The key to success in your first marathon may lie in getting enough LSD. This decades-old runner's term has nothing to do with psychedelic drugs — it's short for "long, slow distance."
The cold, the wet and the lack of light may sap your motivation to run fast during the winter. For beginning marathoners, however, it's more important to build endurance than speed. For endurance, you need to run long and slow.
"For newbies, I recommend working up to 30 to 40 miles per week minimum," says Stanley Goodell, a high-school running coach for the past 31 years. "On Saturdays, we do the long runs. You should work up to doing (long runs of) at least 16 to 20 miles if you want to finish a marathon."
Goodell currently coaches at Hidden Valley High School in Murphy, but he also has coached in Ashland, Phoenix and Rogue River. He has led seven teams to state cross-country championships in his career.
For the past five years, Goodell also has coached a group of 15 to 20 adults, many of whom have completed their first marathons under his tutelage.
"Your initial goal should be to increase your mileage — don't worry about speed. To prepare for a spring marathon, you need at least 16 to 20 weeks' preparation, beginning in the winter," says Goodell.
During this block of time, the miles should be spread over at least five days a week.
"You have to be consistent; that's the important thing. That's how you build cardio (cardiovascular endurance)," advises Goodell.
To ensure consistency, Goodell and his adult runners meet at 5:30 every weekday morning outside Dutch Bros. at Grants Pass' Sixth and D streets.
"I run with that group — they push me," says Nikki Wright, a marathoner in Goodell's group who is also part-owner of the Grants Pass store Competitive Athletics.
"It's so dark in the winter — it's safer to run in the dark with someone else. It's also the camaraderie; it's a social time. You don't feel you're working as hard in a group. We love to trash-talk each other," adds Wright.
Goodell's emphasis on working toward a weekly mileage before building speed also helps avoid injury. Muscles and tendons need to be strengthened through endurance before adding the stress of higher intensity.
To help build speed and stamina, Goodell's more experienced runners complete two "quality" workouts during the week.
"We'll do track work one day a week — maybe repeat miles (intervals) — and a tempo run," says Goodell.
A tempo run is a block of several miles running at a steady pace, faster than the goal marathon pace.
"For a tempo run, I'll run one mile to warm up, then run at an 80-percent effort and try to run negative splits (a faster finishing pace)," explains Wright.
On other days, Wright runs much slower to let her body recover from tougher efforts. This is one of the secrets to improving performance in running or any other sport.
During intense efforts, muscles experience microscopic tears. When the fissures heal, they're stronger. Rest and slower efforts allow this rebuilding to occur. Without easy exercise to balance the difficult, a runner is likely to face injury.
To prevent injuries of the ankle-twisting sort, Goodell — who trains with his runners — works out during hours of darkness only in areas with sure footing.
"We run only on streets and in lit parks — areas where there are no obstacles — and we face traffic. Some of the runners use flashlights. We also wear orange vests, bright hats and reflective clothing," says Goodell.
Lights for after-dark running constitute some of the hottest new running accessories.
"I like the Saucony Visi Pro, a reflective shirt with a light attached to the arm, and the Brooks Night Light (a magnetic light that attaches hands-free to most pieces of clothing)," says Wright.
Wright recommends dressing in layers to easily regulate sweating or shivering. During winter, waterproof outer clothing and water-wicking inner clothing is the key to comfort.
"I use DryFit; it breathes better than cotton. It's a spandex/polyester blend. It wicks moisture from the skin," says Wright.
Socks often are an afterthought — until moisture and friction cause blisters.
"Natural fibers are getting really popular. I like the bamboo and wool socks, also the ones that use coconut fiber. Many of the new socks are seamless, so they won't rub as much. I'm a sock snob," confesses Wright.
If 5:30 is too early for your run, take heart. Goodell's group meets at 8 a.m. for long Saturday runs, when participants often swell to 30 or more. The run begins at Fleming Park in Rogue River, next to the new Depot Street Bridge.
"If you know there's a group, you'll show up," says Goodell. "If you're by yourself and it's raining, you'll stay inside."
For more information on Saturday group runs, call Goodell at 541-956-5908 or Robert Vaughan at 541-582-3428.