A no-expectation marathon with an unexpected result.
When I signed up for this event back in June, the goal was to make this my A-race and try to get a BQ time. My last official event was in June, a half-distance triathlon. The approach would be to focus on running after this. Days, weeks, and months have passed – priorities and interests have changed. July – occasional weekday 4-6miles with no long runs. August – same story. September – what? It was almost end of September and not even a 10miler? So how did I manage to finish a 3:40 marathon? Keep reading.
Yes, there was no serious long runs leading to the marathon. But it did not mean not doing anything. I was just more interested riding my bike, spending hours on the saddle going places. I was doing more bike rides on weekends, missing time for long runs. Add to it that I was just not motivated to run. But wait, the purpose of a long run is to build endurance and rhythm for a long period, not to become faster or stronger. An 8+ hour bike ride is building endurance! In a comparison that somehow does (not) make sense, I was doing the equivalent of long runs on my bike rides! Now, this is not to say this is enough. Biking alone will not do it. I also mentioned above I was doing my weekday runs. These are short runs, about 45-55 minutes. Most of them are in treadmills, too. Here’s what have changed from my regular outside run to my treadmill runs. I’ve learned to use and appreciate the different treadmill programs – hills, intervals, random. I’d do a program with a random setting keeping the pace constant, a scenic run with an incline setting, or a short speed interval. I call these runs dreadmill runs. That’s the meat of the weekday runs.
Ok, I did 2 long runs two weeks before the event. Two weeks before marathon day, I forced myself to do a long run – a 12miler at slow pace. One week before marathon day, another long run – 14miler at the same slow pace. This was to erase the nagging thoughts and concerns of a DNF.
Marathon day. No expectation – ok, a sub-4 at least. Weather was perfect – cool, not cold. Started at the back of the pack with friends. Started slowly, paying attention with the steep downhills on the first 2-3 miles. More downhills until about 8 miles. Tried to keep a controlled pace on the first half, especially on the downhills. Experience never lies – you pay dearly on the last miles if you go too fast on the first half of a marathon. I find this to be true. I don’t believe in banking time on the first half. For every 10sec/mile you gain on the first half, you pay 1min/mile on the last 6 miles. After the downhills came the flat sections and nice trails. This is a change from last year’s course. The scenic and peaceful Rails-to-Trails sections are very nice addition to course. I really enjoyed these parts, and found a very good rhythm. I crossed the halfway mark at about 1:48+ on my watch, and I was feeling great. I took short breaks, sipped gatorade and water, at every aid station. The course would change dramatically, I think, at aboout mile 18 or 19. Here comes the hills. Not sure if it’s the same hills as last year, but I found this year’s cource to have more hills (and turns) from mile 19 onwards. Not all bad, because crowd support was more prevalent on the hilly sections – and nice music like the theme song from Rocky to give you some boost. More rolling hills, with the downhills becoming more painful because the calves were starting to lock up. The last mile would come after the last turn after mile 25 – a straight stretch with a good view of the ascending road ahead. I speak for every runner when I say this – the last mile is where you have to summon whatever’s left in your tank. After what felt like an endless ascend, a reward of a short flat dash to the finish awaits. And that’s how I did a 3:40 finish. Not a BQ time, but a very happy finish time.
So it’s possible to have a good marathon time with under 25mpw runs. However, I do not advise not putting running miles when preparing for a marathon. See you on the next run.