The short version: I ran 2:20:58 in Toledo last weekend. The longer version…
Finding motivation to run another marathon
Heading into April, I was feeling in shape but I was struggling to get excited about running another marathon. I was questioning whether I had made any gains in fitness that were worth putting to the test over the marathon distance, I was having trouble finding a race at the right time, with people to race around my goal time, and with favourable weather. I didn’t want to run another 2:24 and considered training for the Ottawa 10K in May instead of a spring marathon, continuing to build towards a fall marathon. After a lot of back-and-forth, I finally decided that since I was healthy and had put in a solid block of training, I had to take advantage of the opportunity to race a marathon while healthy. Who knew if I would make it through my next training cycle in once piece?
I considered running the Ottawa marathon for a third time as that race was likely to have people to chase (much like STWM last fall) but it’s also been too warm both times I’ve run it. Would it be more advantageous to run with people than to have cool temperatures? There was also the fact that running Ottawa – a late May marathon – meant I’d have to keep training for another month, missing some smaller races, and increasing the risk of burnout/over-training. In the end, I decided the cooler weather of Toledo in April was more appealing. So, I pulled the trigger and signed up for the Glass City Marathon in Toledo on April 22.
Heading into the taper
I’d already run 2:28 and 2:24 so running 2:22 or 2:23 didn’t get me excited. If that was all I thought I was good for then I’d rather keep training until I thought I could make a bigger jump.
I figured with how well training had gone and how awesome race day weather was looking, I’d go for sub-2:20 even if that was a bit of a stretch. I took a conservative approach in Toronto and had endured warmer conditions the last few times so now that temperature was on my side, I wanted to go for it. I’d never had a better marathon build-up, tune-up races, and workouts so I was hopeful it would come together on race day for me.
What I pulled confidence from:
1. Mileage. I averaged 147 km/week for 16 weeks (starting at 10 hours/week and consistently increasing that by half an hour every 3 weeks). In previous cycles, I’ve averaged 129-120-110-100-73 km/week so this was a 14% increase from my fall build-up.
2. Consistency. Not only have I run the highest weekly miles yet, but I also strung together 16 weeks at that volume compared to 12 weeks and 10 weeks from my previous two marathons (where I was coming back from injury with compressed timelines). This is the first time in years that I haven’t been coming back from an extended break due to injury. This allowed me to rest for three weeks after STWM, put in 5 weeks of easy mileage before getting into 18 weeks of workouts.
3. Workouts and tune-up races. There have been plenty of workouts this cycle where the paces didn’t matter… running on snow, in the wind, feeling completely exhausted. But I’ve had several that were far-and-away better than all previous times I’ve run those workouts – despite running higher mileage this go around. Those give me confidence that once I’m rested for the goal race, I should be able to race better than before.
The race itself was pretty uneventful; just the way I like it! I found myself at the front of the race from the get-go, accompanied by two or three lead cyclists. I clicked off the miles at goal pace as the course headed west. Once on the paved university/park trail system, I was joined by a golf cart that would give warning to the traffic officer at each intersection. As we headed back east, there was a bit of a headwind and I managed to hold my pace pretty well through this section but I was perhaps working a little harder than I should’ve been.
Getting back into the park, we had a brief period where our paths crossed with some of the slower marathoners and unfortunately, the golf cart tried to clear a path for me by blaring their horn at these poor, unsuspecting runners. With no room for the golf cart to go around the runners, sometimes that meant they were leaning on the horn for a while. At one particularly crowded and curvy point of the trail, I caught up to the golf cart and because they didn’t see me, we almost had a collision! Fortunately, the golf cart sped off to wait outside of the metro park shortly after that. I felt bad for the runners who were probably surprised and a little put-off by this. I would’ve been fine following a bike or making my own way around the runners. I will pass that feedback along to the race director to think about for next year. Other than that minor gaff, the course and the support along the route were great.
Oh, and one more almost scary slip-up was when the golf cart was leading the cyclists and me trough a busy intersection. They were a bit too far ahead of me I guess as the traffic officer started allowing cars through before I got to the intersection! I was watching closely, assuming he was letting a few cars slip through before I got there but as I was about to enter the intersection he was still waving cars through! I yelled to get his attention and fortunately the car saw me and didn’t go through and I was able to keep my momentum. Close call!
Highlight of the race for me was seeing a little boy at one of the water stations, deciding to grab the cup from him, and then hearing him and all the folks around him be so excited for him! Put a smile on my face!
Over the final 10K, my pace slowed slightly and I ended up a minute slower than my goal time but, hey, it went pretty well overall.
I’m not too excited about this result. Maybe I’m a little relieved? Satisfied? I went out faster than I have before, splitting half around 1:10:00 when the fastest I’ve gone out previously was 1:11:30 so that’s progress. I managed to hold on pretty well, fading by a minute on the second half which is again a slight improvement. I didn’t hit my goal of sub-2:20 and I didn’t have a magical day where I ran a time that surprised me. So, I guess I’m just happy to have made some improvements and I’m eagerly looking forward to see where I’m at this fall! I’m happiest to have put six months of consistent training in my legs that will serve as a good foundation to build on through the summer.
Another minor takeaway from this race is the confidence that I can run my own race without people to chase or work with. That’s one thing that I was starting to struggle with when looking for goal races (hard to find races with other folks aiming for similar times unless you’re able to travel to Europe). Maybe I was starting to become too concerned about that and now I can use this confidence to know I can run my own race regardless of who else shows up.
Another exciting thing for me is that I’ve again inched closer to the IAAF qualifying mark of 2:19. Making a national or Olympic team has been a dream of mine since I started this adventure five years ago but only now does it seem like it could be a realistic possibility some day. A lot would still have to go right over the next couple years (i.e. there are at least a dozen guys who could run that time so getting one of the three spots is not guaranteed) but I don’t think it’s quite as crazy of a goal anymore.
So what’s next? Well, I’ve already applied for a fall marathon (STWM) and have my training roughly mapped out for the next 6 months (!!). In the lead-up to that, I’m hoping to get on the line at the Toronto Waterfront 10K and bust some rust there as I haven’t raced a 10K in almost two years. After that, I’ll be looking for a half marathon in mid-September (looking for suggestions!).
That’s enough rambling for now. Thanks for following along!