This year will be my 2nd running of the Richmond Marathon in 2 years. My first running of this marathon last year became something of an enigma to me and in the back of my mind almost everyday since I've felt a calling to come back and make a more definitive statement about what I'm capable of at this distance. Last year's running of the Richmond Marathon was certainly an accomplishment to be proud of with a 3:35:30 finish time, but I have never really gotten over what happened to me at about mile 19-20. I was holding my own with the 3:20 pace team and then I just stopped digging. My feet had been hurting, my speeds had dropped from the 7 min/mile paces into the 8's, and mentally I gave in to fatigue and ended up walking about half of the last 6 miles. For my own peace of mind I have to come back..., and finish strong!
Now the nature of marathon training is a bit different than with shorter events in that typical training routines only take you up to 4/5ths of the distance being trained for. (That would be a peak 20 mile training run for a 26.2 mile event). Whereas most other shorter distances, say a 13.1 mile half marathon, typically call for weekly long runs in excess of the distance being trained for such as 14-16 miles. A few mathematical calculations and the truth becomes almost evident...I didn't respect the distance and I didn't anticipate for it very well.
This year I have tried to take a more disciplined approach to my training without following a prescription training plan. Part of the appeal of running for me is designing my own training plans in a way that combines fun, hard work, variety, and challenges. Last year my training and the race itself were basically just following the "run the distance as fast as you can" technique. This has worked remarkably well for me overall in that I typically finish street races in the top 10 or at least in the top 10%. This technique didn't work so well at the 26.2 mile distance, so I've made some changes this year.
Each week typically has 4 running days with a tempo day, an interval day, a recovery day and a long run day. During the first 8 weeks of the 16 week plan I also cross trained with roughly 40-80 miles of cycling over the 2 days that I didn't run and about a mile of swimming after the recovery run. After 8 weeks of that I started seeing a decrease in running performance, so I dropped the cycling down to once a week for short mileage and added more swimming and resting and that seems to have helped get my results back on par with my expectations.
Also,this year I'm maxing out my training with a 50 mile week as opposed to a 40(ish) mile week last year, I'm focusing more on pacing in the low 7's and less on maintaining my low 6's 5k pace, and as I write this paragraph (during week 13 of training) my intention will be to taper with a lot more emphasis on maintaining intensity as I decrease my mileage base.
Too many variables make statistical predictions somewhat less than accurate, however here are some number patterns I'm seeing based on the first 13 weeks stats. A) Last years fastest 20 miler was done with a pace of 8:32 and I finished the marathon with a pace of 8:13, using a mathematical ratio with this years best 20 miler pace of 7:36 we get 8:32/8:13=7:36/x, where solving the equation would make x=7:19. This statistical comparison would indicate that I will finish with a time of 3 hours 11 min which is 4 minutes faster than 2013 Boston Qualifying and 9 minutes faster than 2012 Boston Qualifying.
The above ratio however does not take into consideration differences in last years 20 miler elevation profile and this years which was an easier route. Last years 20 miler had roughly 3x the elevation change that Richmond has and this years best 20 miler had about 1/4 as much. Now my elevation change handicap is roughly a loss of 15 seconds per mile for every 1000 foot of elevation change over a 20 mile distance. Factoring the elevation handicap into the above equation we get 8:32/8:13=7:51/x where x solves to equal a pace of 7:33 which is 6 seconds per mile slower than the 2013 Boston Qualifying pace of 7:27, but still 4 seconds per mile faster than 2012 Boston Qualifying. This number is also strikingly close to my 2nd best 20 miler pace of 7:58 when you consider that it had 2.5 x the elevation change of Richmond AND I held way back on the downhills.
What about heart? You can't measure that statistically, or experience either for that matter. Knowing what to expect is invaluable and knowing my determination and aptitude for focusing on a given task I think I'm going to call my race day finish time in at 3:10 for a perfect race, 3:18 probable and 3:25 for a good bet.
In summary...beating last years 3:35 and getting a PR is likely barring unforeseen circumstance. Qualifying for the 2012 Boston Marathon, which is already full, with a 3:20 or better is a 50/50 shot, and Qualify for 2013 Boston with a 3:15 or better is a statistical long shot, but within the realm of possibility.
Did I mention I love statistics and number crunching? This is fun for me...lol