We grossly underestimate the power of running our own race.
Too often, we are consumed with the desire to do more than we are trained for that we end up running way worse times than we should be running.
Paige’s performance at the 2015 Boston Marathon proved my point exactly. Let’s take a look at why.
Paige and I started working together in January, 2015. Paige was coming off of the Chicago Marathon. She ran okay, but she was dealing with a pesky leg/knee injury that wouldn’t quit. She was running Boston for Dana Farber, so, there was no option but to compete! She told me she could deal with the pain, but my concern was the lack of improvement over the first few weeks of training.
We shifted the focus to weeks of dedicated physical therapy and hours of work on the bike. Her training included running, longer, harder sessions on the bike and a strong focus on strength and PT work. Running itself took a back seat.
After seeing slow improvement and getting a blessing from her PT, we slowly got back into running. For her overall training, we made the following changes:
1) Bike for tempo and distance – Her bike sessions mimicked tempo work and she rode long on the weekend on Saturday, and ran on Sunday.
2) No running two days in a row – One week we attempted to run back-to-back and that didn’t turn out well. So, we nixed it.We kept all runs isolated.
3) Focus on PT – she kept up PT appointments and practiced her exercises on a regular schedule without my prompting. This was HUGE.
4) Massage – On recovery weeks, she sought out massage and second opinions on her leg and course of treatment. She even drove home to see a doctor to gather his opinion.
Paige was able to get in a 16 mile run prior to the race, and she stayed consistent with her weekday efforts. I was confident of her ability to finish Boston in good shape, both mentally and physically.
Laying out the plan
On Sunday, Paige and I talked to plan our her race plan. I made a two key points during our talk.
1) Her dedication to training was key to her current state of fitness – Coming off an injury is never easy, but she was absolutely 100% in the best shape she could be in at that moment given the current situation. This is VERY important to remember. Would she have been more fit with our her knee problem? Absolutely. But, there isn’t room for should or could. All there is room for is the present.
2) She was ready – After an injury, it’s easy to think you aren’t ready. Mostly, that’s our shitty ego talking, telling us that we could be better, that we aren’t ready and that we shouldn’t go for it. Bullshit. She was ready to take on the course.
The last part of our talk revolved around execution of her perfect race.
Miles 1-5 – Hold back. Take the hills nice and easy, don’t slow down or break. Run easy and behind pace. Be patient.
Miles 5-15 – continue to hold back, but let the course start to flatten out and begin to roll with it. During these miles, throw in some 60-90 second surges to freshen up the legs and shake out some of the pent up energy from holding back.
Miles 15-21 – Conquer the hills. If she ran the first 15 miles well, the Newton Hills wouldn’t be an issue. Keep the effort steady, let her HR come down on the flats and downhills.
Mile 21-26.2 – Make her race. The rest of the race dictates this last section. If she had extra energy, speed up and finish strong.
The good thing about Paige is she is an analytical thinker. I could hear the pen taking notes as we were on the phone, and she kept asking for clarification. She knew the plan and was set to execute.
On Monday – Paige executed. She began the race at a 10:12 pace and during the course of the race, she cut down her pace to 9:38. Every 5k split was faster than the last, including the Newton Hills. She held back for the first 10 miles and transferred the saved energy into solid hill running.
Even the last 2k from 40 to 42k (Mile 24 and change, roughly) she increased her pace to finish strong.
Let Paige serve as a perfect example of how to run her race. She is much faster than a 4:00:00 marathoner. She will qualify for Boston under her time in the future, I have no doubts.
Paige succeeded because she ran the best race she could on the day. Her injury and training shift put her at 4:10, and she executed a 4:10.
Making a mileage withdrawal. Don’t overdraft.
Running is like a bank. Each workout is a deposit. You make a deposit every time you run five miles at easy pace or a super focused 10 mile tempo run. Those miles add up and your account grows. On race day, you line up to the ATM, put in your pin, and make a withdrawal. The trick is withdrawal EXACTLY how much money you have in the bank.
Pull out too little, and you are still okay. You might feel as if you have some more in the tank, but you can save that for another day.
Pull too much out, and you overdraft, and just like in real life, you aren’t going to have a good day. You’ll certainly pay.
I’m not categorically saying not to go for it and push boundaries. Rather, for the majority of runners, staying within yourself is the key to an enjoyable race, and a long, healthy relationship with running.
Paige is happy.
Although most would view Paige’s training cycle as less than ideal from a running perspective, her dedication to recovery and improvement propelled her into Boston. Paige couldn’t run as much as we both wanted, but she absolutely ran her race.
Thanks to Paige for allowing us to learn from her training and her story.