As I mentioned earlier today, there are always a lot of questions regarding goal times for big races and those standards, I have found, become deep secrets for many runners. It is quite understandable why this is the case.
PHOTO above: That’s me, yellow shirt, left, crossing the finish line at the Legs for Literacy Marathon last year with my daughters (pink and blue jackets). The chip time in my first marathon was 4:13:13. (April Cunningham photo)
First, there are a host of external concerns that are totally out of control – weather, wind, temperatures, a slightly long course, hills you did not count on seeing when you registered and others aspects that can add to your anticipated goal.
Second, and probably just as telling, is the impact of training. Did you get out enough times per week? Have you racked up enough distance in your preparation? Are you running easy courses (i.e. no hills) in training? Will you go out too fast in the first kilometre and not run the smart race? Was your goal time in training too ambitious? Did you eat properly? How is your weight? Were you sick or injured recently? Did you sleep enough?
As you can see, it is quite easy for doubts to creep in before the horn sounds.
So there are a number of reasons why many, including me, are reluctant to ‘broadcast’ anticipated times prior to the big event. Finishing healthy is a good response to goal queries, with a smile of course. And then there are the accountability questions no one really wants after a long run if you come up short, in what is a recreational setting. Generally though, I have been too conservative in my quiet goal setting, thinking there is no way I’d do better than X:XX:XX, only to surprise myself with a great result. The best example of this was the Fredericton half in 2012, when I hit 1:42:53 on the flat and fast course on a nice and cool morning when I was not too certain my training regiment was up to par after a long winter.It was a PB by almost 5 mins.
But last year, when I went to run in Moncton, after a subsequently tough 1:52:53 half marathon clocking in the humidity and hills of Saint John, I really did not have a firm marathon goal. I was thinking anywhere from 3:50-4:30. Would I even finish? Had I not hit the wall because a number of poor training factors on my part – I might have cracked 4 hours. But lessons, many of them, got registered.
I followed a familiar script in goal setting for that race though. That is, have a lot of mini targets and then, you can adjust based on the external conditions and how you feel. That day, I thought about the absolute best possible result, based on pre-race perceptions. Then the very worst. Then three goals inside of those windows. I did this in my first race about three years ago and most every one since. I just did not say them out loud.
So why all the talk about the final time here in the third week of training for the P.E.I. Marathon, an event that does not kick off until October?
Because, as the Pfitzer training logs say, every training run needs a target based on a final goal pace. Your critical long slow runs clock in 10-20 per cent slower than your anticipated marathon pace. Recovery runs are 15 per cent slower than goal pace. Tempo runs are right at half marathon pace or even 15k pace. Hills are, well, subjects of profanity.
So even before you get going in your first training run, you need that firm target.
Therefore, given last year’s race, my decent base of work in the first quarter of this year, and a manageable 22 weeks of training to get things right, I think I can break four hours. It won’t be easy. First, the goal is about 5.5 per cent faster than my last marathon. That is 13 minutes, 14 seconds faster. It will take a big improvement in a number of areas and training in that summer heat. But I am ready for that. It will also take regular hills and tempo runs. Ready for that – I hope. And just to make sure, I am training for a 3:55 marathon. That puts me at about a goal pace of 5:35 per kilometre. 4 hours is 5:41.
So there it is. Fingers crossed.