When you train for a marathon, you spend the vast majority of your miles running at an ‘easy pace’ that is at least 1 minute slower than your goal race pace. Why? Because you want to train your body to burn fat for fuel (instead of only carbs), and this can only happen at an easy, aerobic pace. Because running 40+ miles a week at your goal race pace is a recipe for injury and burnout. And, honestly, because that’s the way the pros do it.
I firmly believe in the “you must run slower to get faster” training philosophy. (Yes, I’ve mentioned this before. And, yes, I’ll probably mention it again.) I’ve seen it work over and over again with runners who get their PR marathon times after slowing down their training pace (but not their mileage, mind you!).
Yet, still, this morning, when the time came for our first training run that included some miles at goal marathon pace, I was nervous.
To achieve my A+ goal marathon time of 3 hours : 30 minutes, I need to maintain an 8:00-min/mile pace. I hadn’t run much faster than a 9:00 pace since my last half marathon race in March. In fact, I’ve been enjoying the slower paces so much that I added a recovery run (at ~10:30 pace) to my weekly schedule.
“Will I be able to do it?,” I thought. “How will my legs respond?” “What if my heart rate spikes beyond the point of no return?” “What if I (the coach) can’t keep up with the group?” “What if I have to adjust my goal?”
I have tons of supporters telling me I can do it. (Thanks, gang!) I have seen the training work – even for myself. But, nothing instills faith and boosts confidence like doing.
I started the run thinking that if I could maintain an 8:15-8:20 pace for 5 of our 9 miles, in this heat and humidity, then I’d be doing pretty well. After the first two easy miles, it was time to pick up the pace… Much to my surprise, it was great! I maintained an 8:00 pace for 5 miles and then “backed off” to 8:20 for the last 2 miles. (Oops!) I couldn’t help it; I’ve never been more relieved to run fast. 🙂
I had a similar experience on my bike this weekend. In a matter of a few months, I’ve gone from being the girl who was always off the back to one of the riders taking turns to pull the group at the front. And, the more comfortable I get on my bike, the less energy I’m wasting, which means I’m not completely whipped when the ride is over!
Reality Check :: Does the fact that I ran nearly 7 miles at a pace that would qualify me for Boston mean that I’m ready to do it for 26.2 miles? Does the fact that I’m riding at the front of the pack in my ‘mediocre group’ mean that I’m ready to hang with the ‘fast group’? Heck no! In fact, I’m probably still in for a few doozies, and I know that I still have some hard work ahead.
But, it did revive hope that it’s possible, and reminded me how important it is to get out there and do. Because it doesn’t matter what you may be capable of doing, if you don’t try.