Sub-4 Marathon Group


First Marathon - Race Day Advice (Read 40 times)

    My first marathon is about a week away, so it's time to freak out and overthink things.  Here is the standard background info with some questions I have at the end.  Thanks.


    1) What are your recent shorter-distance race times?

    I’ve got nothing.  I’ve done a good job sticking to the training plan, except for the tune-up races.  It was hard to find races that fit.  I had one 10K planned, but at the last minute there was a schedule conflict.

    2) What's your average mileage per week?

    About 50mpw average. 

    2.1) What training program (if any) are you using?

    Pfitz 18/55

    3) When is your race, and which one is it?

    January 27th.  Carlsbad Marathon.

    4) How long have you been running?

    I’ve run in three 10K Mud Runs over the years with minimal prep for each.  Most years I would pick up running in the spring to get in enough shape to go backpacking up to the top of some mountain.  Probably < 12mpw, which seemed like a lot at the time.  This past spring is when I started to feel like a runner – bought real shoes, started having fun, more miles, and tracked them.  In fact my running log that I started back in May will hit 1000 miles on race day.

    4.1) How many marathons have you run, and what were your times?


    5) What is your age and gender?

    38 male

    6) What pace do you run your long runs?

    Overall my LRs average about 9:30.  I usually run by effort.  I was happy as long as I kept a nice even pace for the whole run and felt good after – tired but not wasted.  I never thought sub-4 was realistic, but used 4hr GMP with McMillen to set my paces for the various Pfitz runs.  My LR of 16 mi with 12 at GMP had 12 at 8:50 and overall 9:07.


    7) What is your goal?

    Well I decided to hang out with Donuts during training, so I guess I am hoping to be close to 4:00.


    Other info

    - For the three 20 mile LR’s, chose to do 20, 21 and 22 miles.  The 22 miler is the max I would ever do in a training cycle.  It was 9:26/mi, consistent, no wall, good recovery – so I think I was keeping a slow enough pace.

    - The Marathon route has a sizeable hill at mile 9.  I took a field trip and did a MLR on part of the route that has the hill.  It was 11.4 miles at 8:58 and felt comfortable.

    - I put January in my RA log



    I am trying to decide if I should go with a pace group – 4:00, 4:15, 4:30, none?

    For those of you that had times close to 4:00, how did your training times compare?

    How hard do you push on race day?  I’m thinking about similar effort level to a LR, but hoping that taper gets me a better pace for the same effort.  Then dial it up a little if things are feeling good?

    Any other words of wisdom are appreciated.  Feel free to laugh in my face and tell me how wrong I am.  These “newbie needs advice” posts are supposed to inform and entertain.



      Dark Streets, I'm not good at these predict my time things. But looking at your log, you haven't really logged easy miles--at least not if 4 hrs is your goal. Not just the LR, but your general miles too. Do you have a recent half time? The advice I'd have is to not go out too fast too soon. Do that, and you'll be in for a world of hurt. So, if you pick say 4;15 as your goal, don't start out at a 4:00 pace or you might end up at 4:30 .

      PRs: 21:35 (5K); 1:46:46 (HM); 4:30:46 (FM)

      Rusk Runner

        Darkstreets - Alot of your training runs are faster than what I used to run a 3:46 marathon.  One of the key factors is that you are healing well from all of your runs and thats a good thing.  The question that remains is whether or not your body has picked up on the endurance adaptations it requires to run a faster pace through 26 miles.  This is what Cbus was talking about.  Those slower, easy runs engage the correct muscle groups and the like to build pure endurance.  It seems that the brunt of your training was spent at race pace (feel free to look at my log.  I am using Pfitz 18/55 with a GMP of 8:10) and without other race times to put next to your training it would be hard to hazard a guess.

        I have only run two marathons, so what I have to say about this should be taken extrememly light heartedly.  If I were you I would just see if I could hold close to 9 or 9:05.  If you hold with it well, fine.  If you dont, lesson learned (ask me about my first marathon, LOL).  This first marathon is going to answer alot of questions for you.  It seems to me that your youth and fitness is on your side for the better on running a sub 4.  In the future I would recommend that you put more into running those quality runs (tempo, V02 max, tune up races) as fast as you can to obtain the correct physical adaptations.  At the same time you should make a very conscious effort to keep the recovery runs as slow as needed (hopefully below 75% MHR) and the brunt of the long runs at the 20 to 10 percent rule.

        Good Luck to you and please post a RR.

        PRs...5K - 20:36, 4mile - 26:15, 13.1 - 1:32, 26.2 - 3:42

        Just Run!!!

        Bad Ass

          Based on the information you've provided and the lack of races, I am not sure if your runs are really easy or faster than they should.  Do you run with a HRM?  If so, what has been your average HR during your LR?  Were you able to do Pfitz without issue, especially those tough tempo runs?  If so, then maybe you've been doing your paces correctly and 4 hours might be possible.


          I have not looked at your log, but Cbus did and it sounds like you have not done many easy runs to gain endurance.  Therefore, based upon that and the fact that it's your first, I would attempt a 4:15 and see how it goes.  Try not to start too fast.  The best way to do it would be to start the first couple of miles easy and pick it up from there.  It is easy to start too fast when you're running your marathons and you're excited and everybody around you is as well.


          Good luck!  And report back, please!



          "The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire."

          It's always fucking hot in Miami!


          Run Strider Run!

            I echo what the others above have said (they know what they are talking about).  Start slow, but close to your target pace; conserve energy; get water early; have fun - don't stress out about time.


            I ended up close to 4 hours (4:01:42) and my lesson to share is that you should keep an eye on all the clocks around you.


            The key ones are:  know what the total time clock is when you cross the start line (a fundamental thing, but I missed it on my first marathon) so that you can gauge your actual time on the clocks throughout the course.  And if you're feeling capable at mile 20 (remember that a big part of this challenge is the mental fatigue), calculate your last 6 mile time using actual times, not GPS times/pace.


            Good luck.

            PR:  47:52 (10K), 1:48:17 (HM), 4:01:42 (FM)



              Start slower than you think you want to race at and then pick it up in the second half.  I used an easier plan than you did for my first and second marathons, which were run within a few weeks of each other.  The first marathon I took off at a 4:20 goal pace and then accelerated slowly until I overtook the 4:10 pacer, ending in 4:07.  I admit I felt like garbage at the end but still ran a 2 minute negative split.


              I did the same thing in Philly, except I started out at a 4:00 goal pace and then when I felt good at the end, let er rip for a 4 min negative split, finishing in 3:56 and felt great the whole way.  Admittedly, the 9:09 miles felt stupid slow at the start, but I had a lot left in me at the end.  FOr the first marathon, set a soft goal and then hope your body handles the distance well.  Maybe it will and maybe it won't.  In any event, it'll be a PR and it looks to me like you can run around the 4:00 mark if not break it the first time around.  Most of all, have fun and fuel up!

              13.1: 1:45 | 26.2: 3:55

              Bad Ass

                And don't you think you cannot make up the time.  Last weekend I ran 2:21 and 2:16 for the two halves of my marathon in that order.  You can make it up if you pace well and start easy.



                "The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire."

                It's always fucking hot in Miami!

                  Thanks for the responses.


                  Cbus - I don't have any HMs under my belt.  But just for grins we can use the pace for my last run over 13.1 and get an equivalent.  I did 16.1 at 8:42.  I'll agree that this is too fast for a LR, but it was the first one after taper started and my first one with my new shoes.  So I was just in a happy place where it felt easier than many of my 9:30+ runs had.  At any rate I wouldn't call it a time trial, but it gives a HM of 1:54.  That seems reasonable.  Re Easy miles in my log.  I only have my log online for January.  December had 9:30 average overall, which is in line with McMillens Long Run and Easy Run numbers for 4:00 MP.  And I'm with you on the goal time.  I was thinking 4:15 until this taper magic crap started messing with my head.


                  jag - "youth and fitness on my side" eh.  That made me smile.  I guess I can't claim that 38 is old since you have 10 years on me.  I have friends that are freaking out about turning 40 because that seems old to them.  It's hard for me to be bothered because I am in better shape than when I was 28.  I wish I had done the tune up races.  But I am happy that I did all the tempos that Pfitz threw at me.  The early ones were really hard, but success on those really made me believe that the plan was working.


                  Docket - I like the new pic.  It makes me want to do Disney some day.  No I don't have a HRM.  Yes, I would say I did Pfitz without issue.  Not that it was easy by any means.  It tore me down and built me back up.  I was sooo tired all the time when the miles first ramped up.  I had this odd knee thing for a long time, which was not an injury and I chalked it up to some sort of growing pain.  But when those tempo runs came along, I got the job done.  I used McMillen, so the 15K pace miles were around 8:30.


                  Strider - thanks for the tip about the clocks - I will definitely keep that in mind, although I've heard that after mile 20 even simple math ain't so simple anymore


                  Sprinkles - I will definitely have fun.  I actually practiced fueling.  They were supposed to have Gu, so I trained with that for a while and have read that many people can't stomach the stuff.  Then they changed to Clif Shot, which is supposed to be better.  The only fuel issue should be the transition from drinking fountain to dixie cups.


                  All - None of you said I was completely crazy, so I guess that's good.   I agree that I should be running slower during training, and promise to keep it slow and easy at the start.  I'm sure I'll figure it all out sometime between now and mile 26 next Sunday.  Thanks again



                    Darkstreets, how long have you been averaging 50 mpw?

                    PRs: 21:35 (5K); 1:46:46 (HM); 4:30:46 (FM)


                      Darkstreet - looks like everyone has some good advice.  A few thoughts


                      - It looks like you have alot of fast runs in your workout log.  You have some speed but its difficult to judge endurance until you've been through a full marathon.   I had similar long runs when I did Pfitz last year. McMillian at the time (using the old calculator before they changed it) said i could finish at 3:50, but based on numerous calculators i estimated 3:50 - 4:10 to be realistic to myself and i finished 4:07 flat & fast course

                      - You have some good experience, without the tune up race benefit though.  Next cycle, throw a HM in there 30-45 days out for a predictor

                      - Remember this is your first marathon.  When i did my first marathon under a plan, i overestimated the later part of the race (miles 23+)  It's difficult to totally prepare for this until you've been through it.  So, try your best, but dont set the bar too high - this is your first marathon - plus you have a hill in there as well which changes the dynamic

                      - If hitting 4 is really important to you, just follow the advice of others - start slow. My last race, my goal was to hold 4hr marathon pace, see how i felt at mile 20-23 and adjust paces as needed. I ended up running out of endurance and was forced to slow. Plus i mismanaged my GPS watch for the first half running it faster than i should have. (donuts - wasn't it snowsuz who wrote "hold your horses" on her arm - lol)


                      Keep the questions coming and good luck to you !!!!!

                      PB's     10K 47:15 (9/13)     HM 1:45 (9/13)     M 3:57 (10/13)

                      Running Blog




                        I'll throw my two cents in since I think your training and age profile is pretty similar to my second marathon.  Looking at the elevation profile of Carlsbad, don't underestimate the rolling hills unless you've been training on hills.  My second marathon was Santa Barbara which has a similar rolling hills profile.  For this, I was pretty unprepared, despite averaging high 40's for my marathon cycle.  It was all fine and dandy until mile 18.  Thus, I echo the sentiment of starting slow.  Fight the adrenaline, fight how good you're feeling because of the taper for at least the first 10 miles.  If you go out too fast, you will pay for it later.  I use the pacers as gauges, but  don't necessarily advocate sticking right by them unless you really run better in a group/with conversation/are there for the bonding experience.  I would start off around the 4:15 pacer for the first 10 miles.  If you're still feeling really good at that point, you can venture up to see where the 4:00 pacer is, but don't pass them until at least mile 20-21, or they will be passing you again.  Let it rip at that point and finish the last 10 k strong.   The goal is to be running that 10 k and not doing the death shuffle because you started too fast and are out of gas.  You may surprise yourself with what you're capable of.  Have fun, race smart.  Let us know how you like Carlsbad.  I was thinking of running it, but decided to go with Surf City the week after.  Familiarity (it was my first) and it's a little more local for me.

                          cbus - I've really only been averaging 50mpw with the Pfitz plane.  I was briefly up around 50 about 19 weeks ago, just to test the waters a bit while I was shopping for a plan.  Then about week 5 is when Pfitz get up to the high 40's.


                          DTF - Hitting 4 shouldn't be that important to me.  It's just a made-up magic number.  But doesn't sub-4 mean that you can retire and sit on the couch eating donuts forever?  Shoot I'm already lost to this insanity.  Who am I kidding, I'm not a one-timer.  If I admit there are more of these in my future, I should really go for slightly softer goal that I can beat next time.


                          ap4 - I like your approach a lot.  I've never run with others, so I doubt I would want to be "with" a pacer - maybe just near them.  Good luck on your race too.  I grew up in OC and have run the Santa Ana river to HB several times - talk about a flat, straight run.  Maybe I'll try Surf City some day.



                            What were your exact weekly averages (dont round up) for the last 18-19 weeks?

                            PRs: 21:35 (5K); 1:46:46 (HM); 4:30:46 (FM)

                              <colgroup> <col style="width: 48pt;" span="2" width="64" /></colgroup>
                              9-Sep 34.5
                              16-Sep 32.4
                              23-Sep 47.6
                              30-Sep 33.7
                              7-Oct 36.9
                              14-Oct 37.8
                              21-Oct 33.2
                              28-Oct 48.6
                              4-Nov 42.3
                              11-Nov 52.4
                              18-Nov 52.2
                              25-Nov 49.1
                              2-Dec 43.4
                              9-Dec 51.1
                              16-Dec 36.4
                              23-Dec 48.5
                              30-Dec 51.1
                              6-Jan 52.4
                              13-Jan 44.9
                              20-Jan 32.3


                              With 30-Sep being the first week of Pfitz.  Missed one LR somewhere along the way when I was sick.



                                I'm not very good at predicting times. But I wanted to see what your weekly mileage has been to get a sense of the type of endurance you might have built.

                                With a first marathon, I think it's reasonable to make finishing the primary goal, since you don't really know what to expect. That said, I'd shoot for 4:15, and hope for a fast finish. But you could go all in and shoot for 4. But that's risking a death march. But I'd say don't ever go faster than 4 hr pace.

                                PRs: 21:35 (5K); 1:46:46 (HM); 4:30:46 (FM)