Running Tips From a Pro

As a pro marathoner and ultra runner, I get a lot of people asking me about my training; questions that come up often, include, “What kind of run workouts do you do?” and “Can you share any training tips with me?”. So, to answer these questions and to help give your training a boost, I thought I’d share a few of my top training tips and tricks that you can apply to your training and racing. Here they are:

1) Run Eyeballs Out

Run at least once a week or if you can't find the time, run once every 10 days. Choose to run hard at least once per week. On these tough runs, run like you just stole something. Running hard it will teach your body to push, and all the runs afterward will feel a bit easier.

2) Run On Difficult Terrain

When I first started running, I was intimidated to run on trails as I thought I might fall and get hurt or lost, but over time, I made myself do it anyway -- each time I became a bit more confident and skilled. Now, running trails is one of my absolute favorite things in the world.  I love the variety of the terrain and how you have to be laser-focused while doing it.

3) Don't Forget to Run Easy

I think most people believe that elite runners only run fast all the time. A lot of them do, but they and you have to remember to let yourself run freely and easily – your runs don’t always need to be at a challenging zone 4-5. Try to enjoy being out there running and just experience it.  It doesn't always have to be about earning badges on Strava -- you can just chat with friends, tell stories, and gossip – that’s sometimes what I love most about my's a time to catch up with friends, vent, laugh, and play.

4) Try to Do Something That Scares You

There’s a saying that goes, “nothing amazing ever happens in your comfort zone”, and that couldn’t be truer. Most of us tend to get caught in a routine – doing the same runs, workouts, and races that we’ve done in the past. It’s good to have a routine, but I suggest mixing it up and trying something completely outside of your comfort zone (at least once in a while).  For example, last year I decided to do a 3-mile open water ocean swim. While I am a runner, I am not a terrific swimmer, but I love challenges and I thought, “this is something that scares me and I am going to make the time to do it.” I did it and finished, but I was almost the last person out of the water and it took me longer to swim 3 miles than I have run a marathon, but it felt amazing to have done it.

This year, I am signed up for the Spartathlon in Greece. The race is a 250K (approximately a 150 mile) race from Athens to Sparta, Greece. I’ll be honest, this event scares the heck out of me because I have never run that far in a single go, but I am committed to doing it and really want to excel at it.

In sum, push yourself to do things that make you uncomfortable – you won't believe the things you’re capable of!

5) Thank the People in Your Life Who Believe in and Support You:

I always make a point to remember that without my family, friends, fans, sponsors, etc., none of this would be possible. Be sure to take a moment to say "thank you" to everyone who loves and supports you.

6) Smile

This may sound silly, but when it gets tough during a run or event and things are looking bleak, smiling can really change your mood and overall perspective.  All athletes (runners, cyclists, triathletes, surfers and so on) sign up for events because we love them, so why not smile? I promise you that taking the time to put a grin on your face will make you feel at least a touch better. Remember that everyone around you is stoked to cheer you on and help you along the way, so keep smiling!

7) Use Great Gear & Other Tools 

When I first started running, I didn't think it was fair to use any gels or food. I drank minimal water because I thought the point in racing was to challenge your body and see if you were ‘tough enough’ to survive.  I did survive, but racing wasn't nearly as much fun back then as it is now. That's because over time I have embraced innovation. These days there are so many incredible tools out there for athletes, so don't be a laggard, take advantage of the awesome hydration gear, gels, and tech available to you (such as a cool GPS watch or a heart rate monitor). These tools are there to help you – and trust me, they do!

Now that you’ve read through my top training and racing tips, I want to hear from you! Share your questions or other tips with me in the comments section!

This post was written by Division 1 Lacrosse Player turned Ultra Runner and Marathoner Mike Wardian. Mike, father of 2 boys from Arlington, VA, competes in races all over the world, from the North Pole to Ethiopia. To date, he has raced in over 200 marathons, 70 ultra marathons, and 20 triathlons. For all of his hard work and impressive performances, Michael was named USATF Master Ultra Runner of the Year in 2014 for Road and Trail Running. He is an absolute beast when it comes to running – he has even set a World Record for running the fastest 50K on a treadmill – 3:03:56. Interested in learning more about Mike? Follow him on Twitter or Instagram.


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Mio Global
Friday, July 10th, 2015 at 4:24PM
Great to hear from you Alex and congratulations on starting to run! It is such an incredible activity and so rewarding on many levels. Awesome you signed up for your first 1/2 marathon in November and you have plenty of time between now and then to get ready for it and you will be well prepared. I think the best couple pieces of advice I can suggest are:

1) Be Consistent, by that I mean try to run most days so that your body gets used to being out.

2) Find good shoes, that took me a while but worth going to a specialty running store and talking to some experts and getting fitted but also, try on a lot of pairs and see what you like and works for you.

All the other stuff will come, you will figure out what to eat or not eat but I do suggest doing a longer training run of the 1/2 marathon distance before the race, like 3-4 weeks out just to test out what you think you will use, etc....and then you can tweak it before race day.

Hope this helps and let me know how it goes.

Wednesday, July 1st, 2015 at 8:57AM

I started running in late April and have been clocking an average of about 28 kms a week.
I have signed up for my first Half Marathon in November and am scared. What would be the best advice for a novice like me?

michael wardian
Wednesday, June 10th, 2015 at 6:53PM
Hope to answer this for you: "Great blog...
I power walk, but now at 62 want to qualify Boston which is 4:25 (4:22 would be good)….should I just get out and see how long I can run before trying any speed or tempo drills? I feel laboured trying to run 10km at easy pace. Just wondering your thoughts."
Thank you so much for the comment and I would definitely suggest building your "running base" before adding any speed but you could add hills during your base building and think that will help you a lot with qualifying for Boston and for the marathon in Boston when you qualify because if you are able to make the time to do the work you will get there. Good luck and look forward to seeing you in Hopkinton.

michael wardian
Wednesday, June 10th, 2015 at 6:46PM
Robert, so glad you took something from the article and yes, slowing down can help to keep you and allow your body the time to recover while still getting the distance in. Good luck out there and hoping you have many PRs coming. Cheers, Mike
Robert Kootz
Saturday, June 6th, 2015 at 11:56AM
Great tips and a nice read! The tip I need to learn the most from is slowing down. I don't have a ton of races under my belt so every race I'm looking to PR. So I train intensely. And I have the same thought you had when you started about running trails. I'll need to force myself to do that too.
Friday, June 5th, 2015 at 6:45PM
great blog...I ran but 13 yrs ago took up power walking...great friends/social and great coach...14 fulls and way too many 1/2s....
PBd London 2014 5:37:04 powerwalking...2:34 best half...3:41 best 30km...56:00
8km....34:00 5km......but now at 62 want to qualify Boston which is 4:25 (4:22 would be good)....shld I just get out and see how long I can run before trying any speed or tempo drills.....I was a 100 m person in high school and it's funny how I really can breath well and enjoy that but feel laboured trying to run 10km at easy pace...a 10:00 pace would get in at 4:22....
Just wondering your thoughts....u running by me on HP kind of got me thinking re running again
Ultramarathon Daily News, Thurs, June 4
Thursday, June 4th, 2015 at 1:33PM
[…] good basic running tips from Iron Mike […]
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