Running a marathon faster doesn’t just come naturally, and it’s not true that you can only do it when young. In fact many take up marathon running later in life, and arguably you get better with age. For my 6th addition of my “How to run a marathon faster series” I have Donato (therunningguru). Donato has only been running since 2015, and shares his tips about getting faster from someone who has gone from overweight to getting a Boston Qualifier.
I asked Donato about his first run:
I can remember my first “run” like it was yesterday, I stepped out of my front door and within a couple of minutes I was in absolute pain in my ankles, knees and my chest was so tight I had to stop and sit down in a local park at end of the road.
I walked back and messaged my friend saying I couldn’t run to the end of road, let alone a half marathon! He sent me a link of a book by a guy who talks about just getting to the finish and I was told I could walk the half marathon and I had almost 4 months of training to fit in, so I signed up. I downloaded a beginners traiing plan and off I went. All as part of my 5 year campaign to get people more active, without even a thought of doing any marathons.
Back in 2011 I was obese and very unfit. Just a typical bloke with a massive middle aged spread. Running was never an option.
After I finished my first half marathon, some colleagues in office suggested I run a full marathon of which I told them I nearly died doing a half, let alone a full. There was no way I was running one of those distances!
A few months later I signed up to my first marathon in Brighton 2016 and finished with a time of 3:47 ish.
It was all going so well, or so I thought. Like many beginners, I fell apart after the first half, as I must of been going too fast for my level of fitness. First half of around 1:45 and second half of 2 hours. Those last 6 miles did not want to finish. I even ate jelly babies that were making me feel sick to take the painful thoughts away from my legs in those last miles.
Tell me about your running now:
In my latest marathon in Chicago 2018 I got a new PB of 3:06:05, which for my age category ranked me as second fastest British athlete for VM 55-60. Yes, I know, I don’t look that old!
How have you improved so quickly?
I believe in my training and enjoy the process. I enjoy every training run, every rest day. When it comes to race day, I will always endeavour to do my best on how I feel that day.
The plan that I have now developed and continue to develop is more about looking at the whole process of running, recovery and rest, or what I call the holy trinity of running. This can be applied to all walks of life, not just running.
Endurance running like marathon distance and beyond is more mental than physical, which is a lot that I talk about now with my 1-2-1’s with clients.
Some ask, have I always been fast?
I believe fast is all relative. All my goal for each race is run the fastest I can without injuring myself. Sounds simple, but takes a lot of self discipline and practice, which I have developed from outside of running for the past 30 years.
Irrespective of what training I may of done, some race days, I may not be feeling good, so will have to adjust my race strategy based on how I feel on the day, not how I want to feel. Also, as the marathon progresses, as a lot can happen during the 26.2 miles that will allow me to adjust the strategy as I go along. Again, this takes a lot of self discipline and definitely parking the ego at the start of the race and not let the ego back in.
The Running Guru at New York
NYC Marathon 2017 is one that I will never forget for many reasons. 4 weeks before the marathon I picked up a nasty injury and was unable to walk without being in a lot of pain. Almost a whole year of training and many set backs and then this happens also. Following some intense physio and 2 weeks rest, I had 3 runs a week of just 15 minutes to get me to the start. Something fired up inside me that day and not only was I able to complete the race, but came in with a Boston Marathon qualifying time for 2019. It is amazing what we can achieve, when we believe.
How did you improve your marathon time?
There is no magic formula on improving our marathon times. Improving from a 5 hour to a 4 hour is a different training strategy from improving from a 3 hour to a 2:30 time.
For me, it was just a simple case of getting fitter and running on a regular basis. I would only run 3 times a week and sometimes 4, in the first two years. The rest of time I would do yoga and spin classes.
The key ingredient is ENJOY THE PROCESS. I love what I do everyday, especially the rest days!
Along in the training plan I would throw in some test races at shorter distances to see how the legs are doing like a fast park run or half marathons.
Top tips to running a faster marathon
1. Have a balanced diet and enjoy what you eat. Don’t just eat food because you are told it is good for you. For example, if you don’t like porridge, eat something else!
2. Have a training plan YOU believe in and follow the training plan. Train consistently.
3. DO NOT look at your Garmin during the race, run on how you feel.
4. Train using effort measurements, not pace. Training on pace can be very misleading as it can be impacted by many factors like terrain, weather and what you ate in past 24 hours, let alone the satellite being 1,000s of miles away from your watch trying to measure your pace!
5. Leave your Ego at the start of the race.
Hopefully this may of helped you in some way and if you would like some 1-2-1 help, you can book either half hour or one hour slots to speak with me via Skype to develop a bespoke strategy that can work for you on topics you want to cover such as running, weight loss, mid-life crisis and mental well being.
You can book either a one off, or a regular session to keep you on track depending on what your needs are.
What a great journey. I definitely agree that “fast” is relative, and some good tips here on how to get faster. Check out @therunninguru on his YouTube channel HERE or email him HERE.