"Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great"
I've thought about what I would say in this post for a long time, 16 weeks to be exact. I started this training cycle with a pretty clear goal. My current marathon PR is 4:40 and I wanted to break 4:30. But as the weeks went by and I started running with CAR, it became obvious that I could go a lot faster. The question was, how much faster?
I realized several weeks ago that my legs and fitness level were not going to be what held me back in this race, it was my mind. It's hard to go from thinking that certain paces are faster than I will ever run to accepting that I can run said pace for 26.2 miles. I have also blown up in a marathon that I started way too fast, so getting to a place where I view these new times as safe (even conservative) starting points has even more challenging.
I've been vague over the last few weeks when asked about my goals for this race. I wasn't sure what I was comfortable shooting for and, on top of that, what I was willing to admit I was shooting for. Did I want to admit to a goal time that I find intimidating and that will push me to my limit? A goal that I wasn't even confident I could meet? Or did I want to be more conservative and shoot for a large PR while still being slightly conservative and reducing my potential for crashing and burning in the final miles?
I've been lucky to train for this race with a great group of people, many of whom have expressed confidence in my abilities and potential long before I was willing to listen. Even after I stopped dismissing them as crazy and started seriously considered what I could do in this race, I still had a lot of doubts. It was not until this week that the "top secret goal" became MY goal. That is to say, it became my goal for this race. It's always been a long term goal of mine (one that often seemed like a pipe dream), but I never thought I would be chasing this time so soon.
While the time is obviously important, I am really more concerned with executing a strong, smart race. To that end, I have a couple of goals for how I want to run.
1. Conservative start with a controlled but strong first half - My history is to start too fast in races because a pace feels comfortable at the time, even when it is faster than I planned. If I blow up in this race it is not going to be because I started too fast, it will be because I went for it in the second half. And I'm okay with that risk. I'm going to push as hard as I can and not hold back.
2. Avoid focusing too much of time/pace/splits - After the initial miles when I want to be conservative, I know that my biggest mental challenge will avoiding freaking out when I see a pace on my watch that I think I shouldn't be running in a marathon. I don't want my mind to stop my legs from running what they are capable of running. So my plan is to "just run" as much as possible and only check my watch periodically.
3. Go for it in the second half, no regrets - As I said in the first point, if I struggle at the end of this race, I want it to be because gave it all I had in the second half. I don't want to finish the race thinking that I have energy left or that I should have picked up the pace earlier.
And now for my time goals.
A - sub 4:00
Based on my training and my recent races, I think this is totally achievable in this race. I'm not saying it will be easy, but if run the way I am capable of running, I can do this.
B - sub 4:15
The average pace for all three of my 20 milers was right around or under 9:50 pace. This works out to a 4:17 marathon. It would also be a 25 minute PR, which would make me very happy.
C - new PR
I'd like to think that even if I struggle in this race, I can still come in under 4:40 (10:40 pace). I hope it doesn't come to this, but a PR is a PR.
So, there it is. I've worked harder than I ever have this training cycle and I'm going to run harder than I ever have in a marathon on Sunday. At this point all I have left to do is trust my training and run.
I won't lie and say that I don't have any doubts and that the pacing required for sub 4 doesn't scare me. This is why the quote at the top of this post really spoke to me when Emily shared it on Twitter yesterday. I know I could run a good marathon and easily beat my current PR by a large margin. But I won't know how great of a marathon I can run if I don't leave the safety of my comfort zone behind. I might fail spectacularly, but I am going to give it everything I have.
I've signed up for updates to be posted to both Twitter and Facebook, so if you're interested you can follow along. I'm bib #12241 if you prefer to head directly to the Philadelphia Marathon web site.