5 Tips To Run a Faster Marathon

I hobbled across the finish line of my first marathon, swearing up and down that I wasn’t running another one—ever again, under any circumstances. Less than three months later, I’d be training for my next 26.2-mile race, aiming to catapult myself to PR and more enjoyable experience, all the while finding out that being able to run a faster marathon takes a lot of legwork. It also requires support.

“Almost nothing replaces the benefits of having a run coach to help you through your journey. While self-guiding through a race training plan can surely improve times, having a coach to help with accountability, modifications, and emotional support can take your potential to a whole new level,” says David Siik, founder of Precision Run by Equinox.

Experts In This Article

  • David Siik, running coach and founder of Equinox’s Precision Run program

One of the reasons that running with a coach is so helpful is that coaches can help you to assess your weaknesses and turn them into positives. Also, coaches often come with run groups, which are thoroughly backed by research. For starters, we begin to adopt the habits of those who we spend time with—via a phenomenon called “social proximity.” If you’re around other runners, chances are you’ll run more and form a healthier lifestyle around the sport.

When you’re running with others, they’ll also likely challenge your speed, pushing you in group runs to achieve a faster overall pace—or at least to stay with your pace for the long haul. Plus, group accountability helps us to show up time after time according to research. As for the other tips to help you maintain faster miles over the long haul? Check out Siik’s advice ahead.

1. Strength train

Studies have found that the effects of strength training to help bolster your miles1 when done just two to three times per week, in conjunction with plyometric exercises (aka jump training), boosting the performance of medium- and long-distance runners alike. What’s more, you don’t have to grind it out with weights—low-intensity modalities such as Pilates have been found to be highly effective2 in helping runners perform better, boosting their postural and locomotor muscles alike.

2. Interval train

Siik says that interval training is a key part of Precision Running. “We believe in the value so much that we even built our own custom treadmill and software to support the experience,” he says. “Besides the cardiovascular benefits, the very nature of accelerating and decelerating during intervals can be good prep for pace and terrain changes during a race.”

Tread intervals are also a nice way to switch up your routine if you’re used to running outside, according to Siik. “The reason we love programming interval training on our Precision Run Treads is the lower impact, making it a nice break from hitting the pavement, plus the ability to formulate incredibly precise inclines and speeds,” he says.

3. Cross train

If you’re a one-sport-only kinda gal like myself, the words “cross-training” are enough to send a shiver down your spine. “Running, like all sports, still has to have some counterbalance,” Siik says, who adds that the lower impact of cardio workouts like cycling and swimming can cool things off, keep you active, and counterbalance some of the impact of running. That said, if you’re curious how people find pools to swim in, ya know, in the dead of winter, just try to opt for a modality that gets your heart rate up and is enjoyable: dancing, elliptical—whatever makes you happy.

4. Prioritize speed work

While I lucked out on the sleepy-girl gene, I do not have the sprinter gene—ya win some you lose some. So, “speed work” similarly sends a chill down my spine, but it doesn’t have to. “As long as you are meeting your mileage goals weekly, speed work can be introduced, with balance, through the entirety of a training program,” says Siik. So pick a day and incorporate a Fartlek or two into your workout. You won’t be sorry come race day.

5. Don’t fall victim to common mistakes

1. Not listening to your body

Most injuries come when we don’t listen to what our bodies are trying to tell us. Feeling wiped? You may be training too hard. Have a knee that’s twingy? Maybe it’s time to take a week off. “In almost any distance training plan, something isn’t going to go as planned,” says Siik. “Life happens. Ignoring a light strain in a calf muscle and not modifying can lead to a chain reaction of issues, slowing you down much more than swapping some mileage for cross-training.”

2. Not sticking to a plan

Don’t decide to go rogue and not pay attention to your plan at hand—it’s there for a reason. To push you. To keep you from going too hard when you’re feeling good. “You have a finite time to prepare, being inconsistent in your training is very hard to make up for,” says Siik. “That is why having a personal run coach can be a game changer for those who need that accountability.”

Well+Good articles reference scientific, reliable, recent, robust studies to back up the information we share. You can trust us along your wellness journey.

  1. Balsalobre-Fernández, Carlos et al. “Effects of Strength Training on Running Economy in Highly Trained Runners: A Systematic Review With Meta-Analysis of Controlled Trials.” Journal of strength and conditioning research vol. 30,8 (2016): 2361-8. doi:10.1519/JSC.0000000000001316
  2. Finatto, Paula et al. “Pilates training improves 5-km run performance by changing metabolic cost and muscle activity in trained runners.” PloS one vol. 13,3 e0194057. 21 Mar. 2018, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0194057

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