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Morgan Hill Marathon’16

Another year, another race. But, boy was this a fun race!

Short version:

  • Pre-race –
    • Perfect 8 day running taper going in to the race.
    • Good sleep followed by a cup of tea and a banana 40 minutes prior to the race.
  • Race day –
    • Weather – Cool(65 degrees), overcast morning and smaller than usual number of runners – even though I was in the middle of the pack, I crossed the start line in about 10 seconds after the gun went off!!.
    • In-race hydration: Water at mile 6 (as practiced), Gatorade at mile 10, water again at mile 12.
    • Good, consistent pace of averaging 8:30 min/mile with 170 steps/min during first 8-9 miles, slowed to 8:49 min/mile for next 3 miles. Finished strong… and, guess what – a PR of 1:57!! This was my first sub-2 hour half-marathon and it felt huge!
  • Post-race –
    • Recovery was ultra smooth. I must have sat for barely hour-and-half after coming back – no nap. But I was perfectly alright – so much so that, I could prepare for (house-cleaning etc.), participate in and clean up after a large dinner party at home that finished at 12 am next day – all in all I was up for 21 hours straight – first 2 of which I ran my fastest half-marathon!!

Long version:

Going into this race, I had goal of sub-two hour half marathon.

As I improve my running performance with increased experience in racing, my analysis of my running performance has also improved as a consequence. Anyway, the preparation of this year’s half marathon really started at my last race in Morgan Hill in 2015. I finished the 2015 race with below statistic.

Mile Marker 2015
4 00:39:13
10 1:37:11
Finish 2:10:44

I always use both cadence as well as pace as an indicator of quality of any run. (More information on cadence can be found here while running pace is explained here) Overall, the pace averaged about 9:58 minutes/mile and cadence of about 155 steps/minute. The 2015 post-race recovery included recovery from IT band pain for first day and half. Overall, this performance offered me good opportunity to analyze my fitness levels before that race (that is, during 2014-2015 prep season). It also showed what worked and what did not work. I realized that one of the main reasons of low cadence and IT Band pain was perhaps weak hips.

Training and Pre-Race Prep

Based on this understanding, I decided in late 2015, to tweak my strength training routines in preparation for 2016 race. My new strength training workout now look as below

Lower Body Strength Training
  1. Clamshell with resistance band:


With a resistance band pulled over your legs and resting just above your knees, bend both your hips and your knees and place your heels together. Using your heels as the pivot point, slowly lift your top leg against the band and return it to the starting position with equal pace. With this exercise, it is also important not to roll towards your back when lifting your leg.


  1. Lateral leg raises with resistance band:

Wrap a Theraband (or resistance band) around both ankles. Lie down on your side with your hips stacked on top of each other. Lift your top leg up (about 45 degrees) and slowly bring the leg back down making sure your hips stay stacked the entire time.

  1. Glut Bridges with resistance band:

Lie on your back with one leg bent at 90 degrees, the other flat on the floor. With resistance band around your knees, raise your hips a loose leg off the floor while the bent leg pushes through the floor. Hold at the top for 2-3 seconds then lower yourself back down. Complete your desired reps then switch legs.

Core Muscles Strength training:
  1. Sit ups

Doing sit-ups is a quick way to get stronger abdominal muscles. Start off with the basics and then try some modifications to the traditional sit up when you get stronger. WikiHow has great demonstration here

  1. Planks

The plank helps develop strength in the core, shoulders, arms, and glutes, Men’s fitness has a nice demonstration here

 Upper body strength:
  1. Dumbbell Curls
  2. Dumbbell Lateral Raise: Primary muscles worked with this exercise include shoulders. Workout Labs has nice explanation of the work out here.
  1. Standing Dumbbell Triceps Extension: The primary muscles worked with this exercise. and uses a single dumbbell to isolate your triceps. The classic version of this exercise is usually done on a short-backed bench.
  1. Flat Bench Dumbbell press: The main benefit of dumbbell presses, as opposed to barbell presses, is using dumbbells in this manner also allows for a greater stretch at the bottom and more efficient peak contraction at the top than a barbell press do. The workout labs have great explanation here

So all in all, here is summary of strength training workouts I adopted before 2016 half marathon race.

Exercise Repetitions
Clamshell with resistance band 12×2 for each leg
Lateral leg raises with resistance band 12×1 for each leg
Glut Bridges with resistance band 12×2
Sit ups 15×3
Planks Progressively to 3.5 minutes
Dumbbell Bicep Curls 12×2
Dumbbell Lateral raise 5×2
Standing dumbbell tricep extension 12×2
Flat bench dumbbell press 12×2


Changes to running mileage and pace

I started seeing benefits of updated strength training workouts within about 3-4 weeks. During the time it took for changes to take effect, I built a running base of 15 miles/week. This running based included 1 long run (maximum up to 8 miles).
After the changes to strength training took effect, it was time to ramp up both the mileage and the pace. Over 8-10 weeks I gradually increased my mileage to 17-19 miles/week at a pace of 8:45 minutes/mile. At the peak of training, I was averaging about 20 miles/week with pace of 8:35 minutes/mile.

Changes to taper

I changed the taper to shorten it about 7 days. The taper was 6 days of no running and 2 days of no strength training prior to the race.

Changes to In-race Nutrition and Hydration

I also focused this season on practicing in-race nutrition and hydration tactics. I practiced drinking water not before 6 miles( roughly 50 minute mark) and nutrition not before 10 mile mark (roughly 1:30 hour mark).  I restricted the pre/post-run nutrition (that is, 30 minutes prior or immediately after the run)  to mainly fruits – a banana,  an apple or a pear. The in-race nutrition was limited to Gatorade. The practice and the strategy paid off because it saved me at least a minute of my race time.


The race itself was fun with rolling hills in the first half of the course and flat course after that. Here is the course elevation (click to see enlarged version of the image)




The results were pretty evident. Consistent pace of 8:30 to 8:45 throughout the race and cadence of 170 steps/minute. As I mentioned earlier, the recovery was ultra smooth – with no IT Band pain. All in all, I am happy with my performance this year since it allowed me to reach goal of sub-two hour half marathon.

Mile Marker 2015 2016
4 00:39:13 00:35:34
10 1:37:11 1:29
Finish 2:10:44 1:57:03


Takeaways and next steps

  • I was able to comfortably reach goal of sub-two hour half marathon.
  • As I worked towards my goal of better time, I leveraged my strength training to safely improve both running base as well as running pace – without any adverse effects. I also was able to execute race-day strategy of in-race hydration, energy drinks.
  • What needs more work is obviously inclusion of hill training routines in my training runs. Despite total lack of hill runs, I could still “handle” elevation gain of 1000 ft. during the race in prior years. However, it has become very clear to me now that to realize further improvements in my race performance, I  need to inclusion of hill training routines in my training runs.
  • I am still in process of setting up and evaluating goal for the next year. After considering various aspects such as training volume and intensity, I might post an addendum to this race report – until then, ciao!

Further Research:

Jess of Jen Reviews has written solid post that is even more detailed, updated and comprehensive on how to build your own workout routine. The advice is free and you can find it here – Hope you find it useful!

Categories: Race Reports, Running.

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