Marathon panic

Maybe panic is too strong a word. I’ve been seriously doubting my ability to complete the distance (well, okay, not “complete” exactly, but complete it in what is, in my mind, an acceptable time, and preferably still being able to move my legs at the end).

Last night I was at our club speed workout (fantastic club that is RVRR) and I happened to be talking to someone about my concerns. He helped me think more positively about my ability. I’m pretty fit right now (I surprised myself this week with how fast I have run the last couple of days – particularly on the track last night).

Several things he talked about intrigued me. He told me about one of his best marathon performances and how he had run the first 16 miles or so fast and then his pace dropped for the next 10 miles – he fully believes that he would not have done better if he had started slower; his theory being that he was running at his most efficient pace for those first 16 miles and doing anything other than that quite possibly would have still resulted in a similar or worse slow down towards the end. Overall he came out with one of his best times for the marathon even with some walk breaks in the last few miles.

He encouraged me to try a 15 mile run at “my most efficient pace” – I’ve got to work that out but I suspect, based on my performance at the speed workout and my running history, would probably be around 7:30 to 8:00 per mile (I’m wondering if I’m being a little conservative considering my half marathons are typically in the 7:10 range).

Maybe there is something to this theory. This past weekend I struggled through 18 miles at slower than 9 minute miles – after 13 miles I didn’t think I would make it. I’ve done longer runs this year (okay, not for a couple of months) at paces closer to 8 or 8:30 per mile and not had the same problems.

This idea does seem to fit in with some of the theories out there (and yes, I am aware that what works for one person may not work for another) – this one for example – where the idea is to run “shorter” but more intense runs.

It seems that this might be worth a try coming off a hard run this past weekend. What if I can manage a 15 mile fast run this weekend and feel better than I did this past weekend? Perhaps that is what might work for me.

Have you tried a non-conventional marathon plan? Perhaps you’ve combined the two theories with several long-ish fast runs combined with one or two longer, slower runs?

Tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Marathon panic

  1. Lianne says:

    I have used the long run distances from a Hal Higdon plan and incorporated as many races as possible, of all distances. Those races have helped me more than anything! They keep you in the zone throughout a long training plan and they keep you fresh and running fast. About 6 weeks out from Philly I ran the LBI 18 miler both years (, and essentially did what you’re going to do this weekend, but slightly longer and with aid. I ran it at my projected marathon pace and it gave me the HUGEST, MOST MASSIVE confidence boost ever. I did a little taper before the race to make it a little more realistic and took the first few miles conservatively, but it showed me what I should have trusted all along- that the training was working and I was almost ready to race 26.2. I say go for it, or look for an upcoming race not too close to your marathon and make it official. Marathon training is not a science, you’re going to rock it!

    • runnj says:

      Thanks Lianne! The races I have lined up include the Liberty Half and the Runner’s World Hat-Trick at the Festival weekend (5k, 10k, Half) – that’s 4 weeks before. I should probably try an 18 mile in there somewhere – maybe halfway between – but can’t really make another race. That one’s only 5 weeks before this year because they moved Philly which makes it 1 week before the Runner’s World weekend.

  2. dorseyml says:

    Wow! Interesting! I’m excited to read what you decide to do…

    • runnj says:

      Thanks – I will probably do a combination – try to do one 20 miler at some point, but maybe keep all the others relatively short and fast. I just think another 20 mile run will help my confidence.

  3. I’ve never ran a marathon, but I train for my half marathons by doing a lot of short, but very intense runs. I’ll do 1-2 long runs before the HM.

    I think there may be something to your friend’s advice. I don’t have a kick. I really can’t go any faster late in the race (unless I go really really slow in the beginning). If I get into a deficit early into the race, I don’t have a kick in the end to make it up. So I either need to run even splits, or do a slight positive split to bank time early on. The latter one is not popular, but it works for me.

    • runnj says:

      I did a half marathon last year where I went out fast because I felt good but faded at about 10 miles. Then I realized that I hadn’t really trained and my longer runs had only been about 10 miles. That worries me for the marathon – I’d rather know I can comfortably cover the distance I think, but that’s not a realistic aim for Philly – at least in theory it will make the second marathon easy (if there ever is one).

  4. Marianne says:

    Also, Don’t forget about nutrition. You want to make sure you are finding the right fuel for your needs. Both before the run & after the run. Maybe taking a gel every 30min is a key ingredient for you. Something like that. But, it aso requires experimentation. Some people need more at regular intervals & some less.

    • runnj says:

      Nutrition doesn’t worry me too much but hydration does. I will need to either carry a bottle, or make sure I slow way down when I take on water. Not sure whether it’s worth carrying water really. If I lose a minute every 4 miles (possibly an overestimate), that’s only 6 minutes to make sure I’m hydrated so maybe slowing way down is the way to go.

  5. I don’t worry about times so I’m not sure what to say – just wishing you the best, do the training and trust yourself to complete your goals 🙂 I read a post recently about threshold-long-threshold marathon training, here it is if you are interested:

  6. James says:

    This is unrelated to your post, but I recently ran in NJ! 😉 (I live in Ontario, Canada)

    The place I ran was near Clinton, and the trail was pretty nice. I (almost literally) ran into many deer while I was running, too.

    When is your marathon? Are you familiar with the concept of polarized training? I mentioned it in my post yesterday. Happy to elaborate if you’re curious!


    – James

    • runnj says:

      An interesting read, thanks. I’m running the Philly marathon in mid-November. I think there are so many options and differing opinions about what works simply because different things work for different people. Last week was an interesting week for me as I had a whole week of fast training – this week will be less miles and probably easier runs. I’m working on the basis of doing what feels right at the time and last night, when I would normally do a few miles, I decided not to run at all.

  7. Tom G says:

    Interesting post. It always helps me mentally to think about when I do a long run on a busy day. If you think about how much else you achieve as part of your regular life on the days when you also run, say, ten miles, you realise how much energy you will have for ‘the day’. Good luck with it.

    • runnj says:

      Thanks for stopping by. Sometimes I stop and think about how much I do now compared to when I started running (or more so, before I started running). It’s a huge difference. I had an interesting week or so following this post and I’m just finishing up writing about it.

  8. Pingback: Unusual training with a 5k at the end | Running In NJ

Leave a Reply