I already have a few marathons under my belt (Chicago, New York, Phoenix) but I have never run one with as many hills as Sedona. What is your recommendation(s) for how to handle this type of terrain?
San Diego, CA
You know you’re in for a tough day when the course profile looks a lot like Artie Lange’s EKG reading. Running a hilly marathon course is a lot like college…it will usually take longer than you think AND it will be one of the most enjoyable things you will ever accomplish. The first thing to remember is that you will most likely not set a PR on a course like the Sedona Marathon (it is possible, just not likely). So with that in mind you may want to set your time goals accordingly; or better yet, don’t set a time goal at all and just enjoy the experience and the beauty of the course (there’s LOTS of that). In order to minimize your discomfort throughout the race you will want to trail on hills if possible. Hill training will help your body get used to the increased heart rate that you will have on the ascents. It will also help your body get used to the muscle pounding that your legs will feel on the descents. If you don’t have access to hills then speedwork and weight training can be a suitable substitute.
When you hit the climbs you will want to shorten your stride a bit and slow your cadence (that’s the number of times your foot hits the ground) so that your heart rate doesn’t get too high. You can either use a heart rate monitor to help you through this or just go off of feel (your body will let you know when your heart rate is getting too high). On some of the longer climbs it is best not to look at the top of the climb; just look down in front of you and try to let your mind wander…the hill will be over before you know what happened.
On the descents most people have a tendency to spread out their stride and try to run as fast as they can so they can make up the time from the slower ascents. This approach tends to lead to premature fatigue and increased soreness. Your muscles break down more from downhill running than they do from uphill running (eccentric muscle contraction versus concentric muscle contraction for all of you science geeks out there) so it pays to take the descents slower during the first half of the race. If you want to make up some time on the descents then keep your stride short and increase your cadence. You will most likely find that you can run at a faster speed while keeping down your heart rate.
Finally, if you want to get a feel for the hills then you will definitely want to take part in one or both of the free training runs that we will be hosting. Both of these runs will be held on the marathon course. The details of these free training runs will be posted soon on this marathon web page.