Marathon Musings I: Guess my marathon time!

“A runner is a miser, spending the pennies of his energy with great stinginess, constantly wanting to know how much he has spent and how much longer he will be expected to pay. He wants to be broke at precisely the moment he no longer needs his coin.”
— John L. Parker, Jr., Once a Runner

I keep going back and forth about whether to set a goal time for CIM. On one hand, it’s my first marathon and my primary goal will be to finish. Period. It will be the first time that I will have run 26.2 miles and that in itself will be a huge accomplishment. Also, regardless of what I do on December 2nd, it’ll be a PR. Finally, I don’t want to finish hating life, running, and everything and everyone around me.

There’s a good chance that I could run my first marathon AND eat 3 cupcakes on the same day. I’m *that* awesome.

On the other hand, I can’t help but think that setting a time goal and meeting it will make the whole experience that much sweeter. My broad goal is pretty doable, I think: run the marathon in under 5 hours (11:27/mile pace). As long as nothing catastrophic happens, I think this should be totally doable. The next question is: how much faster than 5 hours can I finish the marathon? Being a scientist, I have to look at the evidence and come up with a hypothesis.

The evidence at hand:

  1. Using my Healdsburg Half Marathon time, MacMillan Racing predicts that I can run a marathon in 4:13. A little too fast, methinks.
  2. My last 20-miler was run at ~10:45/mile, which yields a marathon time of 4:41:38. In my experience, I race much, much faster than I train, so I feel that something faster than 4:40 would not be unreasonable. However, there’s also the fatigue factor — I’m sure I’ll be dragging after mile 20, which makes the overall pace sort of unpredictable.
  3. Also during my last 20-miler, bt and I tried to pick up the pace around mile 16. She noted that I seemed to be OK at 10:30-10:45/mile, but my breathing became labored as we got closer to 10:00/mile. That makes me think that a 4:22 is highly unlikely (but not impossible).

My hypothesis:
As long as catastrophe is averted (no GI issues, major cramping, injury, etc.), I think I should be able to finish the marathon between 4:30-4:45.

Now that there’s this very loose goal, what’s my strategy? I’ve been thinking about this A LOT. One might argue is that it’s useless to come up with any plan, given that it’s my first marathon and there will be a lot of unknowns. It might serve me better to go in without a plan and just adapt as I go. However, “go with the flow” is not really me, unless I PLAN to go with the flow. Haha. So, I’ve decided on the following “plan”: start off with the 4:40 pace group, reassess after 2-3 miles, and go from there. Try not to go out too fast, but also don’t go too much slower than what’s ideal (if that makes any sense — you know, like when it would take more effort to go slower than it would to go faster). I want to run an even race not necessarily time-wise, but energy- and feel-wise.

Despite how cool this looks, I will NOT be sporting this look come race day.

From my long runs, I’m pretty sure that the first 10-13 miles will fly by quickly. To ward off mental fatigue, I’ll have a playlist ready to go, but I probably won’t put it on until I really need it. At around mile 20, AEW will join me for 5-6 miles, which I’m already positive will be a godsend. (But she might not view it as such… hopefully I won’t be a super grouch!)

So, those are my thoughts so far. I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on the matter. For those of you who have experience with the marathon: Did you have a goal time for your first marathon? Did you have a plan? What went right? What went wrong? Anything you’d change in retrospect?

And for those of you who have been following my training: Any guesses at my marathon time? I wish I could offer you a prize or something for getting the right answer… but all you’ll get is the satisfaction of being right. And I’ll probably give you a shoutie at some point on the blog… which is WAY BETTER than any stupid prize, right?? 😉


Howdy! My name is Jen and I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. I like to eat, run, and blog, but not usually at the same time.

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Posted in CIM, Goals, random
18 comments on “Marathon Musings I: Guess my marathon time!
  1. Cathryn says:

    I’m going for 4.32. My marathon time and one which has made me very happy!!! Or maybe 4.31 to kick my bum 😉

    Happy Thanksgiving. (ps your Japan posts are amazing and SO useful, thank you)

  2. Cathryn says:

    Also, to answer your questions. I wanted to do it in 4.30 (but not heartbreakingly so, I was very happy with my time). My mail goal was to run the whole way and not walk at all – I did that. I found that I slowed down lots in the last 10k and that’s when it got tough, but it was also really exciting as well. I held my own drink (some kind of orange running drink) and got two people along the route to have spares so i got fresh supplies, that worked well.
    My biggest tip would be to SMILE at the end. I was close to tears in all my finishing photos and I look so awful. I almost wish I had them here in the US so i could post them – but am kind of glad I don’t!

    • Jen says:

      Thanks for the tips, Cathryn! I would also love to finish in 4:30 (or less), but like you, I would not be upset if I didn’t.
      Glad you enjoyed the Japan tips — hope you have a GREAT trip!!

  3. Angela says:

    I think 4:30 is well within your reach. 😉

  4. Mike says:

    Though I have no official quote-me-on-it guess for your finish time, I do know that Oprah ran her 1994 marathon in 4:29:15… and you’re a better runner than Oprah, aren’t you? Well, aren’t you???

  5. bt says:

    My guess is 4:28:30, which puts you at an average pace of 10:15/mile. Good Luck!

  6. Jeff Gallup says:

    4:37:12.. I know… precise for a guess.. :-). Excited to hear how it goes! Mine is about 60 days away, so I just ran a 16 on Friday… odd, as the 14 a week before was fine, but the 16 last week had me walking funny for a day! From a goal perspective, my primary goal is to finish under 5:30 which I think I can do.. especially running at sea level, but would be ecstatic to be closer to 5:00 or less.. Good luck!!

  7. Amie F says:

    I think you can do it in 4:25!

  8. Dominick S. says:

    Is it bad that I actually think you can come in under 4:15? Let’s be real here…you train on a lot of hilly trails and your half marathon time was solid on a hilly Healdsburg course. The CIM course is pretty much downhill and the “fastest course in the West’! I really think you can crush it aim high, shoot for negative splits and you will reach your goal…either way you’re going to destroy 5 hours.

    • Jen says:

      I don’t think it’s bad necessarily… I just don’t think it’s going to happen this time around. I definitely think I will be able to do 4:15 or better if/when I run a 2nd marathon, but it’s hard for me to know what to expect in those last 4-6 miles. I felt like I was going to die at Healdsburg– not sure I will go all out like that at CIM. Also – CIM is NET downhill. There are some small uphills and the last 6 miles is pancake flat. Thanks for the vote of confidence, though!

  9. Amy says:

    My guess is 4:23. I really have no scientific explanation for how I reached that number.

    I didn’t have a plan of attack going in really except to not walk, stop at every water station, and when to take my Clif Shots. I think running based on feel is a safe bet. There is absolutely no way to make those last few miles feel good no matter how well you pace yourself. Make sure you have plenty of electrolytes before and during because Aaron didn’t and he ended up cramping so bad, he had paramedics ask if he needed assistance (example of plan gone wrong). Try to plan your rest room break if necessary before mile 20 because I can’t imagine stopping and trying to start again after that point. JUST KEEPING RUNNING!!!

    • Jen says:

      Thanks for the tips, Amy! I’ve considered the potty break situation before — I read somewhere about a woman who was doing awesome until her potty break at the halfway point. She cramped so badly that she could hardly get out of the porta potty, let alone run! I’m afraid of the electrolyte situation as well, especially if it’s hot. Hopefully just by being aware and planning ahead, things will go smoothly.

  10. Nicole says:

    Under 4:30. Excited to hear how it goes!

  11. aewills says:

    I predict you will feel relaxed and fantastic and pull in 4:19.
    I tried like hell not to set a goal for my first marathon–figured I would be happy to finish, happier with 5:00, and delighted with less than 4:22, ie 10 minute miles. Of course, the silver lining to even a bad day for the first marathon is that it makes it that much easier to set a new PR for the second.

  12. XLMIC says:

    If you go out with the 4:40 pace group and stick with them for the first 6-10 miles, you will likely get faster than they are and pull away and end up having a really nice run, finishing in something around 4:32. I think you are physically capable of the McMillan prediction, but unless you buy into it and have the confidence to start out slightly slower than average pace and the confidence and willingness to be very uncomfortable in the last few miles as you push it a little faster than average pace, it’s not a likely scenario. You are so much stronger and tougher than you know you are. I’m going to choose a finish time of 4:23 for you. I’ll be there screaming for you 🙂

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4/28/19: London Marathon

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