The Toughest Marathon Ever

On April 2nd, I’ll toe the start line of the 8th Annual Oakland Marathon. It will also be my 8th Oakland Marathon, my 11th marathon overall, and it could be the toughest marathon I’ve ever run.

Okay, maybe that’s a bit of hyperbole.

My plan is to run the race in exactly 4 hours. That time would make it the slowest road marathon I’ve ever run by about 18 minutes.

Why would I do this?

Because this is a training run for my primary goal race, the Miwok 100k. I don’t want to go too fast and leave myself fatigued for the 100k on May 6th.

Last year, the Oakland Marathon was also a training race for the Miwok. It was also my goal last year to run in 4 hours.

How’d I do last year?

Not. Good.

I ran the 2016 Oakland Marathon in 3:37:54. Oops.

So what happened?

I got to the start feeling all kinds of amazing.

I entered the chute, looked for the 4 hour pace group and stood there waiting.

Time ticked by and I began to feel…uncomfortable.

Pride, I think, was telling me that I was way too fast to be in this group. And even though it was supposed to be a training run, I really should be further up. So I squeezed my way through the crowd until I found the sign marked 3:45.

Yes. This feels better, I told myself. And anyway, it’s only 15 minutes. No biggie, right?

Right…absolutely. This will be fine, no worries, it won’t…can’t impact my 100k.

And then that little voice, maybe pride, spoke up again.

“Really?” it said. “You’re intentionally going to run 3:45? Come on, man! You’ve run this course in 3:15!”

Training run, training run, training run, I reminded myself. It’s a training run. The goal race is Miwok.

This seemed to work. I stayed put. Right behind the friendly guy with the 3:45 sign.

“Yeah, okay,” the little voice said. “We can START back here…”

I nodded in agreement.

“But we are totally gonna reassess at the halfway point,” the voice added.

Oh boy.

The halfway point of the Oakland Marathon comes after almost all the climbing and descending is done. It’s a smooth, mostly flat ride into the finish. I’ll spare you the details and simply say that I still felt amazingly good at mile 13. So I said goodbye to the 3:45 group and kicked it up a notch. Not a ton, just a little bit…

The next five miles were an absolute joy. I wasn’t going a ton faster, but it looked like I would probably finish right around 3:42.

You can probably guess what happened at the 20 mile mark.

Yep. That little voice spoke up again.

“You know what?” it said. “If we put the hammer down, I bet we could catch the 3:30 folks.”

I think I have another gear left, I responded.

“Then let’s do this!”

And off I went.

Obviously, picking up 10 minutes in the last 6 miles of a marathon is a fool’s errand (at least for me) and, as such, it didn’t happen. Not even close. But I did accidently run a 3:38 when the plan up until literally right before the gun sounded was to run in 4 hours.

Did that “oops” have an affect on my 100k? Is that part of the reason I got my first ever DNF (did not finish) at any distance?

Honestly, I don’t think so. I was undertrained and entered the 100k with the Oakland Marathon as my only training run over 15 miles.

I was not ready for 100k.

Looking back, there were several little niggling injuries that curtailed my training and I arrived at the start of the Miwok with a delusional sense of optimism. So a finish in my first ever attempt at 100k was probably not a sure thing.

But who knows?

I deviated from the training schedule. I was undertrained overall and then went out and did my longest long run too fast. It certainly couldn’t have helped.

Now it’s 2017. The Oakland Marathon is less than 10 days away. Dangerous territory.

I am concerned for two reasons:

1: In 2016, there were six weeks between the Oakland Marathon and the Miwok 100k. This year? Four weeks.

That means two less weeks for my body to recover from the marathon. If I blast this thing again, if I let that little voice win again, it could jeopardize my 100k in a serious, direct way.

2: Looking at my training schedule and being completely honest, I am significantly ahead of last year.

I’ve been running back-to-backs to simulate late race exhaustion. By the time I get to the marathon start on April 2nd, I’ll have run seven training runs longer than 15 miles, two of them on back to back days. I’ve also run a 50k race as part of my training.

This means that little voice is going to be even cockier and self-assured than it was last year. It’s going to be a dangerous, maybe not-so-little voice. Add to that the adrenaline you feel at the start of race…

So I need to be stronger. I need to be smarter. I need to latch onto that 4 hour pace group and not let go.

If I feel amazing at mile 13? Stick to the group.

If I feel incredible at mile 18? Hang on to the goal.

If I literally think I’m Superman at mile 20? DO NOT BUDGE!

Here’s what I need to remember: I’ve run 10 marathons, I’ve run this marathon 7 other times, but I’ve NEVER finished the Miwok 100k.

I’ve NEVER finished a 100k race.

I’ve NEVER run 62 miles in one go.

That is the goal here.

That is what I want.

Time to make it happen.



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