Most professional marathoners choose a race from the calendar and then spend between 12 and 16 weeks formally training. This is not the case with the London Marathon on Sunday. It was in July when athletes began to hear rumors that elite racing could actually take place during the pandemic-cut short racing season, and it was mid-August before the four Americans – Jared Ward, Sara Hall, Molly Seidel and Lindsay Flanagan – learn they’ve been accepted into the race.
That was only about 9 weeks left until race day, and when you think of the pros typically going down for two weeks before a race, in reality they only had 7 weeks of marathon specific preparation.
Americans, however, are not worried. Runner’s World caught up with the four, who said they felt they had a solid preparation and hope to compete well and fight for the PRs, although they are well behind the top groups which include world record holders Brigid Kosgei and Eliud Kipchoge . Here’s how they handled a shortened training cycle and prepared for this year’s unusual London course, designed with safety in mind: it’s 19 laps on a 1.3 mile loop.
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Coach: Ed eyestone
Lives in: Provo, Utah
Training: In order not to risk injury, Ward kept his volume low, around 70 miles per week on single runs in June and July, about 30% less than he would normally be during a marathon training segment. He had also worked a lot on speed with a group of 5,000-meter and 10,000-meter track runners, including intervals as short as 400 meters.
“I’ll be doing 800s in marathon training, but those 4 were different,” Ward said. “It was like an explosion from the past. I was hanging on to these fast guys from BYU, running 61 and 62 seconds per lap. They felt quick.
Once he found out he was in London, he quickly increased his mileage over a series of weeks to 110, before starting to decrease again. “I only had four long races of 2 hours or more. In a typical cycle, I would have at least 10, ”he says. “But if this marathon goes well on a seven week training cycle, I’ll never do a 16 week training cycle for a marathon again.”
Turn around: Although Ward was never competitive on the track internationally, he liked the pace of the 10k – completing 25 laps one at a time. He thinks the London loop course will match up well with how he mentally breaks down a race.
Goal: “I want to go out and run a personal best if the conditions are right.”
Fun fact: Ward, a professor at BYU, is teaching a statistical programming class this semester – on Zoom, as are many college instructors. He taught a class during race week from his hotel room in London.
Coach: Ryan hall
Lives in: Flagstaff, Arizona
Training: “I did my highest volume, but also performed my fastest workouts,” she wrote in an email to Runner’s World. “I have had periods of fatigue and even a bit of mental exhaustion which is really unusual for me. I haven’t had thoughts of burnout since 2013. But talking to my friends from all professions I see similarities across the board and I attribute them largely to the year of the mad pandemic in who we are.
Ms Hall said she had ‘demolished’ with just one week off since early April. “I continue to respond to work better than I have ever done despite my age, so it makes me excited to keep building and see how far I can go.” She started her 12-week London prep, which is typical for her, although she didn’t get assurances that she was on the pitch until August.
Turn around: Hall did a lot of training on a loop of just over a mile. “The main thing was to get used to running clockwise, which is in front of the track, and dealing with boredom,” she said. “The marathon is a really long race, and running in small circles makes it longer.”
Goal: “I would be disappointed not to come away with a PR, just because it’s definitely my best compilation. But my main focus is on smart running and placing as high as possible, and letting the clock take care of itself. I have been fifth twice in the majors of the world marathon. I would really like to get on the podium, but of course that depends on the others, and I can only control my race. Obviously, the ground is super stacked. ”
Fun fact: In early August, Hall ran a PR half marathon, 1:08:18, in a five-person race near Eugene, Oregon, hosted by college teammate Ian Dobson. Two of Hall’s four daughters were in the race. Hana, 20, ran 1:20:03 and Mia, 16, ran 1:23:18.
Coach: Jon green
Lives in: Cambridge, Massachusetts
Training: Seidel was the second surprise surprise at the Olympic Marathon Trials, his distance debut, but uncertainty over whether the Olympics would be held amid the pandemic caused him some anxiety in the spring. In the summer, knowing the Games wouldn’t be held until 2021, she began training for a 10,000-meter track race in July.
The day before the race, she was doing a shakeout with a friend. As Seidel was crossing a parking lot, the friend’s 70-pound puppy got excited, ran to Seidel and knocked her down. She landed hard, had a shoulder split and had to miss a week of training.
After she recovered from the dog accident, Seidel traveled to Flagstaff, Ariz. To train at altitude for London, where she put in 125 miles per week and her training was much more consistent. than before the tests. “I love coming to Flag,” she says. “I love that you have to work a lot harder at altitude. Times won’t be so quick, but [you have] the ability to do long, difficult runs on dirt roads. It helps me to have a better state of mind. For an accumulation, I really want to be able to concentrate. ”
Turn around: She spent time training on a 1.5 mile loop in Flagstaff and she feels experienced. “I come from the 10 km race track,” she said. “It doesn’t get much more tedious than that.”
Goal: Seidel isn’t sure if he’ll be in PR form in his second marathon. “The big goal for the fall was to participate in another marathon and prepare as best I can for the Olympics,” she said. “Go into this race and go really hard and stay mentally tough and try to stay with some of these packs that are forming. Obviously, I’m not going to be with the under 2:20 women. But I don’t want to sell myself short.
Fun fact: Seidel and his sister, who share an apartment, recently moved from Boston to a large space across the Charles River in Cambridge. When Seidel called the movers, the dispatcher recognized his name. “She was telling me all about how she was running Boston and she’s so excited to see me running London,” Seidel said. “I’m like, ‘It’s really cool, too, can we understand this touching thing?'”
Coach: Steve magness
Lives in: Boulder, Colorado
Training: Flanagan kept her mileage around 90 per week in the early summer, and when she found out she was in London she was able to quickly increase to her usual 110-115 miles per week. “The pace of the marathon went a lot better than ever,” she said. She does a “substantial workout” every Friday that totals about 20 miles, and the next day, she will do a 22 mile run. These consecutive efforts have given him a lot of confidence. “I know I’m strong right now,” she said.
Turn around: Flanagan made a paved 1.1 mile loop around a dog park in Boulder, and she did most of her practice on it to prepare for the London course. “I probably look crazy out there around that dog park,” she says. “I feel like it will come in handy after practicing this.”
Goal: “I know there’s a PR in there,” she said. “I hope this will happen. I am happy to try. I have all this pent-up energy of not running all year. It’s time to let go.
Fun fact: Flanagan is not related to famous retired marathon runner Shalane Flanagan – although she is asked about it.
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