Sunday, September 28, 2008


I'm a big believer that running is a great mirror of other things in life. Confidence is critical. To run well, you need to be confident that you can do it. The marathon is a long way. There's no worse feeling than getting eight or nine miles into the race, then realizing that you were kidding yourself. I've been there. I ran Boston in 2003, thinking I could run under three hours. I'd done 3:02 the previous fall, but I wasn't nearly in shape. By mile 10, I was cooked. The last half of the marathon was the worst running experience of my life. I ran a half hour slower than the first 13 miles, getting passed again and again. Even subsequent to that, I've had too many failures to count. The only way to confidence is preparation. If you're prepared, you can handle whatever happens. There are always tough times during a long race, and knowing you've trained hard is the best way to overcome them.

This morning, I took an important step to gaining the confidence I need in Philly. I'm halfway through my training. It's gone well, but there have been times where I wonder why I'm running 15 miles on a Tuesday morning at a slow pace. I have a better idea why now. I ran the 18-mile NYC Marathon Tune-Up in Central Park. Going in, my idea was to run the first loop of the park (6 miles) at a relaxed pace, then do 12 miles at marathon pace (6:50). With no taper and on a hilly course, that's pretty tough. What's more, it was 90 percent humidity this morning. Starting out, I felt terrible. This always happens to me when I'm deep into marathon training. The first five miles are a chore. I felt severely out of sorts. It was made worse by the admirable new NYRR corral system. I was placed in the first corral, along with some frankly faster dudes. I realized that when the guy next to me talked about "maybe running at 6:00." Gulp. The first few miles were faster than I planned. By mile four, I was a little depressed, wondering what was wrong with me as people went by me.

But then, I started to feel normal. By mile five, I was running much more relaxed. I can tell how I'm running by whether I'm loud or quiet. The early part of the race, I was too loud -- my feet were smacking the ground. But then I began to run quiet. I started to get confidence by passing people going up the Great Hill the second time. The rest of the race was pretty uneventful. I mostly hit my pace goals, with one or two miles a bit slower, one or two a bit faster. Overall, the 12 miles were exactly where I should be to run under 3. I got a stitch at mile 13, which really hurt and frustrated me, but I thought about those 15-mile midweek runs. Soon I was back on pace. That's what training does: I knew I'd get stronger. I did struggle a bit during the last loop, but I got through it and overall had a quite solid run. Would I prefer those 6:50 miles be 6:45? Of course. Still, I'm eight weeks out from the marathon. A good way to tell how strong you are is the final mile. Barney told me he did something like a 5:20 final mile at the London Marathon. I'm not in that league, but I outkicked a guy named Jorge for a 6:41 mile 18. Not bad. Final result: 2:03:18, 6:50 pace. 71st place out of 3,928.

Here are the splits.

1: 7:05
2: 7:02
3. 6:56
4: 6:54
5: 6:56
6: 6:46
7: 6:49
8: 6:48
9: 6:42
10: 6:45
11: 6:42
12: 6:42
13: 6:50
14: 6:56
15: 6:50
16: 6:51
17: 6:52
18: 6:41

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