Sunday, June 28, 2015

Summer Running & Marathon Pace Thoughts

I am blown away by the supportive comments on my last post, but not surprised. You guys are the best. Thank you.

Lately I'm juggling two different but related decisions regarding marathon training. The first - running in the summer - is more immediate because I don't actually start my real training plan until August!
It's always nice when the first race-reminder shows up in your email!
Regarding summer running, I'm beginning to remember why I like to run in the morning during summer. Afternoon runs are totally tricky to plan. 

If I go in the early evening, the sun is still strong and the humidity and temperature is insane. For some reason, my heart rate goes nuts and I get really dizzy in the heat, even once I've acclimated to summer temps. If I run in the early evening, I have to play it safe and really slow down - no speedwork for sure.
Last night I finally conquered 4 miles - my longest run since my break in May - but I stopped to drink water multiple times, which ended up slowing me down and making me sluggish.
If I wait to go in the later evening (and still feel motivated enough to go), I'm almost definitely going to get rained out. I don't mind running in a little rain, but heavy rain with lightning is a deal-breaker, and lately that's been our daily weather.
Every. Single. Day.
So the dilemma now is turning myself back into a morning runner. Having a partner to meet with would work best, but it's been hard to get on the same schedule as my running buddies. I need to be better about going to bed earlier and just getting up when the alarm goes off, but we all know that's easier said than done.

The second thing I'm wrestling with right now is choosing a marathon plan. Right now I'm stuck between two from Runner's World. One is the "Break 5:00" plan and one is the "Break 4:45" plan. (I know taking 41 minutes off my last marathon seems ambitious, but hear me out.)

Here's the issue: I know when I'm actually training and being diligent, the paces on the "Break 5:00" plan will seem too easy; however, the "Break 4:45" plan doesn't have a "snapshot" I can check out before committing, and the "Break 4:30" plan (which I only looked at for reference) sets paces that are definitely out of my league for a full.
I know easy runs are meant to be easy but 12:09 just seems far off my usual pace.
I'm pretty sure an overall pace of 10:18 isn't achievable for me (yet) for a full, but even these easy-run paces seem low.
I guess this comes down to whether or not I buy into the "slow down more than you're used to on easy days" mentality.
Because there was no snapshot of the 4:45 plan, I used the McMillan Calculator to figure it out. I think a sub-11 pace is doable if I really put in the work.
I think I can achieve a 5-hour marathon. I think I would have last time except for some extenuating circumstances. Now that I know what to expect and know how to change my training for the better, I think 5:00 is a really solid goal for me. But the plan just looks...almost too easy. It's like I don't believe these paces will get me to that goal!

Do I aim for the 4:45 plan (go big or go home) with the caveat that I know I'm actually aiming for 5:00, or do I use the 5:00 plan with the understanding that I may not be pushing myself hard enough if I use it? (I mean, the paces for 4:45 vs. 5:00 aren't that different really...)

Or do I buy both and create my own plan using their prescribed runs and paces for guidance?!

I'm probably over-thinking this, and I have time to really decide what's best for me, but I'd love to hear your thoughts.



  1. Personally, I would choose the harder-but-still-achievable middle ground of the 4:45 plan. When you step back and look at the big picture, a marathon is about so much more than the outcome: it's the process. It's about challenging yourself, breaking out of your comfort zone and improving your fitness: like you said, go big or go home. I pay all that money and spend all that time training because I want to emerge a better, stronger runner. I want the challenge. I want to push myself. Even if you don't achieve the goal, you'll still achieve a lot and really grow as a runner. I say shoot for the stars!

    As for the easy paces: I like to use more of a range for my easy run paces instead of an exact pace. The McMillan calculator is good for this: I don't know if you've checked this out but under "training paces" it will give you a pace range for your easy, long, tempo, etc runs. When I do my easy running I try to do it by effort instead of pace, because I think that's more the point of easy running. And don't worry if it seems really slow at first, just stick to the plan and concern yourself primarily with making sure it actually feels easy. As you build a base and improve your fitness, your easy effort will slowly start to get faster and more consistent.

    I guess I kind of wrote a novel here. Haha. But ahhh I am excited for you! Can't wait to see you start training!

  2. I think I have to agree with Hanna! And if you have to alter some of the 4:45 stuff, just do that. If your speed isn't where you need it to be right away, you could still get there as you continue training.

  3. You've got some smart advice up above from people much more experienced than I am!

    My new coach has me really taking my easy runs super easy and recovery runs even easier. She has advised that my easy run pace should be at least a minute slower than race pace and recovery runs should be about two minutes slower than race pace... which pretty much puts me at a fast walk, haha. It's not easy easy to go that slow ... it definitely feels unnatural and I also worry about meeting my goal doing the majority of runs at such a slow pace. However, I can see that my speedwork is vastly improving because my legs aren't exhausted. Even my pickups have improved by almost a full minute per mile than I was ever able to do before -- low 7s! OMG.

    My new coach says we'll re-assess speedwork and goals midway through the plan to see if we should adjust goal time. She thinks I can do much better than 5:59 but that's what we're using as a base goal for now. She says, "let's see how your body responds and we can always adjust to a faster goal. There's plenty of time." She's a very experience marathoner and specializes in coaching the marathon distance so I trust her advice even if those easy days feel *too* easy.

    So, based on her advice I might say it's a good idea to start with the Break 5 plan and then if your body is responding really well to that adjust halfway through and go for 4:45.

  4. I gotta say that I agree with Kristina here. For me, training too hard is something that not only makes me miss goals, but stops me from getting to the starting line entirely. I think looking at how your body responds to the 5:00 plan and then maybe adding some speed work, if things go well, from the 4:45 plan will be better on your body. You might surprise yourself with an even better time. I just don't know that going fast all the time does all that much good.

  5. You're getting good advice on both sides. I think I would go with the 4:45 plan and be ready to roll with the punches if need be. But check in with your gut - which one excites you? As for the slow pace, don't worry about that. Your easy runs really should be *easy* to save your legs for the other ones.

    How early will you need to get up to do your morning runs? Since I'm doing 4 of my runs each week early you could think of me as a long-distance running partner. (I'm not going to say "virtual" since I'm not online until much later in the day, so I couldn't really check in with you. Plus you're in a different time zone.)

  6. I would shoot for the stars and go with the 4:45, knowing that you could always slow the paces down if need be. I really believe that if your long runs are too slow, your form breaks down and one risks injury just from that alone. I would not buy 2 plans no matter what, because they are virtually the same and you just alter the times/paces.
    Have fun! Can't wait for it to start!

  7. I hate to get up early in the summer to run but I feel so accomplished! The best part is you can go back to bed when you are done!!
    Marathon training scares me right now! I am still debating about whether or not I want to run mine in the fall! Good luck picking a plan! Do what you think is best! You will rock your second marathon!!!!! :)