Q: Can a “clydesdale” train for marathons?

Lauren,

I know you’re an elite, fit, petite runner, but what kind of training is appropriate for a larger guy. I’m 6′4″ and weigh around 215, but would love to start running recreational marathons. I’m athletic, and have even done some running in my past, but I always worry about stress fractures and the ultimate demon, plantar fasciitis.

How do I get fit without getting hurt?

–Clydesdale

A:

Clydesdale,

Forgive me, but I’m imagining Mel Gibson as William Wallace in Braveheart here.  He can throw a spear 300 meters to hit an Englishman and wash clothes on his abs, but a marathon might be more hazardous than warfare for the guy.

My advice to you as a clydesdale is to build your mileage very very very slowly.  As in 5-10% increases each week for three weeks, and then back off for the fourth 25-40%.  A twelve week mileage buildup might look like this if you are already running consistently now:

40m, 44m, 48m, 35m, 48, 53, 58, 45, 58, 64, 70, 55.

Be sure you take a day or two off each week; the rest days and lower mileage weeks are what allow your body to absorb the training stimulus without it putting you over the injury cliff.  If you follow a specific marathon training plan designed for waifs, adjust it by taking 10-20 miles off per week and replacing it with outdoor cycling, elliptical, or better yet, spin classes (those things make you so ridiculously fit!)

Your biggest danger areas for injury as a clydesdale will be your feet and shins.  Rehab exercises are important to do in preparation for a buildup, and you should stick with it twice a week all year.  But that won’t make a bit of difference if your running mechanics are off.

It is more important for bigger runners to run correctly than it is for smaller runners.  Since 4x your body weight must be absorbed by your joints, ligaments, etc. when running, it gets exponentially more dangerous to run incorrectly when you are bigger.  For example:  a 120 pound girl may feel 480 pounds of pressure on her shins if she runs with poor form.  The shins are fielding 360 pounds of extra weight.  A 217 pound guy feels 868 pounds on his shins…that’s 651 extra pounds compared to her 360!!!!  So for bigger runners, it is crucial to take the time to learn to run properly.

People are very resistent to “learning to run” when they have been running all their lives, but remember that just because it is natural doesn’t mean we naturally do it the best way.  Nearly everyone who throws a ball for the first time steps forward with the wrong foot and the ball goes a disappointing 3 feet.  One throwing lesson completely revolutionizes the way you throw, and allows you to unlock your natural potential.  Same is true for running.

I would be happy to address “how to run” if you have that question, but I’ll leave you with this for now: you can train for marathons as a clydesdale, but you can’t afford to get carried away with training and make stupid decisions.  For longevity sake, consider doing a max of one marathon per year, and focus on shorter races the rest of the year.  There are a bunch of races around the country that have specific divisions for clydesdales, which might be a cool challenge.  You just might become a legend like William Wallace.

-L-Train