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If you've been coming to FRC Marathon Training for a while, you may have gotten the opportunity to train with Ray Helton. He is a true legend amongst our group and has inspired many of our runners to run their first marathon. Some of them are now running at Boston Qualifying times and they will tell you today that its because of the inspiration and guidance given by Ray. He and his daughter, Charisa, have hosted the Saturday Morning Marathon training meetup for many years and FRC is very grateful for that. Here's his story.
I have been a distance runner for 55 years. I wish I could say there is a spectacular reason that caused me to start, but the truth is, I started running distance in 1964 to try to beat the Chicago city public bus to school and back home instead of paying to ride the mile and a quarter to school. It seemed far at the time!
That allowed me to spend the $.12 each way to buy something else ...normally candy, ice cream or a coke. A candy bar only cost a nickel and ice cream bars and cokes were a dime! Tickets to Wrigley Field on Tuesday were $2.75 for grandstand tickets and $.50 for the bleachers. Ladies attended the game for free on Tuesdays. I watched many games from the bleachers because I lived only a couple hundred meters from the ballpark while attending elementary and high school.
Distance running soon became a passion, so I ran cross country in school, and continued to run distance after high school and college.
I ran my first marathon 42 years ago at the initial Chicago Marathon. Since then I have run many; I do not know how many for certain. Four years ago I ran five marathons, in five days, in five states and was able to keep my times between 4:10-4:20. I used the Galloway method and I ran with my last mile in mind before I took my first step. It enabled me to pace well within my capability without over extending on any one race. Thank goodness for Galloway!
Running marathons has been beneficial in many ways other than physical; though it is great aerobic exercise. I found that it builds mental toughness and it gave me personal time to think through work and personal projects quietly and deliberately. For most of my life I was a solo runner though occasionally I would run with 1-2 other people for long weekly runs. I have run multiple ultra’s, but never have run over 50 miles. That’s one item on my bucket list that will go unfulfilled.
Over time I’ve learned many lessons about marathons. It is good to have goals for each race, but, do not allow them to drive you to over or under train. Start with a good training regimen ...there are many good ones, but my two favorites are Galloway’s and Hal Higdon’s. I like both because of the laid-back approach that they take. But remember, each of those two men were world record holders in more than one distance, so laid-back does not mean under perform. The key is finding a regimen that fits your personality and helps you meet your personal goals.
I’ve learned that it’s not important for every race to set a new personal record. It is more important to run an enjoyable race injury free and be able to start training again within the week than to trim 15 seconds or even 15 minutes off your best time. Of course, it is easy for me to say that at my age. ? That advice comes from age and pacing versus racing. I liked to race when I was younger but became a pacer in my early 50s.
As I’ve gotten older I’ve really enjoyed running with other people, especially enjoyed encouraging newer distance runners.
I wish I would’ve kept a mileage chart, because I think I have run over 50,000 miles ...almost injury free!
The keys to avoiding an injury are stretching before running to help prevent muscles pulls, stretching after runs to increase flexibility, wearing quality shoes that fit (most important factor), hydrating, replenishing carbs and electrolytes, wearing appropriate clothing for the season, and training at your pace instead of someone else’s.
When training for a marathon your pace should be 30 seconds to one minute slower than your race pace during your long distance running (anything long run 10 miles or longer) I did not stutter, run 30 seconds to a minute slower than your race pace for long runs that exceed 10 miles. Do speed work on the track or during short 6 mile or less runs.
It is also important to taper your mileage starting three weeks before any Marathon (Higdon). The week before the race you should not run more than 8 to 12 miles total. That allows your body to strengthen and restore itself before the race and tapering will help you perform better than if you did not taper (Higdon and Galloway).
During the race itself it is important to stay hydrated. Never run past a hydration stop, never. Make sure you take some energy gel, energy chews and/or even have someone along the course to pass you a small V-8 or tomato juice around mid-race so that you can help replace carbs, salt, and electrolytes. Find out what works for you and do it without exception! For the last 10 years I have ran marathons with a training water belt so that I can carry extra fluids and Gels. Hydrate, and replenish electrolytes throughout the race and your performance will be better. Dehydration causes muscle failure and fatigue. Lack of electrolytes and fuel leads to hitting the wall somewhere between mile 18 and 22. If you can avoid hitting the wall, I guarantee you you’ll be close to your personal best (at your age group) on any given race. As you get older your running goals will likely adjust. When one hits 50, he/she cannot expect to compete with 28-35 year-olds anymore. But you can still complete with runners one or two age groups down if you are so inclined. So once you reach whatever that age is in your life, accept it, adjust to it, and continue to enjoy running.
Pace yourself at the beginning of a race, most of us will run 2-3 minutes slower for every mile we’re too fast in the first half of a marathon, then it tends to make us run 2-3 minutes per mile of hard running during the last 5-6 miles of the marathon. It’s amazing how running just 10 seconds slower per mile in the first half of the race will improve your overall performance in the second half, which means you will finish at least 8-10 minutes faster overall. That requires a watch and strict personal discipline. Running a slightly slower pace seems counterintuitive, but, it works for most runners because your stamina lasts longer and you often avoid “hitting the wall”.
I became a social runner as I got older and during the last few years my daughter Charisa and I have been blessed to train and run with many of you in the FRC. Please let me say thank you to all of you that we had the opportunity to train with. I wish that I could do one more training run but cancer has worn my body down. I am ready for the transition from this life to the next. I treasure the time that we spent together and wish each of you maximum joy that distance running gives.
The FRC has been a true joy to my heart. I have so much enjoyed our conversations and comraderie. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
For those of you who don’t know me, I wish you the very best as well. The FRC is a very warm, welcoming group of wonderful people who will encourage you regardless of the distance or whatever goal you are trying to achieve. I wish that I could give a personal thanks to so many of you, to Shan, Nichole, Gena, Kady-Ann, Erika, Lori, Jake, Steve, Dave, David, Heidi, Zef, Vicky, Victoria, Angela, Derrick, Carolin, Ginny, Lauren, Daisy, Michaela, Nick, of course Charisa (I get to thank her) and so many others. Chemo treatments have affected my memory so please forgive me for the short list.
Soon cancer will take my body, but it will not take my spirit or soul. They will live on just as God promises.
Again, FRC family and friends, I wish you the very best that life has to offer. Thank you for allowing me to be part of your team. I received far more from you than I ever contributed.
With great respect and admiration,
Keep on running!!
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