Staring down the Beast

So training for the Marine Corps Marathon starts on Monday.

(and no, we’re still not done writing our training plan. Thank goodness it’s a holiday week?)

This will of course be our second full marathon, Philly 2012 being the first, run just-to-finish-standing-upright in 4:17.31. Training went (mostly) great, despite a couple twisted ankles (one for myself and one for my man, at different points in training), but despite a very promising second 20-miler clocked at sub-4 hour pace, the last 10K of the marathon itself absolutely destroyed us.

I’m very much a goal-oriented person, and lately I’ve been shattering one goal after another. 5K PR – obliterated. 10K PR – crushed, and more than once. Half-marathon? I’ve taken more than 20 minutes off my time between November 2010 and May 2013.

But the marathon is a beast. The great thing about long distance is that a few seconds faster on average pace spells an ENORMOUS leap in overall time, due to the sheer number of miles. But the opposite is also true.

My poor guy had a heckuva time during the entire marathon – sometimes you walk into race day just not at the top of your game mentally. The semester/month/school/life was kicking his butt and by five miles in or so, he admitted he wasn’t feeling it. It happens. He claims I would have given 4:10 or faster a run for its money had I left him behind (which I would never do – we promised each other we’d stick together for our first attempt at the distance. We did the same for our first half-marathon). But the thing is, I’m not really sure that’s true. I think encouraging him and keeping an eye on him those last 7 or so miles really helped to distract my brain from the sheer agony I was in. Not that I didn’t feel the pain, mind you. I don’t think I have ever been in that much pain running, where every step feels like your legs are going to give out, your muscles feel like they’re eating themselves, and you’re trying to pump your arms more to encourage your legs to keep making forward progress.

Some of you may be familiar with the McMillan Running Calculator. If not, I encourage you to check it out. It allows you to input a recent race time and a race goal. Then it spits out suggestions for your goal training paces, under two categories: speedster and endurance monster. I think, even though I love long distance, I actually fall in the former category. Now, I am NOT fast. I know I’ve been getting faster, and it’s all relative – a 10:00 tempo run pace is just as impressive to some as a 7:00 one, especially depending on who you ask – but it’s really about what distances you excel at when it comes to your personal top speeds. My long distance (namely, the half) has been doing a lot of catching up, but the idea of cranking out a truly hard pace over 13.1 miles still scares me. Suffer for 6.2 or 3.1? Okay, I can live with that. Hence the disparity in my PRs: 1:49, 46:39, and 22:20, respectively (adjusted the 5K since my “PR” was on a short course and that WOULD have been my finish time had it been long enough).

This makes goal-setting for MCM REALLY difficult. For example, I input my half-marathon PR and it spits out that I can do 3:50 full. But when I input my 10K and 5K PRs? It says I can do around 3:37-3:38.

LOL, guys.

Even the 3:50, the more “conservative” of the three, is still a 27-minute PR.

So what the hell goal do I set? How can I stare directly into the jaws of the lion, for the second time, thinking I can book 8:xx miles for all 26.2? So much can happen in that many hours on the road – not to mention the 16 weeks of training that lead up to it.

So, for lack of a better idea, here’s my current strategy:


A(+) goal: 3:59.59 or faster

B goal: 4:09.59 or faster

C goal: PR

D goal…?: Finish with some dignity, and a smile. And have fun!

Training paces:

I won’t be boring and detail them all out for you, but I am ramping things up a bit, making my speedwork/tempos more in line with how fast my 10K/5K times have gotten, and trying to edge those down more. As far as half-marathon pace miles (since Air Force is about a month out from the marathon), I’ll be gunning for 8:00-8:15 to try to land somewhere around 1:45-1:47 for the half. Marathon pace? Well, 9:09 breaks 4:00, but I’ll probably try for 8:45 to push it a bit. We shall see!

More than likely, as training progresses I’ll be adjusting these goals – possibly making them more aggressive, maybe making them a little looser. My #1 goal is still to have fun and enjoy every mile – MCM is legendary, and the setting is supposed to be amazingly inspirational. I don’t want to forget to soak up the sights, sounds, and other runners in this race because I’m so focused on pacing and goals. What’s the point ? Plus, we’re staying with friends, and hopefully running/bumping into others, which will make for an awesome weekend.

But 16 weeks from Sunday, we’ll be toeing the line. So no matter what – it’s “bring it on” time.

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I'm a 35-year-old writer and runner. This is my running blog.

3 thoughts on “Staring down the Beast

  1. I look forward to following along with your plan #2. Considering my first full training didn’t go entirely by book, and I am eye-balling Full #2 in January, I’m already thinking about things I need to ensure I do, don’t do, and the goals I set.

    Y’all got this!

  2. Thanks, girl! I’ll try to be as transparent about it as possible, then! And post a helluva lot more often than I did the first time around. 😛 (having a nice blog look is making me more gung-ho to post, hehe) I’m still trying to figure out this whole “training for 26.2 miles thing” but hopefully this time around we’ll be able to train harder AND smarter. 🙂

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