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Sold on spring marathons

Not exactly model form, but at least I'm relaxed this early in the race. With the course's net downhill, I'm hoping that I was braking intentionally here to keep my early speed in check.

Not exactly model form, but at least I’m relaxed this early in the race. With the course’s net downhill, I’m hoping that I was braking intentionally here to keep my early speed in check.

Somewhat reluctantly, I registered for the Colorado Marathon in early-January. If it had not been means to a Boston qualifier, it probably would not have been on my radar. Months of training on flat bike trails, country roads, and high school tracks? No thanks.

Or so I thought. Now, two weeks removed from the race, I feel completely sold on spring marathons, and could imagine this being a more annual event. Why:

1. Mix it up

I may be wrong about this, but optimal training for a 100-mile mountain ultra requires a single thing: volume. The more miles, vertical, and time on feet, the better.

Proper marathon training is a different ballgame. Yes, it involves regular long runs, but probably twice as many days call for a high-intensity track session or strength-building tempo effort. Through this process, my body was forced to adapt to new training loads, and I discovered new levels of fitness and confidence. Importantly, I also still feel mentally fresh, ready to begin months of slow slogs in the mountains.

2. Feasible winter training

With Colorado’s high country blanketed in snow and with Boulder’s foothills covered in an unwelcoming mixture of snow, ice, and mud, I frankly find the winter and early-spring a better season for long days in my home office than for ultra training.

Training for a spring marathon, meanwhile, proved to be quite feasible. It was in my interest to stay on the flatter and faster plains, which get less snow and which melt out faster. And during my longest weeks I was running an average of just 1.5 hours per day.

3. Accountability

Even when there’s no race on my calendar, I run nearly every day. But when there’s a race, I am definitely more motivated to run faster, further, and harder.

It’s quite possible that I haven’t been as fit in May since I ran for Duke, now more than a decade ago. And last year, I wasn’t this fit until late-July. No doubt, this is entirely due to a spring marathon holding me accountable.

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