Cards on the table: I have the marathon bug. I will readily admit that I am far, far away from the world’s greatest woman marathoner (even further away from being the greatest men’s marathoner…) but I love the distance, love the occasion all the same. Nothing like the high of completing a marathon, whatever your time may be. There is a huge satisfaction in crossing that finish line regardless of whether your race went to plan, whether the rain poured down in sheets (like it did on the Boston marathon folk recently) or whether it just wasn’t your best day. You still feel mighty. I call it the superhero factor. That feeling that is somehow assimilated into your bones as you plough through 26.2 miles of road that you could take on the world, that you could do anything. Like I say, mighty.
I’m training for the Stone Mad Multi-Marathon which I will be doing in support of the Because I’m a Girl campaign which is a wonderful cause and which will almost certainly help me through 2 days of marathoning/ half-marathoning and keep me focused on getting to that inimitable finish line. I’m following a Douglas and Pfitzinger plan, (or Pete and Scott as I call them… well, I feel like we’re mates now! ) and today I was to run 16 miles as my long run with 12 miles at marathon pace.
I’m never really sure what my “marathon pace” should be but I’m assuming it should be a compromise between the pace you would like to be able to run and the pace that you are actually capable of running. I ran a 4:08 marathon last year and a 4:05 marathon the previous year so it seems logical that my goal should be to aim for just under the 4 hour mark, which works out at 9.10 per mile. For me, a 4 hour marathon would be the next big step – I’d be chuffed with this and it ticks both boxes of (a) aspirational and (b) achievable. Obviously, I’d love to to run a 3 hour anything marathon but small steps people, Rome wasn’t built in a day!
Last year, my goal was also to run a sub 4 hour marathon, having ran a 4:05 marathon the previous year, which marked a new PB for me by a good 12 minutes. My training went really well last year and I had some decent long runs which made me think that I might actually hit the sub 4 hour mark on the big day itself. Alas, it was not to be. After a good start and a fast first half, I was on schedule and all was going to plan. However, at about the 16 mile mark, my quads tightened up massively, which was a whole new experience for me, and I ended up just having to ride it out, meaning plan A had to be let go for another day. I was disappointed and a bit glum in the days that followed and had to resist the urge to immediately sign up for another marathon to avenge my shortcomings.
Now that I’m mid-marathon plan, marathon pace is becoming a topic again and while I’d like to be able to avoid creating pressure to hit certain goals, it is starting to nag a bit. The last 2 weeks involved 18 mile and 20 mile long runs, respectively and I actually really enjoyed both. This week, the timetable called for a 16 miler with 12 at marathon pace so even though I tried to not make a big deal out of it, in my head beforehand and all the time during the run, I kept thinking that I needed to make the pace for 12/16 miles. Ordinarily, this would probably be fine but because I knew I had to do it today, I felt a bit of pressure gnawing away at me. In the end, I think it totally put me off and I ended up (a) tense and not being able to enjoy the run and (b) I only managed to run 6 of the miles at or below my goal pace. Overall, I averaged out at 9:23 per mile which wasn’t too bad when you consider that the goal was 9:10. But, by contrast, I ran a 14 miler on Friday which I had no intention of running fast and 6 out of 14 of those fellas were below marathon pace with the average working out at 9:21 per mile. I also felt on Friday that I could have gone faster, that there was more in the tank but consciously kept telling myself to slow down and hold back as I wanted Sunday’s 16 miler to be my good run. Aye, aye, aye!!!
The breakdown: 8:59, 8:48, 9:43, 9:28, 9:30, 10:05, 10:28 (big hills!), 9:01, 8:36, 9:07, 9:44, 9:47, 9:12, 8:58, 9:37, 8:57
It may have been cumulative fatigue from the last few days, the hilly route I chose today, the torrential rain/humidity of the day, lethargy, diet or a combination of any or all of these but sometimes it’s just not your day. Today was not my day!
Physiology or psychology? Who knows. Did I whig myself out or was it just not there in my body today? I won’t get hung up on it. As a runner, my experience has been that there are good days and there are bad. You take the bad with the good, you run with them and you run them out. After that, you move on to the next week and you look forward to the good.