6 Marathon Training and Racing Principles from a One-Percenter
Everett Hackett is looking for a last-minute Olympic Trials qualifier, bringing new shoes and new training approaches to the California International Marathon.
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Last Thursday we poked a little fun at Everett Hackett for his last-minute attempts at Olympic Marathon Trials qualifiers in 2016 and again this time around. On Sunday morning, Hackett ran 2:18:57 in Sacramento, making him the last Trials qualifier in the last big marathon of 2019.
Olympic Trials qualifiers are part of a rare group—the One Percenters—a group who too often goes unrecognized in road racing.
Those in the one-tenth of one percent win the races and grab the headlines. They have names like Ritzenhein and Flanagan, Keflezighi and Linden. The Ten Percenters qualify for Boston, and get sub-elite slots in other major races. The One Percenters are usually overlooked, except when it comes to their hallowed, all-important event—the Marathon Trials.
Everett Hackett is a One Percenter. And he hopes to be again.
Hacket is the kind of guy who probably started his college term papers the night before they were due. At least that’s how he approached the 2016 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials—and things look much the same for the upcoming Atlanta Trials in late February.
In 2016, Hackett qualified for the February 13 Los Angeles Trials on Jan. 3, 2016, when he ran 64:34 in the Jacksonville Half Marathon. Four years later, he’s up to his familiar tricks again: He doesn’t have a qualifier yet.
That’s why Hackett has a plan, a new pair of racing shoes, and a number of other evolved running habits to help him get to Atlanta. Next stop: This weekend’s California International Marathon on Sunday in Sacramento.
Hackett, 29, has already raced two marathons this fall. On September 8, he clocked a 2:25:42 at the Beantown Marathon in Hingham, Massachusetts. That was a warmup for his primary effort, the Hartford Marathon on October 12. In Hartford, he ran 2:20:23. The qualifying standard for the Marathon Trials is 2:19 or under.
So how is he going to run sub-2:19 on Sunday in Sacramento? Here are the rules he follows.
Work the long runs, but don’t overextend.
Hackett enjoys a 22-mile long run where he covers the first half at a relaxed pace, and then “works it a bit” the second half. He brings the pace down to 5:40 to 5:30, but no more. These efforts don’t leave his racing on the roads or require long recoveries.
Substitute cruise intervals or critical velocity repeats for long tempos.
In a similar fashion, Hackett isn’t a fan of long tempo runs. They look nice on paper, but he finds them difficult to accomplish, since they require 40 to 60 minutes of intense concentration. He substitutes 1000-meter repeats at marathon race pace, doing as many as 12 in a workout. “It’s not hard to hold your focus for three minutes,” he notes. He alternates these workouts with 800-meter repeats that are slightly faster–about 10K race pace.
Don’t mix cross-country and marathon races.
This is a new rule, learned the hard way. Hackett raced the Paul Short cross country meet at Lehigh University the week before October’s Hartford Marathon. The result: dead legs at Hartford. “I hadn’t raced cross in quite a few years,” Hacket notes, “and the soft surface definitely took more out of my legs than I expected.” He could have used fresher legs the last six miles at Hartford. He might even have hit his Trials qualifier there, as he intended.
Stay flexible about equipment.
Hackett is a longtime believer in minimalist footwear, at least where it comes to building strong, flexible feet and ankles. You’ll often find him going barefoot around his apartment, and wearing Vivobarefoot shoes at other times. He used to do a fair amount of training in minimalist shoes, but has switched to moderate cushioning for high-mileage (about 100 miles/week) marathon training.
Of course, he has also followed the thickly-cushioned Nike Vaporfly4% story the last several years. And now he’s got a pair of his own—a gift from the Hall High School cross-country team (West Hartford, Connecticut), where he’s an assistant coach. He’s worn them in one hard workout—his favorite, the repeat 1000s—and says he noticed “more bounce” and less fatigue.
“I felt like I could have done another half dozen repeats,” he reports. He’ll wear the Vaporflys at CIM, hoping they prevent the late-mile slowdown that has plagued his other marathons.
Stay flexible about your drinks.
Many recent, superfast marathon runners, including Eliud Kipchoge, have fueled their races with a drink named Maurten. Hackett tried Maurten last December in Sacramento (where he ran 2:24:05), and developed a sloshy stomach. He has switched drinks for CIM, settling on one named Tailwind.
“It goes down real easy for me,” he says, “and I like that it contains a moderate amount of caffeine. I’ll be putting it in all my drink bottles at CIM.”
Don’t listen to your body.
This is heresy, of course, but Hackett makes a good point. In hard races—and especially in the marathon—you reach a point where your body screams, “No more.” To reach your goals, you have to tune out this voice.
“I actually felt worse at 10 miles in the Hartford Marathon this year than I did four years ago,” Hackett says. “But I told myself to keep grinding it out. Later, I started feeling better even as I was slowing down a little.” He frequently recalls something a high-school coach told him: “Don’t predetermine the outcome of your races. Give yourself the chance to have a really good day.”
That’s exactly what Hackett is hoping for in Sacramento. And again in Atlanta. Four years ago at the Los Angeles Marathon Trials, under a broiling sun, he placed 87th in 2:35:08. “I’m much more of a marathoner now than I was then,” he says. “This time I want to qualify in a marathon, not a half, and to finish as high as I can in Atlanta.”