With just 2 weeks to go until the big day, I am still none the wiser as to whether I will go for sub-3 or stick to the original plan of sub-3.05 and a ‘Good For Age’ (GFA) time. For those without a calculator to hand, the difference is 11 seconds per mile – on the face of it, it doesn’t sound a lot, but over 26.2 miles running 11 seconds per mile faster is significant and likely to have me feeling considerably different at mile 20 (the point where the proverbial ‘Wall’ tends to strike).
The reason for my continued indecision is the conflicting predictions from my runs to this point. From a racing perspective, my half marathon in 1.26 predicts a 3.01 marathon finish (close enough!), whereas my recent 5K (19.07) and 10K (39.34) races predict times around the 3.05 mark. In truth, these calculators are dangerous and the best predictors are based on previous marathon training/racing experience and pacing during long runs, in particular those ran at marathon pace (MP). This is where I start to believe that running sub-3 is possible. I’ve come away from every long run achieving my target pace and the recent Fleet HM that I used as a MP race, running 5 miles before (including 1 @ MP) and then the 13.1 @ MP felt comfortable. As this was on tired legs, I finished believing that I could keep this going for the full 26.2 miles.
So here lies the dilemma. As this is likely to be my last marathon for a while, do I aim for a GFA time and achieve a recognition that I never thought was possible, or do I push myself to the absolute limit in search of the iconic sub-3 and can say that I have a 2 hour something marathon but risk blowing up big and finishing outside 3.05, something that I feel my training deserves. The other important thing to note is that 3.05 is not a given as this is marathon running after all. There are also external factors that are uncontrollable, most notably highlighted today at the many marathons across Europe where the mini heat wave made it nearly impossible (perhaps, just impossible) for people to achieve their main goal.
Ultimately, I want to enjoy the run and whatever I target will partly be based on how this will make me feel during and after the race. I have 2 weeks of relatively low mileage (32 next week and 22 in the week prior the race) and my body is definitely in need of the taper (taper being the period leading up to the marathon where you reduce your mileage to ensure that you are as fresh as possible on race day). This week was technically a taper week, but with a 10K race and 16 miles on tired legs in today’s heat it hasn’t felt too different to any of the previous weeks.
I’m going to try and relax over the next couple of weeks, but that’s unlikely – let the Maranoia begin!!