I enjoy daydreaming about what is possible in the marathon. I have a feeling that one day when I am 80 years old and watching a marathon on TV I am going to be amazed by how fast people are running. I am sure I will be in disbelief thinking to myself, "I never thought it was possible for a human to run that fast."
It's amazing how fast the marathon world record has progressed. Just 50 years ago the marathon world record for men was 2:15, which is what the current women's mark is today. (Search: What is the world record marathon time?) So is it possible that in 50 years, when I am about to turn 80, I will be watching women run as fast as the men are running today? Can a women run 2:03 for a marathon? Will I witness another 12 minutes taken off the world record over the next 50 years? My gut reaction is, no. I think that it will be hard to see that same amount of improvement, however I do believe I will see a sub 2 hour marathon in the not too distant future.
I wish I knew what it was going to take to get to a sub-2 hour marathon. All I can do is what I have been doing over the past three years: keep experimenting, trying new and innovative training techniques, and continue to learn from as many people as possible, and above all else, pray! Even with all the experimenting I have done, I realize I have hardly scratched the surface.
The tricky thing with experimenting in running is that there are always so many variables at play, which makes it hard to isolate one variable to see if it is effective or not. For example, if I want to try out a new pre-workout breakfast I can't just try it once and if I have a good workout then I know it is a result of the breakfast. I also have to pay attention to all the other variables associated with the workout, such as the phase of training I am in, how hard of a week of training I have had, what my nutrition has been like over the past week, and how much sleep I have been getting. So experimenting with new things in running takes a tremendous amount of patience and time, but eventually, by viewing the general trend you can start to see what factors are working and what are not.
So here are some the biggest areas of running that I believe we will see the most breakthrough over the next 50 years. First, nutrition. We are constantly learning about how to better fuel our bodies. Since running a marathon is essentially about maintaining high energy all throughout the race I think we will find how to better fuel our bodies over the course of a marathon. Next, finding the right combination of altitude and sea level training. There is still a lot of research being done on the effects of altitude training and how to best integrate it. Then, I think we will see huge breakthroughs in the power of the mind. As guys continue to break the world record it will open up the flood gates of more and more runners believing they can also breakthrough. Lastly, I believe we will continue to understand more and more the importance of rest. I think workouts need to continue to progress and get harder and faster but easy days need to continue to progress to get slower and easier. I think once guys are confident enough to rest we will see some amazing breakthrough in the marathon. It's in the rest that we grow.
Related: Rest Right
God only knows what other innovations are out there waiting to be discovered. What it is going to take is a generation of innovators who aren't afraid to both look outside the box and have many failures along their road to breakthrough. I look forward to watching the progress if such a generation arises.