Here is some training advice from runners who knew the Steamtown course very well.
BILL KING, RACE DIRECTOR, STEAMTOWN MARATHON
*To prepare for this course, I would advise runners to try to find a training course for your long runs that is similar to Steamtown. A course with downhills for at least the first 10 miles and with level or gradual uphill grades for the last 5 – 10 miles. Practice shuffling (low knee lift) and going out a little bit conservatively the first 10 miles and then gradually pick up your pace the longer you run. The last 3 – 4 miles of your long run should be at your goal marathon race pace or a little bit quicker. This type of training will prepare you both physiologically and psychologically to run a PR at Steamtown.
JON SINCLAIR, LEGENDARY AMERICAN DISTANCE RUNNER & STEAMTOWN RACE CONSULTANT
*The Steamtown Marathon presents a couple of problems that can be targeted with specific training: the early downhill miles and the hills at the end of the race.
For most people a little downhill running goes a long way. You really don’t need to do much to build adequate strength to overcome the problem. A long run most closely resembles marathon fatigue and is a very appropriate workout to which you can add other adaptive factors. Some gradual downhill running at race pace or faster for several miles in the middle of a long run could be adequate. Doing that downhill running on grass or dirt will lessen the impact stress while still providing the stimulus to build the appropriate strength. It’s very easy to add too much downhill running to your program so begin with a small amount and add gradually.
In a similar way, adding hills to the end of long runs will help build the strength you need to tackle the hills at the end of the marathon. It could be done as simply as adding a hilly section to the end of your run or doing repeats of a single hill while running the last few miles. Again, start with a couple of short hills and add length and additional hills gradually. If time and energy allow, a hill workout once a week could be added gradually for additional resistance work.
PATTY FULTON, STEAMTOWN MARATHON WOMEN’S CHAMPION, 2000 & 2001
*In my opinion, the key to mastering the Steamtown Marathon is to train on a course that is similar. I would recommend finding similar terrain (long,steep downhills) and doing your long run (16-20 milers) on this course. The downhills at the beginning of the marathon really beat up your quads. Although you won’t be doing your long runs at the same pace as your marathon pace (hopefully you’ll be running much slower), I think you can get your body acclimated to this type of pounding. When doing your long run, find some long, steep hills and do these at the beginning of your run. In the middle of your run, try to run on flat terrain. And finally, during those last few miles of your long run, try doing some gradual uphills.
PAUL LEONARD, 1996 STEAMTOWN CHAMPION & HOLDER OF SOME OF THE FASTEST MASTERS TIMES IN RACE HISTORY
*Besides all the usual marathon training, practicing hills is crucial for success at Steamtown. By this I mean uphill and downhill. Since much of the first part of the course is downhill, I try to run a lot of downhills on my long training runs. By practicing downhill running in training, the early miles of Steamtown can be quite enjoyable: comfortable and fast.
Ah, and the uphills! Training needs always to include uphill running. So, training for Steamtown must have its share of uphill running. To practice properly, it probably wouldn’t hurt to run uphill toward the end of long runs. This simulates the uphills in the latter stages of Steamtown.
I also think it helps to do interval training on hills. Pick a hill that is long and gradual, and run hard up and down several times in the same workout. If your are still alive after such a workout, you can be confident you are preparing yourself well.
SHARON VOS, HOLDER OF TWO OF THE FASTEST WOMEN’S MASTERS TIME IN STEAMTOWN HISTORY
*Steamtown is indeed a terrific course and definitely has PR potential. My most important piece of advice on race day is to run smartly!! Don’t blast those downhill miles too fast. All those seconds you run too fast in the beginning can lead to minutes you lose near the end. Even running on the flat stretches can seem harder after the big downhills so don’t overdo it in the beginning. Everyone runs a bit faster at times and that’s normal, just keep it within a reasonable pace.
One way to achieve this is by trying to pick a few races leading up to the marathon that are somewhat similar to Steamtown. This will give you the opportunity to try running downhill faster (marathon goal pace perhaps) than just in training. Hopefully the race will have some flat stretches and a few uphills so you can see what pace works best. If there are no races in your area, perhaps you could map out a course with some steep downhills in the beginning, flat in the middle, ending with some uphills. Do some tempo running over this course and see what pace allows you to finish strong. This way you’ll get a feel for just how fast you can run the downhills without blowing up on the uphills later on. Listen to the splits in a race or look at your watch on a tempo run so you know if you are going too fast early on. Definitely pay attention to the splits in the marathon and slow down on the downhills if you are way under your pace expectation.
If you always run on the roads and never run on any other surface, try to find a dirt path or other softer surface to practice on. The miles through the Rails to Trails are beautiful and you will enjoy them that much more if you are familiar with a change of surface under your feet! Try maybe to start your run on the roads and then head off on a trail, into the woods, on the beach, etc. Practicing a change of surface will help you keep a more even pace come marathon day.
I wish everyone a PR at Steamtown and a great marathon experience. Good luck to you all!
Racing Tips from Jon Sinclair & Keith Brantley
- Bring your favorite foods with you to the marathon. You might not be able to find them where you are traveling.
- Drink plenty of water and start eating a high carbohydrate diet three days before your race. Don’t change your diet dramatically unless you’ve successfully experimented with the changes before.
- Plan for starting line logistics. Consider bringing an old blanket, sleeping bag or foam mat to lie on in case your wait at the starting area is a long one. This happens often at the NYC Marathon and many other point-to-point marathons. Have your own water and toilet paper available. Try to bring only clothing and equipment that you won’t mind losing.
- Pack plenty of cold weather gear and be sure to bring a hat and gloves. These are the most important pieces of clothing for running in cold weather.
- Pack clothes and equipment that you’ve used before. Don’t pack brand new socks, shoes, shorts, etc… that you haven’t used at least a couple of times.
- Do not skip any prescribed medications.
- Study the weather reports carefully. Understand how possible changes in weather will effect your race.
- Study the course profile and know the general terrain you’ll be racing over.
- If possible, stay in a good hotel near the start. Social obligations and staying with relatives at the race location are interactions that lead to additional stress and lack of focus. See your friends and relatives after the race, not before.
- Eat foods that are normal for you and don’t experiment with foods, drinks, power gels, carbo-loading formulas, etc… that you haven’t tried before.
- Go to bed early two nights before the race. That night’s sleep is more important to good racing than the night before. If you’ve slept well two nights before the race you needn’t worry too much about lack of sleep the night before.
- Prepare the night before. Pull out your clothing, number, carry-bag, water bottle for pre-race hydration, toilet paper, Vaseline, and anything else you’ll need in the morning. Put them in a place you can find them easily the next morning.
- Don’t worry about sleep the night before. Stay up and watch TV or read until you’re so sleepy you can’t stay awake any longer. Once you start preparing for bed, avoid thinking about or discussing the race.
- Don’t eat at the race “carbo-loading dinner” unless this is an experience you just can’t live without. Bad things can happen at mass produced dinners and the stress level is usually high.
- Wake up early and wake up slowly. Leave yourself plenty of time to execute your race-morning plan. Relax and don’t rush.
- Do a short warm up. Do 10-15 minutes of very easy jogging, walking and stretching followed by a few easy striders at race pace. Your muscles should be warm, flexible and prepared to easily run at your planned race pace.
- Review the weather at the start and adjust your race plan if necessary. If the starting line temperature is above 50 degrees and looks like it will warm significantly, then thought should be given to slowing your planned race pace and extra special attention should be given to hydration.
- Prepare your mind.
- Review your goals, splits and race strategy.
- Stay relaxed, expending as little mental energy as possible.
- Visualize your success.
- Everyone has negative thoughts. When they occur just push them away and review the positive aspects of your training. Think about the best workout you did in the last three weeks or a recent race where your results were particularly good.
- Prepare your body.
- Apply lubricant to areas that will chafe. If the racing conditions will be cold apply it to thighs, forearms and calves.
- Wear cap and gloves, if even slightly cold. You can always discard them during the race.
- If you eat or drink before your race, don’t eat anything that you have not tried before.
During the Race
- Find your mental “zone”, i.e. associate or disassociate, as soon as possible.
- Do not “race” during the first 20 miles of the marathon. Start slowly! It’s much smarter to be overly conservative and to be passing people at the end.
- Do not panic if the pace seems wrong. Execute your race plan as closely as possible but be prepared to be flexible if the weather conditions change unexpectedly. Many things can happen, it’s a long race and there will be plenty of time to make up early slow splits.
- If it’s windy stay behind other runners and shelter from direct head winds.
- Run with as little effort as possible, relaxing fingers, mouth, shoulders and neck.
- Do not race through the water stations. Stop if necessary. Drink the full amount, especially if warm. Don’t worry about drinking as fast as you can. Carry the cup with you as you run, take your time and drink in small swallows.
- Finally, and most important, HAVE FUN!
After the Race
- Immediately after finishing you should try to keep walking for 5-10 minutes to allow your legs to cool down. If the weather is cold, windy, or wet make an effort to get inside or back into warm clothing. Keep drinking small amounts of water or sports drink if your stomach will allow it, even when you feel you no longer need to.
- Ice any sore spots immediately. Covering your legs with cold water (and ice) while in a bathtub may be uncomfortable but always produces quicker recovery.
- As soon as you feel like eating, begin with small amounts of easily digestible food that you know will agree with your stomach. You should concentrate on high glycemic foods (high in simple sugars) immediately following the race gradually transitioning to lower glycemic foods and protein. Although carbohydrate replacement is vital, protein is important for rebuilding damaged muscle tissue immediately following the race and for the next few days.
- Keep your legs elevated as much as possible for the 24 hours after the race.
- Anti-inflamitories (aspirin, motrin…) can have a positive effect, but be careful taking them immediately after the race on an empty stomach, or if you have any sensitivity to them.
- Concentrate on re-hydration for 48 hours after the race.