Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Charlotte Marathon Race Planning: Part I

Wherein I ask myself if I am ready to do what it takes to BQ.

If you've been following my blog*, you know my ultimate goal for the marathon is to qualify for Boston, which will take a 3:50:59 effort or better. That's 26 miles at an average pace of 8:48.

Here I am, 10-11 days out from my goal race, feeling confident I can run 8:48 pace, but less confident about some of the other factors that determine a good race, and wondering if Charlotte's Thunder Road course is even the right course in which to try to BQ. I'm thinking that to qualify for Boston, you need to run an ideal race on an ideal course under ideal conditions. And that's a lot of ideals.

So, what's an "ideal" marathon and what does it take to run one?

Most people agree that the perfect, or ideal, marathon is one that is run with an even pace and even effort, allows for course, terrain and weather variations throughout the race, and leaves you with an empty tank at the finish. It requires that three things be done correctly:

  1. An honest and accurate pre-race assessment of your level of conditioning and preparation.

  2. Establish a realistic goal and race plan, including consideration of race terrain and weather, that reflect the assessment of (1) above.

  3. Disciplined execution of the race plan, especially running the first half neither too fast nor too slow.

Am I ready to run an ideal marathon?

In all honesty, no. While I'm probably on target about my conditioning and preparation, I'm most likely being too aggressive in my race planning. I'm terrible at keeping an even pace under stress and/or on hills. My last marathon was back in May, and I did a terrible job following my race plan. Discipline gave way to insecurity. All in all, I've run just 3 marathons, and just one with a time goal, so I certainly lack the experience it takes to run the "ideal" marathon.

Well that was easy. So, what should my goal be?

I am fairly well trained, I think, for trying to run a sub-4:00 marathon in Charlotte. I feel confident I can do it if I race smart, eat right, don't go too hard too early, and nothing out of the ordinary happens (and that's a lot of ifs).

So, the BQ effort is off the table for now. I think it's far wiser to realize that my ultimate marathon potential is a long term project, and I won't get there with one training cycle. It takes a series of several, each moving to a higher level. If I try to jump too far, too fast I know what's likely to happen. And it ain't pretty.

* Nancy. Possibly Leopold.

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