Learning From the Elites: Mortal runners improving off of sound advice

My excitement level for the Women’s Olympic Marathon could be termed as ‘unbridled enthusiasm.’ It outpaced any any event; sorry, guys…but trust me there is enough spill-over excitement for other distance events, but it’s just a wee shy of the marathon.
kara goucher shalane flanagan
It’s been building since the Trials and I’m a proud member of Team Goucherette and Team Flanagan. So there was no question I’d be up at the 3am (my time) for gun time. The marathon is a beast of an event where you can only plan for so much and from there, run as planned but be ready to roll with any surprises as well.

Both Goucher and Flanagan did us Americans proud; I know they both hoped to have placed higher, it’s that kind of attitude that makes them great because they are focused on getting better and know they are capable of more. However, if you saw them out there they poured it on all the way through the line and have the maturity to realize that all you can ask for is your best from your body on any given day. If you leave it all out there, you have to be proud of that regardless of the outcome.

There were no shortage of articles and interviews with the harriers leading up to the race, asking them on their training, tactics, preparation and everything else. Everyone trying to pick their brains for some kind of ‘secret’, find out what makes them tick in the effort that some of this could be applied to the mere mortals. Two solid reads are from Competitor on Shalane Flanagan and Kara Goucher.
fast runners
Some quick highlights and points I feel worth repeating and emphasizing:

* Practice to race: Race day is what matters and tailoring your workouts to best simulate whatever conditions you’ll be facing on THAT day is key. You have tons of workouts and runs to test out how your body responds to different variables so be thorough. This includes finding which foods work best and setting a nutrition plan, the shoes you’ll be racing in, the perfect warm-up routine, and which style of racer you are. Do you want an even pace, start out slow and kick, surge in the middle, etc? I’ve got an article on planning your fuel HERE.

* Fartleks for everyone: Flanagan’s article specifies the kind of fartleks she did leading up and the reason why so many people are fans of fartleks is because they can be done anywhere and the combinations you can come up with are limitless. They are also perfect for those who might be getting too stressed or burned out on track workouts; focus on just running HARD rather than obsessing over splits. I wrote some more fartlek ideas HERE.

* In the end it’s in the legs: Gadgets and ‘extras’ are awesome; in today’s times we are flooded with different training tools. Take advantage of what this era brings to the table (trust me, especially when it comes to injuries and coming back from them, we’re running in a lucky time!) but in the end remember that what it comes down to is EFFORT. That and consistent training.

* It’s all mental:
Visualization is a common thread in helping to callous the mind for the kind of pain running and race day brings. This is work that you can do off the track and while giving your legs a break, but it will pay off dividends come race day. Be a gamer. I did a whole piece how how to utilize visualization HERE.

So both of these champs (and the rest of the awesome runners…have to say, a 24 year old Gold medalist, that looks pretty nice on the resume. 😉 hehe) will be back to work here shortly. Running never ends…

1) Did you watch or follow the marathon as it went off live, did you record it and watch it later, or did you pull up results?

2) Do you tend to read a lot of running articles, blogs, websites, etc? Which are your favorite?

3) What’s something you read recently that you really liked and plan on implementing or adapting to fit your own running?

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20 thoughts on “Learning From the Elites: Mortal runners improving off of sound advice

  1. I just finished reading the Competitor interview with Shalane and appreciated how much attention she gives to visualization. I feel like that’s such an important piece of the puzzle.

    Though, I can’t even imagine completing this workout:

    “One of the most recent workouts we used to simulate the course was a 21-mile long run which included 10 miles of 800m on at 5:00 min/mile pace and 800m off at 6:00 min/mile pace.”


  2. I watched it live and was amazed during the whole thing. I really need to figure out what they drink during the race that fuels them with just a few quick sips.

  3. 1) Like many other nerds out there, I got up early to watch the marathon. I’ve gone out of my way over the last week to watch specific races. I wish there was one set website or channel to watch, but I feel like every event I have to track down a different website to watch it live, but it has been worth it. The highlight has of course been watching the mens 10k live. My roommate just got a 50+ inch tv for our living room, so getting to watch one of the best races ever on a bigscreen was incredible.

    2) I usually check this site every 2-3 days, and occasionally read over the front page of letsrun just because they have results on pretty much everything. Although I really only glance at the message board every now and then. As i’ve gotten older, i’ve grown sick of message board trolls and negativity. I used to be a fan of flotrack, but their site has gotten ridiculous with advertisements and to many “extras.” I feel like my computer stuggles to load the page sometimes, haha. So I just glance at it once a week or so.

    3) The most simple thing I ever read in a running interview, and I don’t even recall who said it, was, “if you do something long enough, you’re bound to get good at it.” This really applied directly to people like myself who have not been blessed with extreme natural talent. I always try to tell people I struggled with running when I started as well, its not like it happened overnight. I just always kept thinking, if I just keep plugging away day after day, running will eventually become as easy and relaxed as walking. And it happened. Its still a work in progress, and I hope to get faster now that i’m injury free, but to go from running 19’s 14’s in the 5k has literally just been about consistancy. Mile after mile, year after year. As it has been said since the beginning of time, there is no secret. Its just about learning to run fast while you’re relaxed, which takes a mountain of time.

  4. I watched it live – amazing! Cait, I love this post. OK, I love all of your posts, but I feel that this is particularly special.

    I love fartlek for training, and your tips are gold. I don;t stick to a particular site for running tips – I tend to pick and choose. Sometimes the personal experiences are more informative than the bigger ones – I guess it depends what yo need on a given day.

  5. I really want to take care of my legs while I run. Getting the right workouts in, foam rolling, stretching. Things like that. 🙂 I love love love to visualize myself finished with my run, not matter how short or long I run.
    Most every blog that I look at has something to say about running, but I love to come here because I know you are going to go into greater detail, which I love!

    • visualization is AWESOME, and something u’ve picked up early on which puts you ahead of the game in lots of ways. keep on dreaming of ur running and honing that mental tool, girl! 🙂

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  7. Thanks for all these great tips, especially as I head into a lovely, long lead-up to my next half marathon (I know, nerdy over-preparer that’s me). The competitor website looks awesome – lots of new reading material 🙂
    Even though my heart is painted green and gold, I was cheering for Kara during the women’s marathon 🙂

    • ummm, HARDLY nerdy…smart and savvy runner is more like it! 😉 but u’ll totally rock that half i know it! 🙂 and thanks for giving some love to my girl kara…hehe!

  8. The Olympic Marathon was such an inspiration and I am a huge fan of Kara Goucher too! She is pretty great!

    I just joined Twitter, follow me @SouthGirlRun, thanks!!!
    Love your blog!

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