With the Chevron City to Surf Marathon now less than 4 weeks away it is time to start to dial in a predicted finish time. Normally I’m pretty accurate with my predictions as with the experience of 59 marathon (or longer) finishes I know the distance well enough. Of course its not to say each one doesn’t hurt and I’d be kidding you if I said they got easier the more you do but with experience does come wisdom.
This marathon though is different, I am coming off the biggest break in the last 7 years and, truth be told, am not 100% sure how this will affect my finishing time, albeit how much slower than the last time I ran this course last year where I ran a 2:41:41 for 5th place. There is no way I am in that form after such a long lay-off but I certainly feel the old cardio fitness returning. I have Mark L. looking at sub3 (his first of many I predict, if he can stay away from triathlons!) , Mark C. looking good for a sub 2:55 (minimum) and Jon, the wild card , probably closer to 2:50. Who do I choose to run with as when you make your decision it will be near impossible to change as you won’t know until around the 32k mark (when you come out of Kings Park) if you have made the right decision. Leave Kings park ‘full of beans’ and you probably went out too slow, ‘stagger‘ out of Kings Park and you went out too fast, logical really.
So how can you decide on a goal marathon pace without experience to guide you. There are several websites that offer good predictor times using race distance from 5k up to the near race distance. Anything under 5k and you’d be hard to predict a marathon time and even 5k is probably a tad short IMHO. (Note, Mike K. use to predict his marathon time on metres rather then kilometres but he is a special case, in every sense of the work. )
The best, in my opinion, is the McMillan Running website ( https://www.mcmillanrunning.com/ ) In the example below I typed in my last 10k time of 35:12 (ground zero for my calf tear , in April) and put in a predicted 2:39:59 marathon finish. The resulting table shows my current numbers in the left column, as predicted by my last 10k time , the numbers I’d need to run in the right column to hit my sub 2:40 goal. As you can see they don’t marry up showing running a 35:12 is not going to be enough, probably, to hit a sub 2:40 marathon time. This is a fair call.
Looking at the times needed to run a 2:39:59 I have the 1/2 marathon time covered (my PB is 1:15) but not the 10 Miles (57mins. required, my PB is just over 58mins.) , the 10k (34:06 while my best is 34:18) or 5k ( 16:25 while I have ran 16:40). Admittedly I’m close but all these near misses probably add up. (the 50km time of 3:14 is way quicker than I’ve ran a 50k , currently!) So it looks like the McMillan calculator has got my number, literally, and in my current form (or even when I was running well at the end of last year) I was always doomed to fail.
Of course what the calculator does miss is the ‘run of your life’ type races. When these happen all tables are thrown out the window and you get to rewrite the record books. This happened last year at the Fremantle half when I was in the middle of a hard training block for the World Masters which involved a massive increase in weekly distance and many races. I remember sitting in the car before the start of the race hoping I wouldn’t embarrass myself after racing a 10k the previous week and a massive weekly training total. The conditions weren’t that good either with a strong wind. I even turned up late to the start and made it by about 2 seconds, everything was going wrong. When the race started I decided I’d run with the leaders until I couldn’t hang on and then gradually work my way back to the pack and chalk up the race as a nice training run with a medal at the end. The first 10k was painful but I hung on and even managed to get to halfway with the lead group. It got better within the next 5k when my friend Ross decided he had enough and it left myself and two others in the leading group. Now both these two runners were better runners than me but both seemed to be off their game, to such an extent that at 18k I found myself leading and actually feeling comfortable (well as comfortable as you can be 18k into a 21k race.) Anyhow a kilometer later both the other runners in the group suddenly realised they were in a race and I was dropped back to third place, which would be where I would finish. (Truth be told I was distracted at the time practicing my winners speech in my head.) The placing wasn’t important though as I managed to run 1:15 dead. A massive PB when, less than 90 minutes earlier, I had to making all sort of excuses to justify the bad run I was about to have.
There really was no rhyme or reason why I ran a PB on that day and I still don’t really understand what happened but when a ‘run of your life’ happens just go with it, don’t hold back or ask questions just enjoy the moment and cherish the time you are in ‘the zone’ . These runs are few and far between , otherwise they’d become the norm, and how or why they happen is a mystery. I was tired, over trained and mentally ready for failure before the start of the race but something magical occurred and I managed to run a time I doubt I will ever threaten. My only regret on the day is a rookie error of checking my watch as I crossed the line rather than smiling like a Cheshire cat at what will probably be my fastest ever half finish, luckily of course I have photoshop trickery, so this can be ‘amended’ to show my true emotion at a later date. (I may even adjust the time, what is the current half world record I wonder ?)
Although runners have less opportunities to increase pace without actually putting in the hard yards…