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Marathon pointers

September 17, 2009 - Erik Brown
I recently received an e-mail from a reader who is preparing for his first marathon (Chicago on October 11th) and wanted to know if I have any advice for him. I thought his question and my response would make for a good blog post…
Hey Erik!
I was checking out the Altoona Mirror’s website and I stumbled on your blog. I see you are an avid runner with a few marathons under your belt and I wanted to know if you have any pointers for a first time marathoner.
This Saturday I will run my third, and final, 20+ mile long run before the Chicago Marathon on October 11th. My last long run of 22 miles was at 9:20 pace – it felt conservative. I’m trying to set a goal for the marathon. Is there a typical pace decrease from training to race times? Would a 9:00 minute pace be too aggressive?
Wheeling, West Virginia
Hi Jim,
It sounds to me like you're pretty well prepared for Chicago.
I think most people tend to run a little faster on race day than in training. I know I do. I attribute that to adrenalin, excitement, and just plain old competitiveness.  
If I were you, I'd try to do this Saturday's long run at about 9:00 minute pace, and see how it feels. If you get through it OK, especially the last 3 or 4 miles, then I'd set my Chicago goal at breaking 4 hours.
To do that, you need to average 9:09 per mile. Exactly 9:09 per mile will have you crossing the finish line in 3:59:45. 
I'll also suggest you join or shadow the 4 hour Nike Pace Team. Click on the link for information.

In Chicago, Nike Pace Teams will be established for the following marathon finish times: 2:50, 3:00, 3:10, 3:20, 3:30, 3:40, 3:45, 3:50, 3:55, 4:00, 4:15, 4:30, 4:45, 5:00, 5:15, 5:30 and 5:45.

To join a Nike Pace Team, you must register at the Nike Pace Team booth at the Bank of America Health & Fitness Expo. Nike Pace Team Leaders will be on-site to talk about pace strategy, how to locate your group at the start line and to answer general questions about the program.

Just be sure to keep an eye on your watch as you pass the mile markers to confirm that the pace group is neither too fast, nor too slow.
Finally, be sure to refuel during your race. Personally, I like vanilla flavored PowerBar gels. I've had problems with bonking in the last 5 miles of marathons. Last year I did a 50 mile ultra and actually held up better than in some of my marathons because I was very disciplined about my refueling during the race. Consider refueling every 6 or 7 miles with something that works for you. Don't wait until you hit the wall. That will be too late! If you haven't practiced the refueling thing, try it on Saturday.
Have a great day in Chicago and run fast!
Hey ATW readers! What did I forget? Get in on the act and add a comment for Jim. He and I will both appreciate it.!

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