As an Olympian, statistician, and student of the sport, Jared Ward has put a lot of time and research into his marathon career. Here are five successful strategies he has derived from both his personal experiences his scientific analysis.
Train in cycles
Marathon training is tough work, especially the burden of those super-important long runs. Because Ward’s long runs extend to 38 to 50 kilometres, he needs to build regular recovery days into his program. He does this by taking Sundays off and by building to a peak every three to four months, followed by several easy weeks. “The cycling up and down is what helps me run consistently well in my peak efforts,” he says.
Pay attention to the minor aches
Ward has avoided serious injury problems by backing off his training as soon as he notices any unusual pain. “A day or two off isn’t the end of the world,” he says, “and it might prevent a season-ending injury.” Bonus tip: Marry a massage therapist like his wife, Erica.
Time your carbs
Ward follows no particular dietary regimen, aiming for well-balanced selection of healthy foods, but he’s careful to get plenty of carbs when he needs them most. He says he’s “very structured” about consuming some carbs as soon as possible after a hard workout, followed by a full meal 90 to 120 minutes later. Before a marathon, he reduces the fat and protein in his diet for several days, so that carbs make up a higher per cent of his intake.
Practice drinking more
Despite a history of having an upset stomach while running long distances, Ward experimented until he found a sports drink that works for him. Next he practiced drinking as much as he could on long runs. “Hydration might not be a big factor on cooler days,” he says, “but in the heat, it can make all the difference.” Studies have shown runners can increase their tolerance for bigger fluid loads through gradual adaptation, the path Ward followed. His last two marathons have been steamy affairs and he has excelled in both: He ran 2:12:56 in the 2015 Los Angeles Marathon.
Run even pace
Ward is a big believer, in part because he did his masters degree thesis on marathon pacing. Conclusion: The runners in the net downhill St. George Marathon most likely to get a PB time were the ones who ran closest to even pace the whole way. Ward aced the Olympic marathon trials with splits of 1:06:31 and 1:06:29. Some others have proposed starting even slower than your planned goal pace. Not Ward. “I find it hard to ratchet down the pace,” he says. “I’d rather get right on board and stick with it.”