Strength Running: Maintaining Strength & Building Endurance For The New York City Marathon
by Dr. Moritz Tellmann
“How do you plan to run a marathon with all those muscles?” A typical question people ask me when I work out in the gym. When I tell them I already completed 13 marathons, including one ultra marathon of 56 km in 4:45, they stare at me in disbelief. Furthermore, when I show them that lifting, squatting and pull-ups are my preferred way to prepare for a long-distance race, they become even more perplexed.
Most people think you can’t be a good runner AND a successful lifter. Of course you can! I can. You can. Everybody can. What do you think the human body is made for? Not for sitting, laying around and watching TV. It’s made to flee, hunt, climb and yes, also for running (a marathon). Not every day, but now and again.
The first time I tackled this long, challenging distance, I was scared. Will my muscles give out after 10 km? Will I lose muscle mass and strength as a result of my endurance training? Since my first marathon, I’ve improved my time by 5 minutes each and every time compared to the previous race, with my best time being 3:05. Not too bad with a body weight of 187 lbs (85 kg) and a body size of 5.8 ft (1.78 m)! For me, it felt like my body had accepted the occasional marathon as “just another long run on a Sunday” in between my lifting sessions.
Now, two years have passed since I ran my last marathon. And this calls for a special event: the 2014 New York City Marathon. I’m excited and nervous as I stare down my final six weeks of training like a beast to run in this awesome city once again. However, I’m not worried. New running shoes and high-intensity workouts have boosted my motivation to rock the show in NYC. I’m confident I will make it, but with strength training being my passion, I wonder how to do it without losing muscle mass during the competition? I decided to simply consider the marathon as part of my overall training. Just do it. Run. Eat clean. Focus on protein and carbs (I will need them).
You might ask yourself: How will he run a marathon without extensive running training? Don’t worry. I run. A lot. I just don’t say “Hey, I’ll go for a run now.” Instead, my running sessions get me from A to B. I try to run at least 40 – 50 km per week. Twenty minutes to the gym, then some strength training, and afterwards, I run back home. By doing so, I built up extreme endurance, strength and the necessary skills for a marathon. Running fast after a one-hour lifting session sometimes feels like the last 5 km of a marathon. I know that feeling. I love that feeling. I want to get home and fuel up once again! That’s what I will do in New York City. Focusing on small goals during the race: a tasty protein bar after 25 km, reaching 25,000 steps on my Runtastic Orbit and the selfie I will take on Brooklyn Bridge! Can’t wait for November 2 to arrive!
And here’s what I recommend to lifters who are afraid of running a long-distance competition: Just get over it and accept the challenge! With sufficient and regular leg training sessions in the gym, in combination with your running efforts, there’s no need to be afraid. Squats, lunges, leg press, leg curls, jumps and so on will help keep your muscles challenged and strong!
Muscles can do marathons. Better than you might think. Really looking forward to the NYC marathon and can’t wait to let you know how it goes!
Moritz Tellmann has been an avid athlete and fitness professional for 13 years. He currently works as an anaesthesiologist and emergency physician and is a licensed personal fitness trainer. In his leisure time he is a pilot and enjoys traveling a lot.