The marathon is about a week out, so it’s time to put together a pacing strategy. This will be the third time I’ve run this course, so I am pretty familiar with it. Although the weather is usually good, the course is very hilly, with a miles 5 to 10 mostly uphill, followed by another 5 miles mostly downhill (elevation map). The rest of the course is full of smaller rolling hills, but it always seems like you are either going up or down a hill the entire course. Needless to say, this is not a PR type course.
The first time I ran this course in 2001, I ran a 3:16. Last year, I ran 3:24. Although I don’t have a specific time goal for next week, I do want to at least run better than last year. If I were to honestly assess myself fitness-wise, I would say I’m in shape to run between a 3:10 to 3:20 marathon. Given that this course is relatively challenging, anything close to 3:10 will be difficult.
One of the things I like about this particular marathon is the small field size, probably less than 2,000 runners. This allows me to get into a comfortable pace early on without being boxed in or having to bob and weave around other runners, which can be energy draining. There is also a half marathon that starts about an hour and a half later with about 8,000 runners, which was a bit disruptive mentally, although I don’t recall it being an issue in terms of pacing since they have the marathon lane roped off from the half marathoners.
One of the lessons learned last year was going out too fast and a having pace that was all over the place. By mile 15 I was in trouble. That is always the challenge with a hilly course, you sometimes push too hard to maintain a certain pace going uphill then run too fast on the downhills because you try to make up some of the time you lost going uphill — and it just causes havoc both mentally and physically. In these situations, I find it best to go more by feel, although still remain conscious of your average pacing time. I plan to pass the halfway point between 1:36 ~ 1:39, which would put my average pacing between 7:20 ~ 7:33 per mile. Depending upon how I feel at this point, I’ll try to average between a 7:20 ~ 7:30 per mile pace for the remainder of the marathon – hopefully, on the lower end.
They will also have pace groups available, but unless I naturally fall into a pace group for a period of time, for the most part I plan to run my own race. They will have water or sports drink stations every mile and will make sure I grab a cup at least every couple miles, but probably not every mile. I find that if I stop at every station, then I’ll have to stop three or four times at the port-a-potties, rather than just once or twice. They will also have gels available at certain stations, but I’ll bring my own gels and down one about every 40 minutes. I’ll do a little carbo-loading starting on Thursday by eating a little more pasta, rice, or some type of whole wheat but not overdo it and will try and keep the diet primarily plant based. The morning of the race, I’ll have a couple energy bars, a banana, coffee, and maybe a gel at the beginning of the race.
The race starts at 6:15 am, so will need to probably leave my house around 4:30 am. This means I’ll need to wake up around 3:30 am to get ready. So it will be very important that I sleep well this week because I won’t be able to sleep more than 7 or 8 hours the night before the race.
Other than staying hydrated and taking it as easy as I can for the rest of the week, that is basically the strategy. Although I’m probably not at the fitness level I was two years ago, I had a very good training cycle so feeling relatively confident that I’m prepared.