It’s been decided! I will continue my marathon comeback with the Chicago Marathon. The race has a fast course, employs pacemakers for the masses, and - to top things off - Chicago is well worth a visit. For now, the only challenge will be getting in on February 19…
Statistics can serve as a source of motivation. That is, as long as they are in your favor and point in the right direction. So, I spent some time with the Marathon Austria database to see how my current marathon PR stacks up with other Austrian runners. The site holds the most comprehensive collection of marathon results of Austrian citizens, dating back to the 1960s.
One of the possible dimensions to evaluate your personal finish times is the all-time Austrian ranking of marathon runs. My marathon debut of 2009, a sub-4 completed in 3:58:47, is ranked number 107,819 amongst all recorded marathon runs, 61.6% of all recorded runs were completed in a faster time. That is a respectable position. However, it does not come close to the 50% mark, a time of 3:49:05.
With my New York finish time of 3:37:29, I managed to leave the second half behind. Still, a substantial 37.1% of faster times remained ahead of me. The difference between Dubai 2009 and New York 2009 in terms of ranking is astounding - a mere 21 minutes and 18 seconds account for 24.5% of all results. Then again, considering the bell curve the result distribution roughly resembles, that should not come as a surprise. While targeting a sub-4 was doable with low-mileage training, 3:37 did require a more substantial time investment that not everyone is willing or able to commit to.
With the most recent race, Dubai 2013, the finish time of 3:20:40 reduced the leading pack to 19.6%, which still represents 34,341 or less than one fifth of all performances remaining in front of me. So, I’m down from 61.6% to 19.6% in the national marathon competition. Even though there are still quite a lot of times ahead of me, these numbers spur motivation to continue the quest for faster marathons. I’m not particularly talented when it comes to running. Before taking up running, I’ve never really been involved in sports of any kind unless you count taking out the trash. In my opinion, it comes down to putting in the work required for a specific goal. For Dubai 2013, the first training week involved 80 kilometers of running in around 7 hours, the peak training week covered a distance of 121.47 kilometers in 11.5 hours.
I love challenges! That’s what’s driving me, that’s what keeps me interested. Needless to say, I will attempt to further reduce the percentage. The next long-term goal is breaking the 3-hour barrier which would reset the percentage to 6.5% or 11,320 out of 175,275 marathon runs. This figure alone speaks volumes about the difficulty of reaching that very goal, though. It will take an uncompromising commitment to complete the training. Frankly, it will certainly take a healthy bit of insanity. Well, let’s just say, the challenge has come to the right place ;) I’m ready for it!
What would it take to go even further? The next milestone statistics are as follows: 2.5% below 2:49:59, 0.79% below 2:39:59, 0.17% below 2:29:59. I’m not going to worry about these numbers because they’re hopelessly out-of-reach anyway. However, I do think that I can finish a marathon in a time that only 6.5% have managed to break. After all, believing is the first step in successfully pursuing and reaching a goal.
The restart is over. 3:20:40 is the outcome. An unexpected and reassuring outcome. An outcome that convinced me that this can go much further as long as I can keep up my investment and my commitment to set goals. The marathon remains the primary distance of interest. I’d like to see when I’ll hit the wall - not during the race, that happened all too often anyway - in terms of not being able to make progress anymore due to reaching my personal limits.
Throughout the next months and years, my goal will be putting the leading number two in my marathon finish time - I intend to go below the 3-hour barrier.
Will it be in the cards for me? I can’t say I’m sure of it but I’ll give it a hell of a try - if you’re curious how my latest endeavor plays out, please keep following…
Dubai Marathon 2013 - 03:20:40 (PR)
From 42k to zero to 42k. Back in the game :-]
What keeps you going in the late stages of a running event? For me, most motivational one-liners never worked as they should have when recited in my mind during a rough patch. This time around, during training for the Dubai marathon, I finally found one that really clicks and is powerful enough to turn things around - “make it count”.
These three words represent a compressed account of your training, your investment in an event and your desire to give it your all to make sure that your efforts are not wasted.
In decompressed form, it reveals exactly the right facts to reconsider slowing down:
- Do not throw away the time and energy you invested in the ketogenic diet to bring your weight down from 82kg to 69kg in a matter of 9 weeks, just for the marathon.
- Remember the grueling long runs you did on keto, every one of them feeling like the last 10 kilometers of a marathon.
- Remind yourself of the numerous morning runs right before work.
- You did not invest time in finding the right training plan to run a disappointing race.
- A cold and foot tendonitis did not manage to stop your training, so it’s time to deliver.
- Three pairs of the Adidas adiZero Adios were needed to get you to the starting line.
- Keep in mind that the lactate threshold test results showed a massive improvement after the 12-week marathon training and predicted a massive PR.
- At times, you had to choose between going to bed or completing the plan by heading out for a run at 2:00am and you chose progress.
- Every one of the 32k long runs felt like child’s play and allowed for a fast finish.
- You actually ran the highest mileage in your life with a maximum of 121.47 kilometers per week, without an issue.
This is not the time for excuses, it’s time to make it count!
Choosing a realistic race pace is all other than straightforward. The pace should be low enough to ensure that the race can be finished. However, the pace should also represent the maximum effort possible for the given event so that the investment was not wasted.
Previously, I used test races (10k and half-marathon) to determine realistic goals for the marathon. This time around, I completed two lactate tests - one before specific marathon training, one before the race. The results should serve as a guide for pinpointing the goal pace. I look forward to being able to judge this alternative route based on the actual results on Friday. On paper, this will be a suspense-packed race in the Emirate of Dubai…
Week 9 of 12 is done. The plan called for 115 kilometers comprised of runs at easy pace, strength intervals, a tempo run, and a 32k long run - 7 sessions in total. I’ve never been running more weekly mileage in my life and, despite my initial reservations regarding high mileage (actually, I thought it was kind of insane to go that high), 115k felt very manageable. Even the long run at the end of the week was not an issue at all.
Starting this week, mileage is slowly going down again. The Dubai marathon is three weeks away and appropriate rest is key to maximum performance on race day. Unless injury or illness strike back, this could actually work out…
My choice of routes is pretty predictable most of the time. It makes things simple and I really don’t mind the lack of variety. In fact, that might be a good thing considering the Dubai marathon route is relatively uneventful.
So, I decided to mix things up a little by targeting a new one-way route for this week’s long run: Hacking to Linz - 32 kilometers. Hacking is a small town in Upper Austria that attracted my attention while preparing the run using Google Earth.
The long run turned out nicely, although I headed the wrong way several times during the session. In some cases, it’s difficult to judge from satellite images whether or not a given path is free from obstacles. A fence that was in my way called for improvisation and the run quickly turned into a trail run and the usually light adiZero racing flats collected plenty of mud along the way. Running a new route in the dark definitely makes things more interesting :) Still, my Garmin Forerunner did a nice job of bringing me back on course.
If I manage to feel as strong during the marathon as I did today during the last few kilometers, I’ll have a good chance of achieving the best possible result. We’ll see in 19 days…
The run: Hacking to Linz (32k)
My “planning tool” of choice for weekly mileage targets :) Simple, yet efficient. Does that look familiar?