Marathon Goals

I have been very clear from the beginning of this whole thing that my only goal it to cross the finish line in one piece.  And that is true.  I have done everything for this race on my own, I haven’t been training for all that long, and this will be my first time even running over 20 miles, so my only focus should absolutely be finishing the race.


However.  There is now way I can go into the race without even thinking about my time goals.  Just to be clear, though, they will not be anywhere near fast.

The truth is that it’s hard for me to admit my goals out loud becuase it means that I might not achieve them.  But, alas, here I am.

As far as my pacing goes, though I have done many of my 5-6 mile runs at a sub 9:00 mile pace, all of my long runs were usually over a 10:00 mile pace.  I didn’t worry about going fast for these long runs and just went as slow as I needed to get it done.  Someday I will work on running faster for long distances, but that day will not be Sunday.

Like most people do, I decided to check McMillan’s race calculator.  I ran the NYC Half Marathon in March in 2:04, and according to McMillan, I can therfore run a full marathon in 4:21. Buuuuut I have also heard that McMillan can be a little overly ambitious, so I don’t really know how much I trust that.

This is my tentative plan: run the first 10 miles slowly, run the next 10 miles less slowly, and run the last 6.2 with whatever I got left.  My hope is that I am pushing hard when I cross the finish line, because it will mean that I gave it everything I had. But one of my worst fears is going out so fast that I am struggling to even walk to the finish line. I would love to get as close to 4:00 hours as possible, and maybe even break it at one point in the future, but I also know that I will go out too conservatively to get very close to it.

I think I will start at around a 10 minute mile pace and try to sustain it for as long as possible.  If I can pick it up and go faster, that will be great.  But I might not be able to.  If I do keep the pace, this would put my finish time at right around 4:20 (or 4:21, same as what McMillan thinks).  So anything under 4:30 would make me very happy.

There is a big part of me that wants to be more aggressive and run faster, but this is my first marathon, after all.  It could end up taking me over 5 hours for all I know.  I can’t expect too much.

I was thinking about all of these goals on my run this morning.  It was my final run (unless I go on a short 2 mile run on Saturday, but I don’t know if that will happen), and it was a very easy 3 miles.  As I ran past Engineer’s Gate, I realized how many times I have run in that exact location and how great this whole experience has been.

No matter what happens during the marathon, I am glad to have been able to train these past months and push myself to totally new places.

Here’s the thing about Sunday: I don’t know what the hell is going to happen out there.  My body could refuse to keep moving after 20 miles.  I could have a crappy day. I could have a great day. Which is why, again, my only real goal is to finish.

Because then I will get to say that I ran 26.2 miles.  Twenty six point freaking two miles.

Am I Really Ready For This?

I have recently been getting asked whether or not I feel ready for Sunday. And the answer is: yes and no.  I know for a fact that I will finish the marathon, even if I have to walk/crawl the last 2 miles 5 miles 10 miles.  But I still don’t know if I exactly feel ready for it.   In terms of physical training, I think I have prepared as well as I could have.

As I have mentioned before, I basically did all of the planning and training for this marathon on my own.  I did a lot of online research (aka googling) before deciding how I would train. All of the beginner programs have the same basic principles, so I ended up combining a few and creating one for myself.  It’s not very scientific or even specific, but it worked for me (or at least, so far so good…)

Basically, I ran about 5 days a week.  Tuesdays and Thursdays would  involve some sort of speed/tempo/hill element that I made up, Wednesday would be shorter and easy, Saturdays were long runs and Sunday was for recovery runs.  I also usually went to the gym for weights/cross training on Mondays, but those were often very half-hearted workouts, and I almost always rested on Fridays.  Sometimes I would end up taking an extra rest day on Sunday and running on Monday instead, but I didn’t stray from my normal pattern too many times.  My peak running week got up to 47.25 miles, which is low for many runners but on the higher end of the typical recommendation for a first time marathoner.  I only did a 20 miler once, something I have questioned quite a bit (and would most likely would change in the future), which was 3 weeks before the marathon and right before I started tapering.

Here is my very sophisticated and tech-savvy method of recording workouts:

This is only the last 2 months of training, but I had been building up mileage for a long time before this.  I honestly only started using these calendars to keep a record of the amount I ran.  It was easiest for me to just print out some calendars and map out when I wanted my longest runs and then form everything else around that.  Everything on there was really a general guide and I often didn’t follow my own plan very closely.

Now with all that said, I could have used a lot more time to work on my speed and to build up to the marathon a little more sensibly.  I think the truth is that there is no way I would ever go into my first marathon feeling like I am 100% prepared.  But as I said, I think this was the best I could have done in terms of training my body for a first marathon on my own.

The real question is whether or not I am ready for all the rest of it.  I have no idea how my body will react after 20 miles.  I may hit the wall.  I may get complete jello legs.  I know I will get crazy pains in new places.  I could get a little voice in my head that says I can’t do this.  And unfortunately, that’s the stuff you can’t train for.  You can work on being mentally strong and pushing through obstacles to some extent, but I really don’t think its possible to train for everything you are going to go through during 26.2 miles.

I am still in the process of forming my goals and will talk about them later, but I can tell you that they will be pretty conservative.

So once again, am I really ready for this marathon?  As ready as I will ever be, I think. Now it’s just time to trust myself and go for it.

The taper crazies

The Big Day is officially two weeks away.  As I taper down my training, I have lots of extra time to think about my goals and plans.

That also means that I have lots of extra time to panic that I won’t be able to finish.

I have heard that tapering is the hardest part of training, because your body is used to doing a lot of work and doesn’t know what to do when you suddenly decrease your mileage.  More importantly, your mind doesn’t really know what to do with this change either, hence the “taper crazies.”  I generally consider myself pretty crazy on a normal day, so I don’t exactly need any extra help to push me over the edge to full on wacko.

It’s also marathon weekend here in New York.  The whole city fills up with runners and spectators, and the support and passion around the event is really wonderful.  But it does not make it any easier to calm your crazy nerves.

Yesterday I had planned to do 12 miles for my long run.  One perk of not spending 3+ hours running is the extra flexibility I had in my schedule.  I decided to sleep in a bit more than usual (and by that I mean I woke up at 7am instead of 5:30 or 6, so it really can’t be considered sleeping in) before I headed out.

I ended up making it to the Park right when the Dash to the Finish Line was happening, which is a 5K run that ended at the Marathon finish.  I decided to stop and watch for a little while.

I didn’t know anyone running, and this was a very causal race that was really meant for fun.  But do you want to know what I did?  I teared up.  Yep, crazy.  I told you.

I was thinking about the finish line in Philadelphia and what a big accomplishment it will be, and I guess the taper crazies got to me.

Once I managed to pull myself together, I was able to finish the rest of my run.  And holy crap, the Park is beautiful.

Not too shabby.

Like usual on my long runs, I wasn’t thinking about pace at all.  I actually tried to not look at my Garmin, and I ended up being pretty consistently around a 9:30 pace.

My legs felt a little heavy, but I was able to shake that out eventually.  I also stopped once or twice or twelve times, but how can you not stop to take a picture of this?

Looks fake, right? It's not.

Today I watched the actual marathon for a bit with my friend Jackie, and I finally let myself feel excitement. I was feeling a lot of nerves also, but mainly excitement.  Running is painful and challenging, but it’s also fun.  And I have never run a marathon, but I am willing to bet that it’s pretty efffing exciting.

Fear and nerves should be expected, because it means that I have put in a lot toward this whole thing and that I care about it.  Plus, I think fear can be a good thing, because it’s only really a problem if it stops you.  You can choose to take it as energy and use it as an advantage.

Or at least, hopefully I can 🙂

So for the next two weeks, I am going to be dealing with a lot of taper crazies and LOTS of nerves, but I hope I remember to get excited sometimes too.  And I’d like to go ahead and apologize in advance to all my friends and family for dealing with me.  Like I said, I’m usually pretty crazy, so everyone should be used to it, but I’m still glad that I have some people who put up with me.

Also, I am going to really enjoy running on lots of crunchy leaves.

I hope you all get out there to enjoy some leaves also.

Running is a mental sport

Last night, my roommate Dana and I were talking about running.  She has decided to sign up for the NYC Half next spring and I am SO excited for her.

I don’t know if I am in any place to be giving advice.  I am not a super fast runner; I am not going to break any records.  The majority of my training has come from books or from random websites.

But I do know one thing for sure: running is a mental sport.  In my opinion, you can train your body to do pretty much whatever you want.  The harder challenge is to get your head on the same page.

See the thing is, running is hard.  Sometimes if feels great, but it can also hurt like hell. That’s why you have to rely on your mind to keep going, because your body is screaming to stop.

There are many, many times when I have wanted to stop when I am out there. I have just learned to eliminate the option of quitting.

I have often regretted skipping a workout.  But I have never, ever, regretting doing one. The hardest step can be getting out of the door, so I often repeat that little reminder to myself.

When it gets painful, I remind myself that it’s supposed to be painful.   If it were easy, everyone would do it.  The pain will make me stronger.

A couple years ago, I saw this commercial about excuses:

It always puts my dumb complaining in perspective.

Recently, I think about the finish line to get me through.  The bleachers have been set up for a few weeks in Central Park for the finish of the New York City Marathon on Sunday. But today on my run (7 miles, average pace 9:15), the actual finish line was installed.  Even though this isn’t the marathon I will be doing, I got goosebumps looking at it:

Thinking about crossing the finish line is all the motivation that my mind needs.

If I have to crawl across it on November 20th, I will cross the finish line.

All about November 20th

So I am running a marathon on November 20th.  This much I have said.

But I haven’t really talked about how I came to the decision to run a marathon in the first place, let alone the decision to run the Philadelphia Marathon.

The truth is, I have always wanted to run a marathon.  I grew up playing sports that involved running, and a marathon seemed like a great bucket-list type goal that I would accomplish as an adult.

Then this summer, I suddenly realized that I am an adult.  When did that happen?  I don’t know exactly, but I figured that if I don’t start accomplishing some goals, I may never even get started.

Still, a marathon is a huge goal that takes months and months of training. So, late this summer I signed up for the Philadelphia Marathon with the intention of switching my registration to the half marathon.  This way I could train for a while and see how I felt, but I knew that the half marathon would be the smart race to choose.

But then the half marathon filled up, before I ever got the chance to switch my registration. Oops.  So, suddenly, I was running a full marathon.

It took me a while to even tell anyone about this development.  I guess I was scared to say it out loud, because acknowledging it meant that I might fail.

The way I am feeling about my training progress is a whole different issue, one that I will address in another post, but for now I am at least committed to finishing this race. No matter what.

In the mean time, the race website has made it very easy for me to see exactly how many more days I have to freak out until the big day:


That is very soon.  Very. Soon.

It’s crazy that I have spent the past several months training for one day.  That seems like quite a gamble, and there are so many factors that are out of control.  Like the weather.  It was rainy on my run this morning (5.75 miles, average pace of 9:05), and I realized that I could end up running a whole marathon in the rain.  Or in the snow.

That would be fun.  Or maybe not.

So now that I have gotten myself freaked out about weather, I will leave you for the day. Stay dry out there.