I was chatting recently with an athlete I just started working with about an upcoming marathon she had planned to run. I am excited about the opportuity to be working with her; regardless of how talented she might be, she is eager to learn and understands that contrary to popular belief, it doesn't take gobs of talent OR huge sacrifice to pursue our dreams and goals and approach our ultimate potential. All it really takes are four things:
- a willingness to be honest with ourselves
- a never ending desire to learn
- a commitment to relentless, smart work
- the patience to do things the right way and stay the course
As she and I discussed whether she should follow through with her plans to run the marathon, which incidently was only a few weeks away, I decided that reviewing the plan she had been following would give me a sense of her preparation, so I asked her to forward it to me.
As I looked the plan over, I instantly recognized what I believe is the most serious and common flaw of many marathon training plans.
I have to admit I wasn't that surprised to see it - I've seen it over and over again in many different plans written by many different coaches.
What is that flaw? Simply put, it is completing that last long run too close to race day.
When I brought up the topic of this all-too-common mistake, she replied: "...all I have to say is, it's really incredible how hard it is to undo mass perception like that! To be honest, while it makes complete sense, I had never heard that before! The proliferation of social media and Strava in particular, gave me some insight into how some of my friends train who also race, and they certainly haven't applied this approach."
I thought to myself, WOW...have we reached a point where Strava, is now not only a place to race for an "FKT" or fastest known time, but is now also a coaching tool?
- Are you an athlete who decides how you should train by watching what others do (often total strangers) and apply what you see them do, to your training?
- Do you assume that because someone might be faster, you should train like them?
- Do you believe that there is a "one size fits all" when it comes to training?
It seems to me that with the popularity of Strava (and other social media), the inclination for some to follow others or see what they do and use that as coaching guidance, without really understanding how that might be helping OR hurting, is an ever increasing problem.
Who knows why others are doing what they're doing, or whether THEY might go even FASTER if they employed a different approach?
If you've shown up on race day with tired legs and performed below your potential as a result, give this topic some serious consideration. Resist the temptation to blindly trust the plan or the "expert" giving you advice.
Learn. Think. Train smart.
For a much more in-depth review of what I believe is the best overall approach for tapering into your marathon or iron distance triathlon, check out this blog post I wrote prior to last year's Boston Marathon entitled "Old Habits Die Hard."