“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.
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:
- Using my Healdsburg Half Marathon time, MacMillan Racing predicts that I can run a marathon in 4:13. A little too fast, methinks.
- 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.
- 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).
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.
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?? 😉