Want a marathon pro tip? Have a race plan. It’s the only way you’re going to live to tell the tale.
You know what I did wrong this year? I didn’t have a race plan. Unlike last year, the world intervened, making it harder for me to train at the level I did in 2008. It rained frequently and hard. I had a beautiful baby boy. I came down with a bad head cold at the end of October. Yes, I did the best I could considering the circumstances, but when I caught a cold after a few too many runs in the October rain combined with a baby who’s just learning to sleep on his own, marathon training kind of goes out the window.
What was the outcome? A completely respectable 3:35 marathon. I didn’t set the world ablaze like I did last year when I ran a heartbreaking 3:13 and just missed qualifying for Boston in my debut, but I managed to maintain my dignity and come in with a time most amateur runners would kill for. I’m not ashamed of that.
I am ashamed of how stupidly I ran. I met my friend Pat at the start. He was shooting for a 3:40 time, and that sounded reasonable to me after taking so much time off. I wish I could’ve maintained that outlook for more than a mile. I took off hell-bent for the 3:30 group just as I hit Delaware Ave. I felt good! I figured I might just uncork a decent run! I was in for a surprise.
I caught up to the 3:30 group by mile 5. I still felt great, but that’s probably because I wasn’t paying any attention to my wildly fluctuating splits. I suddenly believed that I could catch the 3:20 group by, say, mile 12. And thus ended any chance of me recovering any semblance of a race plan.
What happened from that point forward can be summed up pretty easily. I took the fly and die approach. I ran very hard right up until about mile 18, whereupon I realized how difficult the next 8 miles were going to be. Ordinarily, I run 8 miles an hour. Last Sunday, I found myself walking and jogging just to be sure I would finish the run. I learned a hard lesson.
I crossed the finish line in agony, but I finished. I also realized that the OCD level of discipline that I brought to my first marathon is a must if I’m going to achieve that sort of success again. Am I discouraged? Not at all. I’m invigorated. I’m excited to train hard this winter and I plan on entering some spring races. Bring it on!