.

“Life always has ups and downs, but it’s the person who rises up with their own strength that will truly persevere. The best thing we can do is keep moving forward, keep running and keep living a healthy lifestyle. Let your desire to race be part of the hunger and positivity that helps you maintain an optimistic mindset.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brian Metzler is the author of Kicksology: The Science, Hype, Culture and Cool of Running Shoes. (2019, VeloPress)

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