Boston Marathon winner Meb Keflezighi can be your running coach. No, seriously. Through ProRunnerTalk.com's "Meb Meets" events, running acolytes can group-Skype with the legend and request one-on-one consultations afterward. But we saved you the trip: Here, his top five tips for becoming a better runner.
1. Do More Than Just Run
Keflezighi is adamant that "pounding is important for making it through a marathon." But too much of it and you're going to risk getting injured, so cross-training is a must. And even more imperative: low-impact cross-training. Keflezighi uses the ElliptiGO, an outdoor bike-elliptical hybrid. Odd-looking though it may be, the 39-year-old swears that regularly supplementing his second run of the day (he runs 12 times a week) with a 60-to-90-minute ElliptiGO ride is what gave him "a strong foundation going into Boston and improved cardiovascular fitness and muscle definition" without edging into overuse territory.
2. When You Do Run, Run Long
Before a marathon, "most people say, 'Oh, I got a 20-miler in. I'm fine.' That's completely wrong," Keflezighi says. Instead, the three-time Olympian (and silver medalist) preps for a race by running as many as 28 miles in one bout and several 22- , 24- , and 25-milers. While it goes against the conventional training wisdom bestowed upon amateurs, Keflezighi maintains that if you have the time (8 to 10 weeks is not enough) and feel healthy, multiple long runs are key to not hitting the infamous wall that typically occurs three-quarters of the way into a marathon. In order to not over-exhaust your muscles, he suggests running extra-long jaunts a significant minute-per-mile slower than your goal race pace.
3. Don't Always Run at One Pace
Going on the same 6-mile run every day? That's fine, but it's no way to improve. "Change it up," Keflezighi says. "It's good for the muscles, it's good for the cardiovascular system." Sprint intervals and tempo runs are the best way to improve your speed and maintain that pace over distance. "You want to finish a race strong? If you're doing a 10-mile run on the weekend, run miles 6 through 9 very hard and use that last mile to cool down."
4. Find the Right Training Partner
"I train by myself, so music is my training mate," says Keflezighi, who favors R&B artists, including Jay-Z, Alicia Keys, and Ne-Yo. He also packs his playlist with many songs from his native country, Eritrea (Keflezighi became an American citizen in 1998), that feature fast beats and lots of drums for cadence-matching. "I'll put a song on repeat if I like it and listen to it two or three times to get in the zone."
5. Don't Rush Your Workouts
Take time before your runs to do warm-up drills like ankle-to-butt kicks or high knees, and be sure to stretch after. Six or seven minutes of each is enough to improve speed and keep you injury-free. "I understand that you already sacrificed by getting up at 5:30 A.M. to work out; 15 minutes is not going to kill you, but it will make you happier, stronger, and faster."