So what exactly are my goals for Sunday’s race (other than qualifying for Boston, of course)? I realize I’ve been a little vague in these posts. Obviously, I have goals – but publicly committing to them is scary. Will the marathon gods punish me for my hubris?
Scary or not, it’s time to come clean.
I’ve defined three time goals, in ascending order of ambitiousness.
My bottom-line (C) goal is to meet my Boston qualifying time of 4:10 with enough of a cushion to ensure that my entry is accepted. (For those readers who don’t follow the intricacies of getting into the Boston Marathon, it’s no longer enough to meet one’s age- and gender-specific qualifying time. Should there be more qualifiers than available spots – as has typically been the case in recent years – the Boston Athletic Association establishes additional cut-offs. This year, for example, runners needed to post a marathon time 2 minutes and 28 seconds faster than their qualifying standard to get a spot.) A 4:07 would probably get me in, but to be safe, I’d like to run a 4:05.
Another reason to set 4:05 as my bottom-line goal: that’s what I ran last year, after a spectacular second-half meltdown. If I can’t beat that this year, I will admit defeat and move on.
My B goal is to run sub-4:00, a pace of 9:09 per mile. Having the first digit of my marathon time be a “3” is a point of pride for me. Last year, I took it for granted that I’d finish in under 4 hours. This year, I’m taking nothing for granted.
My A goal is to run 3:50 (8:46 pace). That’s two minutes faster than my first marathon, for which I was laughably undertrained, 13 years ago. It would be gratifying to see that consistent training, along with running smarts and experience, are (for the moment) outpacing my advancing age.
The icing on the cake would be to run a negative split, and to have at least one of my fastest miles come after mile 23. In 2006, when I was in the best shape of my life and ran my marathon PR, I still made stupid pacing mistakes that led to a 7-minute positive split and a painful, demoralizing slog through Central Park. (I ran the first half in 1:34:12, and the second in 1:41:20. Ouch.)
My race plan this year is to keep my pace between 8:50 and 9:00 for the first 16 miles, passing the halfway point in 1:56 and change. A couple of miles may be a bit faster than that – the downhill off the Verrazano, the stretch of 4th Avenue where Eric and friends and teammates will be waiting for me – but under no circumstances do I want to go any faster than 8:45, no matter how easy it feels. On First Avenue, after that 16-mile warm-up, I’ll try to hit 8:45 miles consistently (recognizing that they’ll no longer feel so easy). Then, in Central Park, I’m going to do my damnedest to actually race to the finish.
That would be a first for me. I don’t expect to ever run faster than my 2006 PR, but I do think I’m capable of running smarter. “Capable of running” is a long way from “running,” of course – so stay tuned.