With the Chicago Marathon now only five-weeks away I've been contemplating my goal finishing time. Things used to be simple, as in my initial marathon my sole focus was to finish. Upon completing my first glorious marathon this goal transitioned to setting a new personal record. Once I got within 20-minutes of achieving a Boston Marathon qualifying time that became my new target. Now that I've run Boston twice I'm back to targeting new personal records again - while beginning to dream of someday crossing the three hour threshold.
Frankly, I've been very fortunate, as with the help of Kenyan Way, my running friends, better training discipline, and the support of my family I've been able to continue my streak of successively setting new personal records. However, based on my recent performance, this streak is threatened. My margin has narrowed precipitously, as the Austin Marathon was only one-second faster than Houston, and Boston was tied to the second with Austin at 3:19:37. The consistency of my recent finishing times results from my having set a 7:38 target marathon pace (i.e. to match the 3:20 pacing group) at Houston and Austin. In the late stage of each marathon, knowing that I wanted to narrowly beat 3:20 I slightly stepped-up my pace in the final half mile. Boston lacks pacing teams owing to the huge field on the narrow roads east of Hopkinton, but I continued my consistent streak by managing to run at my ingrained average pace.
Any of these goal finishing times would allow me to run with a Nike sponsored pacing group, which for the Chicago Marathon are separated by 10-minute finishing time intervals. I always do better with pacing groups, since individually maintaining a constant pace across 26.2 miles requires a tremendous amount of sustained discipline and focus - which my race day adrenaline-infused brain struggles with! Simply by running with an ideally paced, but not overly ambitious, team I will avoid my traditional jack-rabbit start and my frequently varied middle distance paces. Through relaxing during the marathon by simply running with the group I will enjoy the group's camaraderie and the mutual feeling of shared accomplishment afterward. My theory is that as we enjoy doing our long-runs with others, it's only logical that we should compete in that way.
So, to the initial "What Pace?" question - time will tell! Meanwhile, as the date draws near I'll use my two favorite weather forecasting site Weather Underground and Wolfram Alpha to finalize my pacing plan.
Request: I'm continually in search for new inspirational quotes to add to my "Inspiration Quotes" page; so if you have any particularly inspirational ones which have touched you - that I don't already have listed - kindly e-mail them to me (either through a comment to this post or using the 'Contact Me' form.) Thanks!