In 139 days I will be standing on East Main Street in Hopkinton, MA ready for the 116th running of the Boston Marathon. This will be my seventh marathon and second Boston.
And for the seventh time in seven attempts, I will be training differently for this race than I have for every other marathon to this point. My goal for this race is simple. I want to PR.
Running a 3 hour time would be tremendous.
A sub 3:05:00? Wow.
But really, the thing that I want to do more than anything is to come through the chute in Boston and erase the memories of my race in 2010. I have never finished a marathon feeling more beaten by the distance than I did on April 16th of that year. The course started to test me just past the half-way point as we entered Newton, MA and I did not have a single answer for the marathon that day.
Each mile to the finish was a battle for me. Every hill no matter how slight felt like a mountain. Even the downhill finish provided me no relief as I slogged my way to a time of 3:22:42. At that point it was my 2ndfastest time in the marathon, but it left me bruised and beaten physically, mentally and emotionally.
I vowed that I would train harder, harden my body, get stronger, and run faster.
591 days have passed since that race and I have thought about it at least one time each and every day.
I have indeed learned how to train harder and smarter, transitioned to the triathlon to give my body two more forms of exercise in cycling and swimming, and I have been able to stay relatively healthy.
I have set PR’s in every distance since 2010 from the mile to the marathon and set some of them multiple times.
But this year I want to set one final PR in the marathon and I want to do it at the sight of my greatest disappointment in this crazy sport of ours.
As I have reflected back on my race in New York earlier this month through 19 miles I ran the Marathon about as perfect as I could expect to ever run a race. Mile after mile, split after split, hill after hill I kept the needle steady and ticked off consistent 3 hour pace marathon splits.
It was only as the course reached the Willis Avenue Bridge at mile 20 did my legs start to falter and the final hills took their bites out of me over the final 10 kilometers. 3:08:09 was a fantastic effort and an overall pace of 7:11 was a full :15 seconds per mile faster than my previous Marathon Best.
Hard to be disappointed in those results, in fact I am very proud of my performance.
But to be able to claim victory on Boylston Street this April I will have to be even better. Better trained, better prepared, stronger and once again the “F” word – faster.
To do so I have spent a lot of time thinking about my approach to marathon training and will make a few tweaks to my workouts – especially my hill workouts tailored specifically for the point to point course in Boston.
But the one change that I am going to make which I feel will give me the most bang for my buck is to start running slower in order to run faster.
I know this sounds counterintuitive, but after looking closely at my splits from New York and some of my longer training runs (18-22 miles) – I have come to realize that top-end speed is not my nemesis when it comes to my particular goals for the marathon.
An 18:12 5K, 37:30 10K, 1:03:47 10 Mile and 1:23:55 Half-Marathon are all times that stack up very well for a serious attempt at a sub-3 hour marathon. Certainly a 3:05:00.
What I need to do is make sure that my endurance is where it needs to be to be able to hold my target pace over the final stages of the marathon, specifically the final 4 miles after we leave the Boston College Campus in Chestnut Hill, MA and we push to the finish.
One of the “training mistakes” I believe I have made in the past is running my “easy” days and “recovery” runs too fast.
By not slowing things down on those days I have not spent as much time logging miles “on my feet” as they say and that has shortchanged me when it comes to my endurance training.
It also has made it more difficult for me to run even harder on my “hard” days.
For example, this morning’s 10-mile run at Recovery Pace was executed at 8:06 pace – taking me just over an hour and 21 minutes.
The same workout, if I had run it at 7:35 pace, which is still “an easy” run for me would have forced me to push a bit harder and not gotten as much of my “recovery” from Monday’s workout (8.3/6:56 pace) as I needed.
I also would have run a little bit more than 5 minutes “less” on Tuesday morning – which over the course of a marathon training cycle can quickly add up to a couple of hours of “less running” – shortchanging my endurance training.
One final product of “running slower to run faster” is that it will force me to stay patient. To be quite honest, running “slower” is kind of hard. It takes concentration and restraint to stay within yourself and not allow your legs to speed up just because it “feels good.”
This same restraint and patience is exactly what I will need on Patriot’s Day in Boston over the opening 14 miles to Newton. Every :05 too fast I am on the front of the course is going to cost me :20 seconds on the back half, possibly more over the final 4 miles which have proven to be my “trouble-spot” in the marathon.
So these next 20-weeks or so I will be slowing things down on my recovery and easy days so that I can run faster on April 16th.
I’m working on being more patient. It’s not happening fast enough …