Northern Marathon Challenge 2000 #2

By Rob McWilliam and Larry Duguay

In a previous article we mentioned plans were underway to launch a Northern Marathon Challenge this year, and promised that we would provide more details. Since your first opportunities to participate are coming up June 23 rd with the Mayor’s Midnight Sun Marathon in Anchorage and our own Mayo Midnight Marathon we wanted to provide more information to those road warriors who are intrigued about the idea of running three marathons within four months.

That may seem like a tough challenge, but you can take comfort from the experience of Rick Janowicz who successfully completed 12 marathons in 12 months as a Millennium project. His biggest problems were with the logistics of getting to the various events. In fact he said the physical conditioning did not seem to be much of a consideration, through completion times were longer than when I was competing in only a few annual events. This was also the experience with the First Annual Texas Marathon Challenge that saw 111 participants sign up to do the 131 miles 5 marathon event and had 87 successfully complete the Challenge.

Not everyone who participates in such a challenge has a really high pain threshold, so what is the secret to running this much without experience serious mental or physical breakdown?

First, you need to develop a strong base of distance training. The people who are successful will have gradually built up to going long distances, and will have done a number of marathons. You could try this with your first few marathons, but it would likely destroy your appetite for distance running. Experts advise runners to train for at least 3 months in preparation for a marathon. Although, there are always those like Don Kardong who have a different approach. He says that he doesn’t plan another one until all of his black toenails have disappeared! Three to four months of training is wise if you are chasing a PR (personal record) and want to really push it. If you are not going to push the pace, and build in plenty of stretching and rest, then recovery time can be faster and you can try the challenge of multiple events.

Second, you need a training plan for the Challenge. Any experienced distance runner will tell you that they have used a schedule for building up the distance before a long race. The difference with such a Challenge is that you need to have a training plan that encompasses all the events you are planning to participate in. Roger Soler advised his runners that they could even go into the first marathon somewhat under trained and use it as one of their long training runs. However, the real key is to remember that you plan to run several events and don’t get carried away by the desire to go faster in the first one or two. If you are feeling good you can push for that PR in the last race. You will need to plan to run conservatively, at a pace that will allow you to recover quickly enough to resume training. Again, to quote Roger Soler, “You should always finish thinking that you’ve got something left for the next one.”

When Rick Janowicz was running a marathon a month his training schedule actually looked quite relaxed. He was running three times a week, with one being a longer run on the weekend. However, none of his long runs were of the marathon training distance. The marathons were spaced closely enough together that he didn’t need any really long training runs.

Whether this column has inspired you to participate in the Northern Marathon Challenge, or even to start thinking about some multiple event quest of your own making. The real point is just to get out running and to enjoy the experience. Your challenge may be a 10-km, half marathon or your very first marathon. Whatever, if you are looking for a fun experience with a bunch of great people you should join the friendly folks at Mayo this coming weekend for their annual midnight madness. Saturday, June 23 rd there will be a band of intrepid (or maybe insomniac) walkers and runners who, starting at Midnight, will be experiencing their own challenge on the Silver Trail. Good luck to all.