“You’re not going to win,” the wise old runner told me. “Just remember that.”

I was at my very first marathon, on a dark and cloudless early morning in Hawaii before the race start, when I asked a nearby experienced runner if he might have some advice for me. “Stick to your plan,” he added. “Race as you trained and don’t go out too fast.”

Naturally, as this was my first marathon, I did nothing of the sort, beginning the first half of the marathon by running a beautiful and somewhat fast half marathon. I was feeling good until reaching the dreaded wall at mile 18. Some runners hit the wall, some bounce into the wall, and some, like me, crash into it full force and shatter every muscle-bone in their body until they limp, destroyed, across the finish line.

I was given sage advice and I ignored it. Four years later, a half-dozen ultra-marathons, dozens of marathons and half marathons, and a couple of Ironman triathlons later, I still occasionally forget the advice.

As the saying goes, “Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.”

Some people don’t like having a plan and they think it works for them. They go with the flow. They make up training and race strategy as they go along. And that might work for those runners with decades of experience.

For the rest of us, however, particular those of us who are a more mature athlete, you quickly realize that the indiscretions of youth and young body can’t continue and our aging athleticism just doesn’t hold up well under the “winging it” plan.

Whether your goal is to simply finish a half marathon, or to set a new personal record in the full marathon, the single […]