Posted: August 10, 2011 in Training
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As I prepared for the Pittsburgh Marathon in 2009, my second ever – it was the first time that I had really trained seriously to achieve a time goal.  I was looking to improve my first marathon time of 3:58:08 down to 3:19:59 and qualify for Boston.

Sometimes it is good to not know what you don’t know.

When I look at those two times right now after running and training somewhat seriously for the last 3 or 4 years I think to myself, “what in the world was I thinking?”.  Talk about a huge jump all at once.  I would need to drop my pace per mile from 9:05 down to 7:37 to qualify for Boston.

I put together a solid training plan, hit all of my workouts, ran mile after mile at marathon pace and on race day ran a 3:17:43 – 7:31 min./mile pace.

Pretty remarkable when I look back on it.

When I am out on a training run and the band Flock of Seagulls kicks off “I Ran” – I immediately think about training for Pittsburgh that year.  I was running to a lot of 80’s music during that training cycle, and that song from Flock became my running partner. 

Up and down hills, mile after mile, rainy runs, cold mornings, long-distance or shorter recovery days, it seems like “I Ran” was always playing through my iPod.

When I was training for the Boston Marathon I had started to run listening to a playlist that was more 90’s centric and got hooked on “Basket Case” from Green Day. 

Last year preparing for Austin it was Social Distortion’s cover of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” that became my anthem for that training cycle.  The song that would come on and I would automatically pick things up and start to push harder. 

I kept it in my playlist for every race in the Austin Distance Challenge.  The IBM Uptown Classic 10K, the Run for the Water 10-Miler, the Decker Challenge Half-Marathon, the 3M Half-Marathon and the Austin Marathon – all fueled by Social D.  Every race a PR.

I have never sought out a song to become “the song” for my training cycle, for whatever reason the songs that I have heard many times before just strike a certain chord for me and I want to listen to the more and more.  I can’t wait for them to come on during my training runs and I end up running my best miles as they play over and over.

This week as I move further and further from our first triathlon at Jack’s on July 31st and closer to the NYC Marathon in November it happened to me again. 

During yesterday’s tempo run, 8.3 miles at 6:54 pace, around mile 7 a song came on my iPod and immediately my legs began to increase their turnover and I was moving faster and faster.  My final mile 6:33 pace.

This morning I had a 10 mile Mid-Week Pace run on the schedule, a tough workout immediately following Tuesday’s tempo run.  I was hoping to lock in to 7:15 pace, which given the 82 degree temperature, equates to roughly a 7:00 min./mile flat marathon pace run.

The goal of this workout is to keep the pace as even as possible, averaging between 7:10 and 7:15 mile after mile, learning how to push ever so slightly harder as your legs grow tired.  It is like letting water out of a faucet as the pressure decreases.  You want to gradually turn that faucet to keep the water flow smooth and steady, even though you know you are using more and more force.

The first warm-up mile that travels up to the top of the neighborhood is always a bit slow as we get things started, then I try to lock in on pace and stay right there.  The route has some hills, 250 feet or so of climbing to navigate, so this is also great practice for race day as you may slow a bit on an uphill 1/2 mile, but then need to push a bit on the way back down to get back on pace.

Today’s splits were:

7:28, 7:11, 7:22, 7:09, 7:12, 7:07, 7:13, 7:08, 7:06, 7:06

Very, very solid.  But as I took the last sip of water out of my bottle at mile 8, miscalculating how much I should have brought with me on such a warm morning I knew the last two miles were going to be a test.  I started to think about running just 4 more 1/2 mile splits, each of them in 3:33.

That would give me a pair of closing 7:06’s – I wondered just how close I could get to holding that perfect pace.

As I hit the park along Brushy Creek Trail the song returned from yesterday’s tempo run, once again it had found me.

The guitar riff rang out along with the crash of the drummer’s splash cymbal.

The Old 97’s were back.

So were my legs.

As Timebomb rang out I was able to lock in and fight off the fatigue, the heat and thirst.

3:34, 3:32, 3:35, 3:31.

7:06, 7:06.

There will be a mile in NYC when the marathon course takes it’s first swipe at me.

It isn’t a matter of if, it is a matter of when.

The race doesn’t discriminate, it gets everyone at some point.  Mile 16?  Mile 18?  22?  24?  That is why the marathoner keeps returning to the same challenge time and time again.

What will it be like this time?  Will I be ready for it?  Will I be able to beat it back down and keep going or will it beat me?

When I am setting up my playlist for NYC the 42nd song in the deck will ring out somewhere around mile 21 with Central Park in site.  My tired legs will feel a jolt of electricity at the sound of the opening riff and we’ll be back, ready to fight it out for the final 5 miles.

Timebomb.  Pretty fitting come to think of it.

November 6.  Boom goes the dynamite.

Click below for the Old’ 97’s Timebomb.



  1. Andy B. says:

    Too funny. Timebomb has been a mainstay in my running mixes over the years. Speed of the Sound of Loneliness by Alabama 3 is probably #1 for me, though. You Wreck Me by Petty is up there, too.

    • Joseph Marruchella says:

      Great choices Andy! Funny how one song just kind of clicks during every cycle …. wonder what we’ll be running to when we’re 60 ….

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