Your Marathon Recap
Just this past weekend I watched another Rocket City Marathon start and finish. It was a cloudy and very mild day with temperatures staying around 65-68 degrees. It was great for volunteers and spectators but a little mild for the runners. I saw a lot of happy runners and some not so happy coming across the finish line. If you finished Rocket City Marathon this past Saturday or any marathon for that matter, you should always recap you recent performance.
I am a firm believer that when it comes to running marathons, one should respect the distance. What I mean by respecting the marathon is this. Don’t just sign up and run a marathon, make plans. Training plans, several months of training in order to have your best and most pleasant performance. Running marathons requires being patient, not only in training but in running the race itself. When I looked at this year’s race results from Rocket City, I noticed a common factor in most of the marathon finishers. Most ran the race the wrong way.
How could I possibly say most ran the marathon the wrong way? Running marathons is all about pacing, running an even pace. I took a section of more than 100 runners in the race results and checked their first and second halves of the race. Would you believe that only 4% of the runners were able to run an even or negative split? I knew the number would be low but 4%? Wow, 96% slowed down the second half. Why do you suppose this is? Were most of the marathoners undertrained? Was the second half of the course much harder than the first? Did most run the first half too fast? My answer is the third reason; most runners run the first half too fast. It does not matter how much you train or how hard the second half is, if you run the first half too fast, you will certainly slow down on the second half of the race. The general rule is for every 1:00 you run the first half of the race too fast; you will lose 2:00 on the second half.
I have run 254 marathons/ultra- marathons to date. I have a lot of experience and data that I have reviewed and studied for several years. When runners ask me how they should run their marathon, I always tell them the same thing. Run your first mile 15-25 seconds slower than your goal pace. That’s right, slower than goal pace. I don’t understand, maybe it’s the adrenaline and excitement of the race, but most just can’t seem to do this. They say “I can’t run that slowly.” Oh but they can the second half! The first 6-7 miles of the marathon is merely a warm up, gradually working your way down to goal pace. Most seem to be “racing” the first 6-7 miles. Remember what I said about being patient? Once you have reached 8 miles, you should be in the race pace zone. The first 13.1 miles should be very easy. You should be comfortable and enjoying the race up to this point and itching to start “racing.”
When you start your marathon wisely and you are patient, waiting for the second half of the race to begin is the way to go. It’s like, wait…wait…wait, 13.1 miles in, go! The chit chat with fellow runners is over. I always look at the folks around me at 13.1 and say “vacation is over, time to work.” Focus on pace and running the second half of the marathon with authority. You will feel like you are running so much faster than you did in the beginning but the reality is you will most likely just be maintaining the pace of the first half. Here is the fun part. Remember the 96% that went out too fast? You will be in the 4% that is passing runners for the entire second half of the race, talk about a runner’s high!
I have already talked to several runners about their Rocket City Marathon race. I tell them this. Take out a piece of paper. Write down what your first mile split was, next to that, your average pace. Write down your first 13.1 mile split, next to that, your second 13.1 miles. It takes about 2 seconds to see if you ran the race properly. It is easy to see if you ran up to your potential performance. It also explains whether or not you felt like a grizzly bear jumped on your back for the last 6 miles!
I feel like every runner should do their own personal recap of their marathons. It is a great way to learn how to perform better and how to feel better about your race. Sometimes it does not matter what we do. No matter how many miles we train, no matter how smart we started the race. Sometimes it’s just not our day. When you run marathons, there will be good days and bad days.
If you really want to be serious about your recap, take it a step further. Check every mile split you ran for the entire 26 miles. Review your training logs. I typically like to keep a record of every months training with total miles for each month, average miles per day and average miles per week. If you don’t log this stuff you want know and you want learn what works best for you. Keeping a log is also reality. A lot of runners actually train a lot less than they think they do. Log it, make sure you know exactly.
I am like most runners. I like to think about the glory days. The older I get, the faster I was. I think back to my personal best marathon recap. It was the Rocket City Marathon in 1999. My training had gone well, lots of successful tempo runs and some fast shorter races leading up to the race. No days off training. I was smart. I resisted the temptation to go too fast. My goal pace before the race was 6:15 pace. It was realistic and what I needed for a PR. I hit the first mile in 6:30, then 6:19, 6:17, 6:15, the pace felt extremely easy. At 7 miles I felt completely warmed up. I was having “one of those days” from 8-23 miles all of my miles were under 6:00, ahead of goal pace, 15 straight under 6 with the 21st mile at 5:47, the fastest one of the day. At 22 miles I started to slow, 6:01, 6:07, 6:15 and my final mile was 6:30. I was a little disappointed believe it or not. It was mainly because I slowed down the last few miles. Then I did my recap.
First mile: 6:30
Ave mile pace: 6:07
First 13.1 miles: 1:20:25
Second 13.1 miles: 1:20:20
Overall Time 2:40:45 (PR by 4:45)
My conclusion was that I had run the perfect race to the best of my ability. I had concluded that the reason I had slowed down the last few miles was simply because I had used every ounce of energy I had up, I left nothing on the course. I could not have run the race one second faster. It was also a PR by a big margin.
Do your marathon recap. Figure out how you are going to train and race your next marathon. Be proud that you finished your race but never stop learning how you can perform better, feel better and continue running happily into the future.