4 minutes

4 minutes

In January my main marathon goal for the year was to break 3:20.  I didn’t know when I would do it but I knew I had three chances this year and I was going to do my best to accomplish that goal.  I felt fairly confident that this was a realistic goal for me based on my times in other racing events but with the marathon you just never know.  Anything could happen.  My previous best time was a 3:35 so breaking 3:20 would be a huge PR.  Was I being a little too ambitious trying to knock off over15 minutes?

Anytime you attempt to PR you step out of your comfort zone.  It requires a leap of faith.  Faith in your training and believing in yourself.  I remember when I pulled ahead and left the pacing group in my half marathon in Memphis this past December.  For a few minutes I battled internally.  The cautious, protective side of me wanted to stay within the safety of the pace group.  After all, how did I know I could run under a 7 minute pace for the last half of the race?  Didn’t I try to do that in Soaring Wings Half and I failed miserably?  At the St. Judes Half, taking a risk paid off.  I was able to maintain a faster pace and finish strong.  In Houston I set my goal and hoped that those 15 minutes would not be impossible.  When I saw the clock read 3:19 as I crossed the line I was so happy.  I had accomplished my goal.

During the 7 weeks between the Houston Marathon and the Little Rock Marathon I did a lot of reading on training, tapering and back to back marathons.  One of the things I read said that when you have races just a few weeks apart you should not expect a big improvement.  Basically, your body has to recover from the previous marathon and then taper for the next one.  This leaves little or no time for training for the 2nd marathon.  In my case, my second marathon was on a more difficult course than the first marathon.  Would setting a PR be realistic?  I started incorporating more hills in my training.  I pushed myself on speed days and worked in a 15K and a 10K and both races were major confidence boosters. Still, I struggled with knowing what would be a realistic pace goal for me.  Running 3:15 just seemed like the next logical goal.  I didn’t know if this would be too fast or not. I tend to ere on the side of running more conservative.  I just love finishing strong and I didn’t know if I could handle having a painful and agonizing finish…

There were times when I was running on Sunday in Little Rock when I felt amazing.  Running a 7:1X felt easy and natural.  Then there were a few miles (the ones with hills) when I struggled with keeping it under 7:45.  As I mentioned in my LR race report, the last two miles were hard.  In the end, I was able to hang with the 3:15 pace.  I fell short of going sub 3:15 by 18 seconds but I do not have a doubt in my mind that I will do it  next time.  I am proud of those 4 minutes I took off in 7 weeks.  I’m glad I had the courage to set a more ambitious goal and was not intimidated by a more difficult course.

Maybe you are like me and not sure what a realistic pace goal for yourself is.  I recommend plugging in your recent race times in the McMillan calculator and seeing what it says for your event- whether you are wanting to do a 5K or a marathon. Now, this is not an exact science.  I would also recommend trying this “race pace” out in some runs.  Does it feel like a pace you could maintain?  During the week leading up to Little Rock I had a few runs where I tried to find the 7:20’s and maintain that pace for a little while.  I knew my goal pace range was in the 7:20’s and I wanted to see how natural it felt.  Anytime I started to have doubts I told myself that I could do it.  This pace would be easy. I just talked myself into believing that this was my normal marathon race pace.

Below is a chart of my two marathons so far this year.  As mentioned, the courses were extremely different but it helps me to see them next to each other. Notice the difference between the half marathon times. To me this was a leap of faith.  If I would have held back I know I would not have met my goal.

Mile
Houston Marathon
January 2012
Little Rock Marathon
March 2012
1
7:49
7:27
2
7:34
7:12
3
7:37
7:19
4
7:38
7:16
5
7:33
7:25
6
7:34
7:26
7
7:32
7:24
8
7:30
7:22
9
7:34
7:12
10
7:33
7:17
11
7:27
7:27
12
7:36
7:17
13
7:30
7:11
HM
1:39:51
1:37:00
14
7:30
7:31
15
7:22
7:42
16
7:33
7:18
17
7:23
7:13
18
7:37
7:12
19
7:35
7:21
20
7:30
7:26
21
7:28
7:35
22
7:35
7:16
23
7:37
7:18
24
7:31
7:31
25
7:40
7:45
26
7:35
7:47
26.2
6:38 pace
7:11 pace
Time
3:19:18
3:15:17
Avg.pace
7:36
7:28

And there you have it.  I’m excited about my future marathon goals.  I’m looking forward to NYC all ready… 8 months and counting!

20 thoughts on “4 minutes

  1. You’ve made huge progress in your marathon times– congrats!! I use the McMillian calculators too. And I think you’re right, a lot of it is a mental game– if you can convince yourself that something is a your marathon “easy” pace, you can hang onto it. I can’t wait to run another marathon too, but I’m not sure my April goal will work out b/c of this ankle, and sometime soon we want to add to our family, so it might have to wait!

    1. You are right! It is SO mental! A year ago at this time I had an 8 week-old baby and was running MUCH slower. I wanted desperately to be fast but had a lot of hard lessons to learn. I would never have imagined running a 7:28 marathon pace. To be honest an 8:30-8:45 would have been pushing it. It just takes time and lots of little goals. It doesn’t always happen in our time frame. I totally understand about wanting to add to your family and trying to set realistic goals. I got back into running competitively when our third was almost one. I ran for almost a year and did the best I could but I knew in the back of my mind we were going to try for one more. It’s hard when you have a lot of momentum built up to slow down but obviously, it’s necessary. I did enjoy running through my pregnancy and it helped me set post baby goals.

  2. All I can say is that you are making incredible progress! I can’t wait to see what you can do at NYC either.
    I really love how you discuss mind over body in this. How you could talk yourself in to the MP that you wanted. The mind is a powerful tool!!

    1. Thanks Raina! I NEVER thought I would actually like racing the marathon. It’s so hard knowing when to be ambitious/ optimistic with a goal and what is more realistic. I think you just learn from experience. I am excited for your big marathon coming up SOON!!

    1. You are going to CRUSH your sub 3:20 goal- I just know it!! Look at how well you ran that 30K and that was not even on tapered legs. Plus, you will be in the best race environment ever (hello, Boston!) so you know that will help too! ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. WOW!!! I’m going to incorporate McMillian into my fall training – now that I have my base it’s time to push up the times. I’m really excited to see what I can do!!

    1. Yes, I found that my McMillan times kept changing as I kept racing. I just kept plugging in my latest race and my training times adjusted by a few seconds. It was never much at one time but it over the course of my training cycle it made a difference. I know this helped bring my time down in Little Rock.

  4. funny how I’m reading your post AFTER just printing out my new McMillian times! ๐Ÿ˜€ after today’s half it says that I can run the marathon in 3:18 (7:35 pace). I feel like I’m capable if I pace accordingly, I just hope it’s not too ambitious of a goal for me. If I set a new PR this Sunday Tia, it’ll be a really big deal to me! thanks for taking the time to write this post! You give me the confidence that I CAN do this!! the marathon is so un-predictible but, that’s what’s so alluring about it. It’s crazy when I think back to my 1st mary and said to myself…”I’m NEVER going to do this again!!” HA!! Well, I guess I was wrong!! ๐Ÿ˜€

    Thanks again Tia for inspiring & sharing with us!! You’re an incredible athlete and I’m looking forward to what lies in front of you! I hope I get to meet you in IRL in NYC!! ๐Ÿ˜€

  5. That’s such an impressive improvement in such a short space of time. I *love* McMillan’s calculator–it truly doesn’t lie.

    I’m very excited to follow along with your training as the year marches on.

    1. You are too funny! Thanks Morgan! Stress fracture and all- this year has been good to me. Very thankful to be where I am now compared to last year at this time!

  6. thank you for writing this post. I love the articulated thoughts. ๐Ÿ™‚ funny how I printed my new Mcmillan chart before reading this post. I feel that the half-mary is your best predictor for the marathon and based on “Mcmillan” I’m capable of a 3:18. knowing what you’ve been able to accomplish plants a seed within me that maybe, just maybe I CAN DO IT!! physically I feel I’m prepared I just have to mentally believe in myself that I CAN! you know?!

    YOU ran such a great, SMART race. Sometimes you just have to go for it! soo happy that you took that “leap of faith!!” the marathon can be so unpredictable, so humbling and so gratifying. I think that’s the allure for us “crazies!!” :))

    1. oops I wrote to you twice!! :)) haha! when I wrote to you the last time I thought my comment didn’t publish. Oh well! luv ya TIA!!

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