Achieving the 3 Hour Marathon Dream

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Running a marathon below 3 hours – a dream that came true for our running.COACH User Chris Howard. Together with our Gold Coach Gabriel he improved his form to be a more efficient runner and less prone to injury. Very sucessful, as you can read here in his personal report about his journey to the Valencia Marathon.

I started running 5 years ago once I hit 40 years old – either this was due to a mid-life crisis or to just generally get fit and remove the storage space around the tummy. My first marathon in Lucerne of just over 4 hours was hard but the feeling at the end got me hooked for more.

Running Dream and injuries

Over the next few years I got better by adding the miles and then signed up with running.COACH silver subscription and was able to bring my time down over the next 2 years to 3.14 in Berlin and then 3.09 in London. I was following the plan, obtaining excellent advice and was really happy with my progress. However, I then wanted to achieve the next level and achieve under 3 hours. This became the running dream.

Training with a Coach: less kilometres

Unfortunately, I had a few injuries which kept on pushing me back and then I did Chicago and got a 3.32. Why was I getting further away from 3 hours and not closer? A friend recommended me to have a personal coach and use the running.COACH Gold subscription. I signed up in June 2018 for a 6 month subscription and Gabriel Lombriser would be my coach for the next 6 months. I was advised at the beginning about a running day being conducted in Nottwil and I learned more in that day about running style, efficiency, mobilisation, specific training etc. than I had done by looking at over 100 Youtube videos.

At the beginning of the subscription I had a detailed discussion with Gabriel about injuries, aims, personal lifestyle, nutrition etc. Gabriel then created a plan for me. Gone were the 6 days of training over 100km per week and I was shocked to see only 60km per week and 5 trainings. Gabriel fully understood my injury history and accommodated my plan to this to ensure I had continuous training and not to be constantly interrupted by injuries. Throughout the next 6 months I could have an easily accessible view of my plan on my phone and receive detailed tips per run.

Journey as a Team

The training got easier and then more intensive as time went by. Constant communication with Gabriel ensured I was on this journey as a team and not by myself (every question asked was answered quickly with excellent advice). I was advised which test runs to do and these were built into the plan. Constant feedback after the test runs was given by Gabriel as to how I could improve in the next run and by putting this advice to practice, I noticed constant improvement. However, it was the constant change to the norm in runs which I was advised to do which helped me significantly.

Valencia Marathon

Valencia marathon then arrived and I felt good. A detailed discussion took place between Gabriel and myself a week before about tapering, nutrition and marathon pacing strategy. I felt confident. Then the day before the marathon, Gabriel called again to provide me with some key tips and encouragement.

The marathon went like a dream. The splits were the same for every 5km and when I felt tired at after 30 kilometres I kept on repeating the advice Gabriel had given me and I found some new energy. When I hit 40km I knew I could do this if I hanged in there and suddenly I was able to run the last 2km in 3.51min/km – this was due to the change to the norm training Gabriel had advised me to do.

The feeling of running up to the finishing line and seeing the clock being under 3 hours was highly emotional. All the training had been worth it and the dream was fulfilled when I crossed the line in 2.59.

I have learned that you don’t need to do 120km+ per week training to achieve under 3 hours. Instead, you need a brilliant coach who understands injuries, plans, lifestyle etc. and is fully with you on the journey to achieve a running dream. This was teamwork. I thank Gabriel and running.COACH so much for making this happen and being a core part of this amazing journey.

The online coaching platform at running.COACH is great for individualized training programs. It allows you to find your own time to run and you know the workout was made just for you based on your training progress and goals.  With the silver subscription you can ask our coaches two questions by email per month. If you want to have a personal coach on your side the whole time, then benefit from our Gold Coaches and their long-time experience in running and coaching. Sign up and test running.COACH for free. 

Tips and tricks: Fascia training for runners

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Untrained fasciae contribute to various health problems that plague runners. Training them requires little effort, but it pays off.

Author: Senta Bitter, Dipl. Physio- and manual therapist, certified Pilates instructor, Medbase Zürich Löwenstrasse

Fasciae are eminently important for runners for two reasons: First, because they allow flexible, elastic movements. It is only thanks to fasciae, for example, that gazelles can jump for metres. This “catapult effect” also helps athletes. Thanks to the fasciae, the muscles function optimally.

The second reason why runners should take care of their fasciae is that impaired fasciae can contribute to a whole range of health problems. Whether Achilles tendonitis or “runner knee” – fasciae are always involved.

“Fascia chains”

Sometimes the cause of the pain is not where it hurts. Tightened fasciae on the left shoulder, for example, can cause pain up to the right leg. The fasciae form a network that runs through the entire body. Several fasciae are connected to each other like a chain – if it is stuck in one place, it affects a larger interconnected area (“chain”).

At least eight such “fascia chains” are known so far. The “large spiral chain”, for example, runs from the thick fascia on the sole of the foot over the Achilles tendon and calves up the back, over the skull and up to the eyebrows. Among other things, it is used for a more upright posture. Therefore, it makes sense for runners to train not only a few fasciae, but as many as possible. Strictly speaking, this is not training, but “making you suppler”. But: This training is essential. The best cardiovascular and muscle training is of little use if the fasciae do not participate!

Overloading, unusual strains or disturbed movements lead to the fasciae becoming stiffer. Colloquially, we speak of “sticking together”. At this point, so-called myofibroblasts start settling increasingly in the fascia. These are cells that occur, for example, in scars. They stiffen the fascial net, to the chagrin of the muscles and the human being, who becomes less mobile as a result.

Training fasciae: Bouncing, stretching and rolling out

Fasciae can be trained with three methods: Bouncing, stretching and rolling out. Good exercises are for example:

  • stand with your toes on a step, your heels overhanging, your knees straight. Then bounce out of a pre-stretch. Do the exercise three to four times a week.
  • If possible, stretch the fasciae daily, both single and entire fascia areas. Since stuck fasciae need time to loosen, they should remain in the stretched position for 45 to 60 seconds per position.
  • roll out the muscles three to four times a week with a hard ball or foam roll, from the one end of the muscle to the other.

An alternative to rolling out is fascia massage (Rolfing), a supplement to bouncing can be jumping on a trampoline.

Those who take care of their fasciae – and this is of course also recommended for non-runners – notice that they become more agile. The freer the fascia, the better the posture. But that doesn’t happen overnight. Several weeks of fascia training are necessary for success. Treat your body to it and take the time for it!

Tips for rolling out

If you are completely healthy, you can use this guide to start rolling out your fascia with the Foam Roll. However, if you have health problems, it is best to have the trainer at the gym or your physiotherapist show you how best to use the Foam Roll.

  • Roll hardness (density): The softer the foam roll, the lower the effect on the fascia. It is best to take the hardness that you tolerate. Beginners usually start better with a softer foam roll.
  • Spend about one minute per muscle. For both legs together, you calculate about five to seven minutes.
  • In the beginning it is often good not to lie on the roll with the whole body weight, but to roll out standing along a wall, for example with the lateral thigh.
  • Also roll out the sole of the foot – it is often forgotten.
  • When the foot rolls out, fluid is pressed out of the fascia. Drink enough to supply the body with fresh fluid again.
  • Before jogging, roll out quickly and briefly with the Foam Roll, it has a stimulating effect. After jogging, roll out slowly for a longer period of time.
  • Finding the right balance: If you have the feeling after rolling out that you have sore muscles or “bruises”, you expected too much of your fascia.
  • Avoid areas where the skin is irritated.