6 Takeaways from Running an Impromptu Marathon

6 Takeaways from Running an Impromptu Marathon

How I ran a 2:50 marathon on a whim while staying healthy and in control throughout the race

Race pic courtesy of the Eugene Marathon

On May 1st, I completed the Eugene Marathon. While I’ve completed plenty of Ironman Triathlons, this was my first ever attempt at the distance as a standalone event. I did this race in support of my good buddy, Johnny Kvietkus. This was his first race back following a horrific car accident last summer. Although his sister and nephews would be there on race day, I thought it’d be fun to accompany him. I also had to honor a pact I made with one of my athletes, Tonya.

My friend Johnny and I at Seward Park

I promised her if she qualified for the 2023 Boston Marathon during this year’s race (which she did with flying colors), I’d toe the line with her next April. Since I’m not getting any younger, I thought I’d better get my qualifying time sooner rather than later. So I threw caution to the wind and registered three days before the race.

Outside of one 14 miler, my longest run in the past two years was the weekly 12-mile jaunt I do to my in-law’s house for Sunday dinners. I was also sidelined from running for eight weeks in late 2021 due to an unexpected knee issue, which I fortunately recovered from.

If you are prepping for your next marathon, here are six key takeaways from my experience for you to consider as you begin ramping up your training.

1) Stop trippin’ over the long run

You can’t cheat the volume going into a marathon. But to avoid leaving several critical boxes unchecked, don’t structure your training around the long run. When it comes to tackling marathon training, my friend and PT extraordinaire, Mike Studer, sums the long run up nicely saying,

Stay on your feet for the length of time you project the marathon to take. For example, if your goal marathon time is 3 hours, you may only need to cover 20 miles in long slow distance during your training cycle.

If running long and slow was all that mattered, I wouldn’t have had the strong race I did. Sure I faded a bit towards the end (see below), but I think the other types of runs were integral to my success.

The green line on this chart shows my pace, which you can see slowed toward the end of the race with several stops at aid stations before powering through to the finish. 💪

As my good friend and colleague, Joel Sattgast says,

The long run is an opportunity to demonstrate confidence, mental more than physical. If a runner can complete 20-22 miles, then what’s 4-6 more?

For example, I often include the following sessions during a typical week:

  1. 45 – 60 minutes at conversation pace, including anywhere from 5-15, 10-30 second strides.
  2. 45 – 60 minutes at conversation pace with a mishmash of hard intervals ranging from 1-5 minutes in duration.
  3. 60 minutes at conversation pace on rolling to hilly terrain or a 30- 45 minute tempo effort.
  4. 90 minutes of running over to my in-laws with an occasional pitstop at Fremont Brewery, turning the final mile into a beer mile 🤫🍻
  5. 20- 30 minute transition run off the bike AKA T-run (remember, I’m a triathlete).

These runs challenge coordination, heart and lung function, tissue capacity, power and confidence. As you review these workout sessions, keep this rate of perceived exertion (RPE) chart in the back of your mind.

RPE Chart

This RPE chart is from my latest project RunWell, which launches in June — check out our teaser!

2) Practice for race day and fuel like you mean it

It blows my mind how much runners and triathletes worry about factors that are out of their control while neglecting what they can rehearse such as nutrition and pacing.

Although I didn’t register for Eugene until a couple of days before, I started considering the race about two weeks out. Given the situation, I knew I needed at least one long run to rehearse nutrition and pacing. A week before Eugene, after a short walking warm-up, I put in a 14-mile effort slightly faster than my projected marathon pace. I knew if I could hold a brisk effort, I’d have the confidence to get it done on race day.

My pre-marathon 14 miler

A breakdown of my pre-marathon 14 miler

Given the energy demands required to run a marathon, I knew it was also critical to have a clearly defined nutrition strategy.

Everyone is different, but I’ll provide a window into my approach starting the day before. In reality, however, it begins well before in terms of hydration and sound fueling for energy availability.

Fueling the Day Before Eugene

After a 25-minute shakeout run with Johnny on Saturday morning, we went out for a late morning breakfast where I had a monster pancake, a plate of hashbrowns, an egg and one piece of bacon.

My breakfast the morning before the marathon.

My breakfast Saturday morning

For the rest of the day, I snacked on pretzels, nonfat yogurt, and pita during the afternoon before having a sensible pasta dish with some chicken in the evening.

Race Day Fueling

On to race morning…4:30 a.m….RISE & SHINE CAMPERS!

I made sure to get up early and start fueling at least two hours before the start of the race at 7 a.m. Giving your body this amount of time to digest is crucial to ensure everything can break down, exit the gut and be used by the working muscles once the gun goes off.

My waist belt of choice for the marathon.

My go-to Solomon waist belt

For breakfast, I had:

  • 1 cup of organic unsweetened apple sauce
  • 1 banana
  • 1 plain bagel
  • 14 ounces of sports beverage and then sipped on water to thirst before the race

For the race, I took seven Huma gels on board and stowed them in my favorite Salomon waist belt, the Pulse. The Huma gels are 100 kcals and consist of ~22-26 grams of carbohydrates.

My target for the race was ~60g of carbs per hour, so I planned to consume a gel every 20 ish minutes and then rely on what the aid stations had for the home stretch. Long story short, I nailed my nutrition!

It’s worth noting: I’ve trained my gut over the past several years and have a cast-iron stomach, so please exercise caution in adopting my exact approach because it may not be appropriate for you.

3) Strength training is essential

If there’s one thing a runner should do beyond run, it’s strength train. While running should comprise the bulk of your training as an endurance athlete, strength training ensures we have the requisite capacity to withstand the performance demands of running. This is especially true for masters level (over 35 years old) and geriathlete (over 55 years old) runners. Incorporating strength training:

  • Improves movement economy
  • Reduces or delayed fatigue
  • Improves anaerobic capacity
  • Enhances maximal speed

I don’t know about you, but what runner wouldn’t want that?! When it comes to running, our bodies need to withstand:

  • Cumulative loads given the repetitious nature of running
  • Peak loads considering certain tissues and regions need to withstand upwards of 8x bodyweight force
  • Energy storage and release since running is a plyometric activity

My strength training included some combination of the following movements and exercises based on where I was in training:

  1. Farmer’s marches (check out my recent post on marching drills)
  2. Squats
  3. Deadlifts
  4. Single leg drill (step-ups, toe taps, long lever bridge)
  5. Calf raises
  6. Push press
  7. Jump rope

While there is still a lot of research to be done on strength training, it’s something I strongly advocate for runners. I like to think of strength training as “coordination training under load.” If you don’t already prioritize strength training, any type of strength training is likely to create a positive stimulus. Aim to layer it in 2 – 3 x per week, ideally on non-running or lighter runners days.

4) Prioritize consistency and moderation

Despite many athletes being enamored by heroic or jaw-dropping workouts on social media, nothing promotes physiologic adaptation like measured training day in and day out. If you get overzealous and trip something off such as a muscle pull or tear, be prepared for your training to get derailed.

While adding intensity to a training cycle is important, make sure to get into a rhythm before revving the engine. Furthermore, when preparing to layer intensity into your sessions, be sure to come into the workout centered and ready.

Full disclosure: My marathon performance was the culmination of years of consistent and moderate training while peppering in calculated intensity, which ultimately allowed me to go deep in the well.

5) Focus on what is in your control

Speak to any marathoner, and you’ll learn about the dreaded 20-mile mark. Of course, the “goin’ gets tough,” but don’t let it get to your head. Every course is different and the conditions always vary. The main thing you can control is how well you pace the race leading up to the last 10K.

My mantras for the Eugene Marathon.

Mantras are an important tool to help keep you focused throughout your race.

Stay conservative early at the start, avoid going out too fast and focus on nutrition. Study the course and race accordingly. For Eugene, I made sure to write mantras in permanent marker on my hand to keep me honest but anchored for each segment of the race. There were two hills that hit during the first half of the race and so it was important to stay sensible early on. From there, the course was relatively tame. While my mantras were generally spot on, I should’ve labeled the fourth one GRIND because it sure as hell wasn’t a PUSH at that point.

6) Find a shoe that gives you a boost

Although I typically downplay the role of shoes, if you find a supershoe that feels comfy, springy, and light, you’d be silly not to use it. Worst case scenario, you’ll have a psychological advantage on race day.

My shoes of choice for the Eugene Marathon.

My shoes of choice for Eugene, the Saucony Endorphin PRO 2

Having done a lot of personal testing comparing various metrics (heart rate, pace, effort) between traditional running shoes vs. those with carbon plated technology, I’m someone who undoubtedly benefits from the latter.

For this race, I went with the Saucony Endorphin PRO 2, and they were divine.

If you want to experience what it feels like to run on mini trampolines, this shoe has you covered. Rumor has it that the ASICS METASPEED, the next shoe I’ll introduce into my rotation, is also the cat’s pajamas. I promise to report back.

Aim to find a shoe that weighs less than 440g (pair), feels comfy and has a carbon plate. Otherwise, be prepared to hit the F8 recalculate button post-race, wondering how much faster you could’ve gone and the precious seconds you left on the course.

Huge shout out to Rachel Lee at the Run Shoppe, who takes care of my running shoe fetish.

Final Thoughts

The most obvious takeaway from the race is how much less of a logistical headache a marathon is relative to an Ironman. I’ll continue to race long course triathlons, but the marathon was a much more enjoyable experience and vibe. You also don’t have to deal with a bunch of stressed out type A triathletes staring at your calves and quads trying to size you up going into the race. There’s nothing relaxing about racing a triathlon. I sometimes wonder why I do them in the first place. Based on my first marathon experience, I can’t wait to race Boston and put in a focused training block to avoid running a second impromptu marathon.

Marching Madness | 7 Marching Drills to Improve Your Running Form

Marching Madness | 7 Marching Drills to Improve Your Running Form

7 Marching Drills That Will Improve Your Running 

As Dick Vitale would say, “It’s March Madness, Baby!”  

To celebrate, I’d like to share some marching madness.

Reflecting over the past two decades of my physical therapy, coaching, and sporting career, if there’s been one constant aside from swim, bike, run, lift, it’s undoubtedly a shit ton of marching. 

Marching is a drill that challenges runners from an upright, single-leg standpoint that can be modified in several ways to challenge the performer pending the goal.

I tend to weave in some combination of marching drills throughout most days and encourage you to do the same unless there is some medical precaution or contraindication. 

Early in my career, I prioritized static single leg balance drills to a greater degree, but I quickly learned that runners check out pretty damn quick if you don’t put them into motion. 

In general, static single-leg balance work for runners is like having a cyclist practice balancing their bike in place — perhaps appropriate if you’re a bike messenger in New York City. Otherwise, there’s probably not a lot of bang for your buck. With that said, I do still incorporate some single leg balance work using my friend Jay Dicharry’s Mobo Board, especially after a lateral ankle sprain or if people need to restore foot and ankle capacity following a leg injury.

This blog post will take you through the 7 most common marching drills I prescribe while unpacking the rationale and discussing how to implement them into your routine.

Prepare for Marching

To get started I often have people march barefoot on firm, level ground. This helps you appreciate what your “little piggies” are doing by giving your nervous system more input through the high concentration of mechanoreceptors on the sole of our feet. Otherwise, aim to progress by using a thin, firm-soled shoe. 

When performing the marching drills, the goal is to initially find a tempo or pace that feels smooth and fluid. From there, you can work on slowing it down or speeding it up from there. Also, know that it’s perfectly normal to feel a bit wobbly unless you perform in Cirque de Soleil.

Strive for mastery and grace, and remember that mistakes drive (motor) learning. 

  1. Baseline Marching – if you’re new to marching, start here. March forward in a smooth, fluid manner. A practical and straightforward way to progress this drill is by rotating your head side to side or by closing one eye at a time. Stick the high knee position for a second, and when going to lower the non-balancing leg to the ground, initiate contact with the ball of your foot before gently lowering the heel to the ground. You can also march to a metronome at different beat frequencies. I often start at 30 beats per minute (bpm) and work up to 120bpm in 30 beat increments. As you go from 30 to 120bpm, you’ll appreciate the greater coordination requirements, not to mention having to hit the ground harder, which is an essential part of the rehab process in preparation for running.

  1. Prisoner March – the prisoner march is a simple progression from the baseline march in that you’re taking the arms out of the equation. This drill promotes getting tall, a common denominator among the world’s best runners. I often find myself prescribing this variation for high school runners. 

  1. March to Overhead Reach – this marching drill is sometimes referred to as a “vertical bird dog.” It’s a staple for triathletes I work with because it engenders a sense of being long while challenging overhead mobility. It kind of sounds like freestyle swimming, eh?

  1. 3-Way Mini Band March – another variation I often incorporate into a triathlete’s programming. It challenges the shoulder musculature and demands a rhythm and timing element to coordinate/synchronize the movement of the arms and legs.

  1. March w/ Weight Overhead – a great marching drill to challenge a runner’s trunk control. There is no need to get carried away with the weight…a 10-25lb dumbbell or bumper plate is sensible. Holding a dowel rod or broomstick also works well for adolescent athletes. 

  1. March w/ Punch – although the arms generally don’t break the plane (forward) of the body with distance running, I like this drill as it promotes a skosh of spinal rotation, which is healthy for your back. Some athletes like holding lightweight (5-10lb) dumbbells when doing this. Perhaps I’m just challenging my inner Bruce Lee by incorporating the punch.

  1. Marching Matrix – this drill is for you if you’re looking to get FONCY by combining a handful of different marching variations in a series. A lightweight (10-15lbs) med ball, dumbbell, or equivalent is all you need, and you’re in business. 

How To Incorporate Marching into Your Routine

When it comes to training, I often have runners and triathletes use marching drills at the beginning of a strength training session or the end of a run as part of a walking cool-down to engender a sense of being tall.

Programming marching drills at the beginning of a strength training session is great as it affords an excellent way to check out from your daily grind and segue into your strength session. 

For example, I routinely pick one of the marching drills above and have an athlete complete 2-3, 1-minute passes before getting into the crux of the lifting session. 

Those athletes who trust me to coach them can attest that I often prescribe a one-minute pass of the march to overhead reach as part of their walking cool-down post-run. There is nothing like having runners wrap up their run with a drill that promotes getting tall and upright.

I also incorporate the marching drills randomly throughout the day as “movement snacks.” Shoutout to Ben Cormack for this phrase. For example, I use the Pomodoro method, where I work in a 25-minute block then take a 5-minute break. During the break is when I do the marching drills. Since many people are working from home, this has become easier, and you don’t need to worry about your colleagues making fun of you. By day’s end, I’m willing to bet that you’ll feel better by implementing a similar approach and be more productive. 

So there you have it, Marching Madness. Please reach out with questions. Otherwise…FORWARD MARCH!

Burnout in Physical Therapy | Where Passion Collides With Reality

Burnout in Physical Therapy | Where Passion Collides With Reality

It’s become clear a good chunk of physical therapists have become disenchanted with the profession and are suffering burnout.

Can’t imagine it has anything to do with the insurmountable levels of debt and pressure from employers who lack core values and prioritize patient churn out.

How can this already be happening,” you think to yourself as I’ve only been practicing for a couple of years?

I must confess the situation has me distraught to the point where it’s brought me to tears.

Is what I’m experiencing normal or are these unjustified fears?

I went into this field to help others reclaim a life of movement and get back to the things they love.

I thought this was gonna be rewarding but I’m starting to feel like I’ve had enough.

Every day I run around a clinic throwing tips and tricks at complex, volatile situations.

Then I have no choice but to stay long after my shift writing notes, which are nothing more than overexplaining.

How in Sam Hill am I ever going to pay off $100k+ in loans and where does starting a family, enjoying some leisure reading, and pursuing my hobbies fit in.

Please throw me a lifesaver because I’m drowning in all these nonsensical explanations patients are given about why they’re in pain…what a sin!

Before I forget, do you know how I can get out of a non-compete?

Is it something I’m locked into because I’m on the verge of conceding?

I don’t know bout’ you but I can’t sit through one more compliance meeting.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I feel like it’s time to switch professions or jump ship.

And don’t get me started over the fact some states still require a PT script?!

Why is it that when we know there’s a leak in the ship we sit there and watch it sink (thanks Johnny!)?

I don’t know about you but if we stay on the current trajectory, I’m genuinely concerned the physical therapy profession could go extinct.

Now more than ever physical therapists are looking for purpose and patients desperately need individualized care.

Unfortunately, clinicians are having their passion(s) crushed thanks to a soul-sucking system and employers who’ve created a sense of despair.

It’s time we stop feeling sorry for ourselves, reclaim our profession, and get back to the things which matter most?

What happened to creating an unparalleled patient experience, clinical excellence, and simply being a gracious host.

Let’s take a moment to revisit the wise words of George Patton, who once said, “Courage is fear holding on one minute longer.”

I’m sure you probably feel like things are going bonkers.

Now’s the time to double down on your situation so you can position yourself to break through and conquer.

Do your best to put your fears and worries aside while getting crystal clear on your core values then rework your narrative as a person and clinician.

I’m excited for you to discover the opportunities that await and look forward to following your mission.

Remember to immerse yourself in and connect with your local community while pouring your hands, heart, and mind into your craft.

Only then will you get established as a trusted resource at which point there’ll be no looking back.

Please stop worrying about all these new-age marketing platforms characterized by suspect strategies and tactics.

At day’s end, they’re nothing more than a racket!

Rather, focus on doing the best job you absolutely can day in and day out.

Remember in case you forgot…the best marketing is still word of mouth.

By no means will this be an easy journey as you’ll surely encounter some obstacles along the way so remain patient and revel in the process.

A final reminder…YOU GOT THIS!

The Runner’s Despair

The Runner’s Despair

One of the greatest challenges I face in working with runners is what I refer to as “Runner’s Despair.” So, I decided to write a poem about it…

“Why me?”

“Will I ever run again?”

“This isn’t fair!”

Please don’t fret as this is a classic case of “Runner’s Despair.”

You’ve likely tried pulling back on training and resting without any luck.

Maybe you’ve resorted to pulls, injectables, and/or surgery while having parted with several hundred bucks.

Please put your mind at ease and try your best not to freak out or worry.

Look…as much as I wish we could rush biology it often creates a strike against us to be in such a hurry.

This situation has arisen for reasons you’ll likely never fully know though it demands some reflection.

And believe me…I’m well aware of your running predilection.

Take this time to pick up a book, phone a friend, or tend to things that you’ve put on the back burner and need your attention.

Appreciate that perhaps you’ll have to confront some challenging issues and face adversity so it’s normal to have some apprehension.

Do know that you WILL get on the other side of this turmoil and once again take flight.

This will not be an easy process and could very well take all your might.

And never forget that you’re best running lies ahead.

So chill out and power off as it’s time to get to bed.

I’ll see you bright and early and be ready to get to work.

For the record, let it be known that you’ve been put on alert.

Never forget that you’re only as good as your last injury and the extent to which you rehabbed it.

And please don’t gimme this shit that you’re gonna quit.

It’s time to saddle up…are you ready to commit?

How to Apply the Science of Step Rate to Your Running Using the RunCadence & Spotify App

How to Apply the Science of Step Rate to Your Running Using the RunCadence & Spotify App

Over the past several years, a wealth of research has emerged pertaining to the myriad of benefits of step rate (AKA cadence) manipulation when addressing various running related injuries (RRIs) and lower extremity pain.

The fundamental principle behind step rate manipulation is that by keeping running velocity/speed constant and taking more steps per minute, one is able to effectively reduce their stride length, and in turn the magnitude of each individual loading cycles at the expense of taking more loading cycles. This is readily apparent when stopping to consider the following equation.

Speed= Stride length X Stride frequency

Furthermore, research shows that music serves as a great external auditory cue, especially for endurance athletes, as it results in spontaneous entrainment to the tempo or beat with a greater effect noted in women. One approach to help you apply step rate manipulation to your running involves making use of the RunCadence and Spotify App.
Below I will take you through how to use the combination of these Apps to reduce the magnitude of loading of each individual gait cycle if that is indeed the desired goal. Research has shown that as little as a five percent increase in step rate while keeping running velocity constant can reduce shock absorption at the level of the knee by upwards of 20 percent. That’s astronomical!!!

It should be noted, however, that the information presented in this post should not suffice nor serve as a substitute for professional medical advice in the event you are dealing with pain and/or functional limitations. In such instances, we advise you to seek consultation with a trusted medical provider, who specializes in the rehabilitation of runners.

Equipment Requirements:

  1. Calibrated Treadmill
  2. Iphone with the RunCadence App
  3. Spotify App

Let’s Get Started

The first item of business it to determine your step rate or cadence for a given running velocity. To do this, you will have to complete a one-minute test. We suggest conducting this on a treadmill to obtain the most accurate results provided that you are comfortable running on a rotating belt. This is where the RunCadence app comes into play. Prior to completing the test we encourage folks to start with a 5′ brisk walk followed by a 6′ run to get familiarized with the treadmill. From there, stand on the runners of the treadmill and open up the RunCadence App (assuming it’s already been downloaded) on your smartphone and click “TEST.” You will be given a 5s countdown before the test officially starts though we encourage folks to start running once the countdown ensues to settle into your running gait. You will have to hold the phone in your hand for the duration of the test. To avoid compromising the accuracy of the test, we encourage you to avoid looking at the timer on the App. Rather, simply use the treadmill timer and make a note of when you start the test and plan for 70-75s of continuous running to ensure that you fully capture your foot contacts for the entire minute.


How to Determine Your Step Rate for a Given Speed Using The RunCadence App:

Tap the RunCadence App

Select “Test”

Tap Ready & Start Running

Run for 1′ w/ phone in hand

Once you have finished the one-minute test, this screen will appear which shows your average step rate as well as +2.5, +5, +7.5, and +10% above your avg step rate. We generally recommend starting with +5% when it comes to gait retraining. This is the value that you will plug in to the Spotify app when prompted. We’ll cover this in more detail below. In the event that you are able to readily adopt the +5% step rate, feel free to increase it to +7.5% if not +10%. While you can increase your step rate above 10%, apppreciate that doing so occurs at a great metabolic cost.

How to Use the Running Feature on Spotify and Plugging in Your Step Rate:

Step 1:

Once you have downloaded Spotify from the app store, simply tap the icon to open it.

Step 2:

When the homescreen of the Spotify app appears, tap the search button centrally located at the bottom of the screen.

Step 3:

In the searchbox, type in “running” then click the search button at the bottom of the screen.

Step 4:

Scroll down until you see “Genres & Moods.” Tap the icon with the running man.

Step 5:

You will have the option to select various types of music so pick the one that suits your fancy 🙂 We often encourage folks to select a style of music with a distinct beat as it lends to better sychronization in terms of your foot contacts.

Step 6:

When you arrive at this screen and are prompted to start running, simply click the “skip” button at the bottom of the screeen and plug in the value obtained from using the RunCadence Test. Consider starting with the “+5%” value.

Step 7:

You are ready to roll/run! Aside from periodic advertisements, you will now have a continuous playlist based on the beat frequency you plugged in. Bear in mind that maintaining a consistent/steady step rate for a given running speed is most easily accomplished on level ground. Hills and softer surfaces may cause you to deviate from the target.

Wishing you HAPPY, HEALTHY, & STRONG Training. Please reach out if you have any additional questions regarding how step rate can be applied to your training. Onward!!!

Disclosure: RunCadence is a for profit IOS App that I developed along with my good friend and business partner, Ben Wobker. It is currently priced at $2.99 and can be found on the App store.

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