In the first 24 years of the Big Sur Marathon, no Monterey County resident won the men's race*. In the past three years, Monterey men have won three in a row.
(*That statement is sometimes disputed in that 6-time winner and course record holder Brad Hawthorne, whom the men's trophy is now named after, actually lived in Monterey County for a brief period - but when he sent in his race applications, his primary residence was listed as Danville. It's one of those local runner-geek arguments around here.)
Big Sur isn't some podunk race that any random slacker can win just by showing up on the right day; it usually attracts a decent crowd of high-caliber runners, and racing successfully there requires sound strategy and strong mental fortitude. So when we suddenly found ourselves awash in recent winners, my friend Mike decided to hit one of them up for training advice that he could pass along to the rest of our running community.
The result is the Monterey Herald column that follows below, which is just as applicable to the greater marathon community outside Monterey County.
|Adam Roach winning the BSIM; photo from Monterey Herald|
On Wednesdays, Adam hits the Pacific Grove High School track to run intervals at race pace. Sometimes the intervals are long, such as 4 x 2 miles at marathon pace, and other times they're short, such as his favorite workout of fifty 400-meter repeats at half marathon speed. Thursday is another "comfortably fast" run, Friday is a 10-mile tempo (slightly slower than race pace) run, and Sunday has 12 more "comfortably fast" miles.
What did we learn from all this? Here are some key themes:
Consistent long runs are critical: Adam didn't have any runs over 20 miles, but he did a 20-miler nearly every week from February through April. He calls these, "The bread and butter of my training ... and the long runs over hilly terrain gave me endurance to be able to run hard for a full 26 miles on race day." These runs were bolstered by the long interval and tempo run workouts, which helped him to stay comfortable while running at race pace.
Discipline and toughness: Did any of those track workouts sound difficult to anyone? How about a weekly 20-miler? Or running every day for a minimum of 10 miles? You can't do these things without enormous self-discipline - and each progressive session builds increased confidence, toughness, and mental strength that will be needed to race off the front of the pack on race day.
Focus on the goal: Adam's race schedule was minimal, and his entire training program was designed solely to prepare him for Big Sur. He ran the Mission 10-Miler in San Juan Bautista in January and the Santa Cruz Half-Marathon in March, and otherwise stayed focused on his one major goal race.
Just run, baby: Adam does minimal cross training, weights, or stretching, because he'd rather spend his limited workout time exclusively running. Once a week he'll do a short abs/core workout, "But nothing too crazy." Specificity of training pays enormous benefits in learning to run more efficiently.
Obviously, successful training plans differ for everybody, but Adam has clearly found a system that works well for him. If you take some cues from his training regimen, you still might not win the Big Sur Marathon, but you'll almost certainly become a better runner.
Get updates as soon as they're posted! Click here to subscribe to Running and Rambling.
Check out the Running Life book for a collection of our most popular columns.