I am so close to qualifying for the Boston Marathon.
Next month I turn 70, so the finishing time for any marathon I run now applies to the 70-74 age group at the Boston Marathon. My Boston Qualifying (BQ) time standard for the 2019 race jumps from 4:10 to 4:25. However, unlike some of the prior years I have qualified for Boston, I now need to run faster than my BQ to assure that I will be admitted to the race field. For the 2018 race, the adjustment was 3 minutes 23 seconds faster. If that differential holds for 2019, I will have to run 4:21:37 or faster to assure acceptance.
Last March, in a less well-trained condition, I ran the B&A Trail Marathon in 4:22:27, showing that I am on the cusp of the time I need for Boston 2019 entry. Last month, I ran the Monster Mash Marathon in Dover, DE. The roads were canted and the weather got hot: I cramped in mile 21, which put any shot at a BQ time way out of reach.
I am running the 40th Anthem Richmond (VA) Marathon on Saturday for another shot. I think Richmond offers me a great chance at qualifying:
- With temperatures forecast to be 25 degrees F at the start and in the mid 30s when I finish, this race, while being cold, will be much more to my liking than the much warmer Dover race that finished in the 70s.
- Also, Richmond offers a rolling course (but less hilly than Boston or Baltimore), which I find enables me to use different muscles and to forestall the cramping that I have had on super-flat courses such as Chicago and Dover in which the same muscles are recruited for the entire race.
- RIchmond does not approach Chicago, New York or Boston in size, with 4,000 plus runners, but its scenic course and energy are sure to fuel my running, unlike the much smaller fields and unremarkable courses of my last two marathons.
Because Richmond offers me my best chance at a BQ in several years, I am approaching it as I would coach my runners to approach a key race. Here are my five rules for a great marathon, and what my preparations entail.
5 RULES FOR A GREAT MARATHON
- Know the course and plan your pacing. To get across the finish line in a time that will get me into Boston, I have researched the course, mile by mile, and created a pacing chart for a sub 4:20 finish, at an average pace of 9:54 per mile. The plan addresses how I tend to run marathons: Go out faster, slow a little in middle and slow more at the back end. (Of my 47 marathons to date, I have only run negative splits once or twice.) I plan to create a wrist band with my pacing plan printed on it so I will know what pace to try to run and how I am doing, plus or minus, for each mile. (You will find my pacing chart, showing time goals and adjustments for uphills and downhills, at the end of this post.)
- Dress for the conditions. With the cold start, I will wear a long-sleeved technical shirt and running tights over shorts as my base layer and wear an old coat or heavy shirt that I can toss after the start. It will not be so cold that I have to wear heavy socks, however, but I will start with gloves and a headband.
- Get your hydration and fueling right. An error many runners make in cold weather is not to hydrate enough. Once I get going, I will sweat and will need fluid and electrolyte replacement. The water and Powerade stops are plentiful at Richmond: I just need to be sure to "grab and go" at enough stops. I typically alternate the fluid type: I drink every 2-3 miles. As for fuel, I want to consume a gel packet every 5 miles/45 minutes. Adding a gel to consume pre-race to top off my glycogen and a spare to eat if I start to bonk late in the race means I will have seven Gu packets in my waist band.
- Warm up if you can. For a competitive marathon, a warm up helps ensure that your running is fast and fluid from the start and dissipates anxiety. I find that a mile or so of easy running and several strides (pick-ups) work well to get me going. A pre-race warm-up in the cold at Richmond is my plan - but whether I can execute this depends on how the race corrals are structured. For example, during the years that I ran my best times at Chicago and Boston it was possible to get a decent warm-up in pre-race and still get into my start corral, but now at both of these big city races security does not allow for an immediate pre-race warm up for mere mortals like me.
- Stay focused but feed off of the other runners and spectators. A big marathon can be a three-ring circus, with so much going on that is is easy to lose race focus. I find I race best if I "stay in the moment" and don't get overly distracted by the scenery, spectators and other runners. I intend to pay rapt attention to my pace, the line I am running, how I am feeling, adjusting for hills and being sure to hydrate and fuel. Yet, I also know I run my best times when I let spectator support leak into my brain and when I make a point of closing the distance to runners ahead of me and picking them off, and staying with runners who pass me for a bit, so long as they are not running way faster than I am. (I just have to be sure that these tactics don't result in me running too fast and risking burn-out before the finish line.)
So there you have it: How a marathon vet and coach prepares. Wish me luck in my chase for a Boston-qualifying entry time!
RICHMOND MARATHON 4:20 PACING CHART
|Miles 1-10: 9:30/mile average|
|3||+5 secs||9:35||28:40 / 28:40|
|4||+5 secs||9:35||38:15 / 38:15|
|5||+5 sec||9:35||47:50 / 47:50|
|6||+5 secs||9:35||57:25 / 57:25|
|7||-15 secs||9:15||66:40 / 1:06:40|
|8||+0 secs||9:30||76:10 / 1:16:10|
|9||+10 secs||9:40||85:50 / 1:25:50|
|10||+5 secs||9:35||95:25 / 1:35:25|
|Miles 11-15: 9:35/mile average|
|11||+5 secs||9:40||105:05 / 1:45:05|
|12||+15 secs||9:50||114:55 / 1:54:55|
|13||+0 secs||9:35||124:30 / 2:04:30|
|14||-15 secs||9:20||133:50 / 2:13:50|
|15||-15 secs||9:20||143:10 / 2:23:10|
|Miles 16-20: 10:10/mile average|
|16||+5 secs||10:15||153:25 / 2:33:25|
|17||+15 secs||10:25||163:50 / 2:43:50|
|18||+10 secs||10:20||174:10 / 2:54:10|
|19||-5 secs||10:05||184:15 / 3:04:15|
|20||+0 secs||10:10||194:25 / 3:14:25|
|Miles 21-26.2: 10:30/mile average|
|21||+0 secs||10:30||204:55 / 3:24:55|
|22||+0 secs||10:30||215:25 / 3:35:25|
|23||+0 secs||10:30||225:55 / 3:45:55|
|24||-5 secs||10:25||236:20 / 3:56:20|
|25||+5 secs||10:35||246:55 / 4:06:55|
|26||-10 secs||10:20||257:15 / 4:17:15|
|26.2||+0 secs||2:00||259:15 / 4:19:15|
|Total||9:54||259:15 / 4:19:15|