Thursday, January 20, 2011
As I approach what will be my 23rd marathon, thinking about the finishing time I want to achieve and my strategy to get there, I have doubts. There are many things I know to be true about marathon running...and yet. It is so hard to believe them as that start line draws closer.
For example, when I think about the pace I want for a marathon - let's say somewhere around an 8:35 or 8:40 pace - I feel that I should run that pace for all of my long runs. This makes sense. If I want to run 26.2 miles at that pace, I should be running my 15 and 18 and 20 mile training runs at that pace. Right? Wrong! But why? How is that possible?
When I had it in my head that I wanted to qualify for Boston, I figured out that I needed to run around an 8:25 pace to do it. That freaked me out. Most of my long runs were around 10 minute pace or a little less. And even the training plan I downloaded from Runnersworld.com said I needed to run my long runs at 9:10 pace. That didn't make any sense. How can I train at 9:10 pace and then expect to run almost a minute faster per mile in the marathon?
Now, I do realize there are other training runs incorporated each week that are aimed at increasing speed, and my shorter runs and races are over a minute faster than 8:25 pace. But still...I'd have to hold that pace for 26.2 miles!
This past weekend I ran my 18 miler and tried to push the pace. Now, I had a few little challenges before me - sore muscles and icy sidewalks and roads, but for the most part I held it. But after 18 miles at 8:54 pace, I was tired. I was glad to stop. I was glad I did not have 8 more miles to run. So how is it that I hope to run faster than 8:54 pace in the actual marathon?
Two days later I did my 8-mile tempo-esque run. My tempo runs are always a bit backward in that I allow my first mile to warm me up a bit and then I run all the others as hard as I can go, trying for negative splits the entire way. The average pace for this run was 8:10, with the last two slightly under 8 (7:59, 7:37). I was pleased with this because I knew I was still tired from the 18 miler Saturday and the 10 miler Sunday.
But still, as I sit and think about it, it is hard to imagine going 8:40 pace for 26 miles. I know it will be a race, which affects adrenaline levels and such. I know I will fuel more. I did nothing for the 15 miler and only a sip of water in the middle of the 18 miler. I've even seen this truth in my own marathon running experiences...
And yet...I still doubt. It seems like a marathon myth. But is it?