The path to speed isn't the same for everyone. For Becs Gentry, a Peloton Tread instructor, ultra marathoner and running coach, the path to an impressive 2:37:01 NYC Marathon finish time was built using her secret weapon: the Peloton Tread.
Most marathon runners log the majority of their training miles on the road, but Gentry is breaking the rules of marathon training (and breaking records) by mixing up her outdoor workouts with some serious indoor runs. By combining indoor and outdoor running, Gentry has proven that the once unappreciated treadmill can have a serious place in marathon training. It may even be the key to reaching that coveted PR.
While you can now find Gentry in NYC leading packs of runners through running and strength workouts for Peloton, Becs hasn't always been busting out miles on the Tread. Born in Great Britain, she began running as a member of her high school cross-country team. Running became a more serious passion in 2012 when she was living in Brighton, England, and began discovering beautiful coastal running routes that offered her an opportunity to escape a job she didn’t enjoy. Gentry explains: “I would run to free my mind… with no watch, no phone, just the sheer pleasure of the freedom it gave me in my mind.” Her first road marathon was in April 2016 in Rome. She finished with a 3:27:48 time and a hunger for more racing.
Since 2016, Gentry has completed 7 marathons, including: Rome, London, Berlin, Chicago, Hong Kong, Boston and New York. In addition, she has competed in numerous 1-mile, 5k, 10k, half marathon and ultra marathon distances. As she added marathons to her resume, Gentry explains: “I discovered a new layer to my confidence in my speed and I channeled that into my NYC training.” While preparing for the 2019 NYC Marathon, Gentry was not afraid to get uncomfortable. She trained hard, logging miles and speedwork on the Tread while also doing extended tempo runs outside in the hot NYC summer heat.
Needless to say, her confidence and fearlessness in tackling tough Tread workouts paid off. Gentry finished the NYC Marathon with a PR-smashing 2:37:01 time. She attributes her success to the many miles she pushed it on the Tread. “Treadmill running is a brilliant place to learn patience with your running and understanding your pace.” Gentry notes that inputting a speed into the treadmill forces runners to hold onto it for a given period of time, whether it be a short interval or a longer steady state run. “The treadmill,” Gentry explains, “tests the mind against strength and boredom -- it leaves little else to focus on aside from your run and getting to know how it feels, which is imperative for runners of all levels.”
According to Gentry, the Tread also provides you with an uninterrupted run option. There are no stop lights, no intersections to cross and no people to dodge. Additionally, you can practice drinking or eating at specific points in time to get ready for race day -- a learned skill that every distance runner must acquire.
Gentry takes her Peloton Tread runners along with her on carefully designed workouts that help build mileage, body awareness and speed during marathon training. Her Tread sessions may include mile repeats, interval training or a variety of tempo runs adding up to 8 or 9 miles per 60-min workout. During peak marathon training, Gentry will log about 100-120 miles per week. That mileage is split between treadmill workouts, tempo runs and long runs outside.
Despite Gentry’s affinity and mastery of the indoor running machine, some might argue that the treadmill is no place to train for a road marathon. Gentry begs to differ. While there might be a few disadvantages, such as boredom from unchanging scenery and measuring pace in miles per hour instead of mile splits (how long it takes you to run one mile) that are tracked by most fitness devices, Gentry assures runners that if you stay focused on your outdoor running pace and training goals, the Tread is a worthy complement to outdoor training runs. As far as replicating the “elements” of outdoor running, such as wind and unpredictable weather, she adds: “As long as you run on a 1% incline minimum you are emulating air resistance outside on a pretty still day while still getting time and distance in your legs.”
As intense, ambitious and determined as Gentry might be, she attributes her incredible NYC Marathon finish time to being relaxed during her training. “I trained relatively hard on my speed work on the Peloton Tread and I ensured I ran 2 times a day most days to cover miles, but this time I really focused on my long runs alone on the weekends.” Ultimately, it’s the combination of long runs, tempo runs and speed work mixed with good nutrition and recovery habits that will set you up for success.
With hard training comes hard recovery. Gentry assures runners that recovery is also critical to success. “My recovery routine was very strong too, from working with FICS NYC to putting time in my schedule to at home with my feet up and compression socks on.”
If you’re a first-time marathoner, Gentry recommends downloading the Peloton app for access to the Peloton Marathon Training Program. Know that marathon training is a lifestyle, not just a hobby. It takes time to plan the training into your routine and it’s good to keep a diary for the upcoming weeks. According to Gentry, you shouldn’t overthink your pace. “When you start training, just focus on the sessions and getting the time in your legs. Never forget that the most important run of the week is the long run so be sure that you never skip that!” And, while she may seem superhuman and always smiling, Gentry reminds runners that everyone has their ups and downs; “it is all part of the journey.” The only way you are going to change and progress is if you let yourself get uncomfortable and embrace the tough times.
Gentry maintains that using the Tread as a complement to outdoor runs is a great way to enable runners to really focus on their form and their numbers without any distractions. But one of her favorite parts of being a Peloton Tread instructor -- and a critical component of successful marathon training -- is the sense of community.
Reflecting on her NYC Marathon PR time, Gentry says: “I knew it would be brilliant to PR in my new home city, however I really did want to enjoy the course and soak up the atmosphere that everyone raves about.”
And enjoy it, she did.