Q: I've been doing my quarters, halves, three quarters, mile repeats for 10 years now. Man, I'm working hard and I just can't crack the three-hour marathon mark. Any advice? -MW
p.s. I did WALK a little bit during the 700-mile twelve-day Sri Chinmoy race last year. Sorry. Can you ever forgive me? After thinking about the blisters, the shin splint and all of the other agony for the past two years, I am ready to forgive myself and give it another shot next year! (2002)
A: Thanks for your inquiry. The reason it took so long to respond is Coop and I just ran the California International Marathon on December 2, and my counselor is now encouraging me to "let it out." The full Rage Race Report is up, but the short answer is that once again, I too, failed to break 3 hours, so unfortunately, I can't tell you what works. While it was never a stated goal of mine in the first place, I thought I could shoot for the low three's, put myself in a favorable position for the last 10k, and hope for the best. That, too, was not accomplished. I can make all the excuses I want (e.g. it rained 1.07 inches at the Sacramento airport, headwinds gusting up to 40 mph, etc.) blah, blah, blah, but the number was 3:17. My best is 3:09, which I have run twice. I ran two others at 3:10. In each of the four races that I have run 3:10 or better, I ran the second half faster than the first. My first one I ran was the worst a bona fide bonk at 3:25 (I "ran" the last 10k in an hour). Still want to talk to me?
I know all too well that my marathon performances do not compute when looking at my times from shorter distances. While I have some decent speed for an old guy, I can't seem to put it all together in the marathon. At Portland, I ran the last 10k in 42 once, giving me hope that I could finish strong. But I have also had a couple of others (like this year's CIM) where I crawled to the house.
I have done the Galloway thing, following his Book On Running workout plan to the letter (using the sub-3:00 program). I did 13 mile repeats, with nine of them at sub six (solo, by the way). I also ran 27 miles for my last long run (in about 3:30). Result: Walled at 22 (my first one). 60 days later, I ran the 95 CIM and met my goal (Boston qualifier), all by slowing down in the first half, and ran a 3:10, which I was delighted with (and still am). I think the reason I improved so much between these two races was because I was completed wasted for the first race and was well rested for the second (skipping on all those mile repeats).
For this last race (Dec 2), Coop and I started ramping up in early September. We did 11 runs over 1:45, with the last two at 2:45 and 3:00. On my last long run, I did the last mile in 6:50 and felt ready. In our long run "off" weeks, we did half-mile repeats, adding one additional each week, culminating in 10. I averaged 2:46 on my last set of 10. I felt like I could have run a few more, too. Result: I was walking the last couple of miles (see the Rage Race Report on the 2001 CIM).
I think the most frustrating part for me is knowing my potential (I have run a half marathon in 1:20) and not being able to deliver. For me, I think it's not as much about preparation. I think it is more how I run the first half of the race and if things come together on race day.
I am going to run more marathons, but I wouldn't trade any of my shorter distance PRs for a sub-3:00. And maybe, things will come together for me in the marathon. Hopefully, they will for you, too. - Rage
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