Going For It, Or Not?
Got a question about running? You're in the right place. Every Tuesday, world-renowned coach, author and athlete Hal Higdon posts and answers athlete questions here. You can submit your question by joining the discussions on Hal Higdon's Virtual Training Bulletin Boards.
The last 20-miler is in the books and I feel good. Objective #1 has been met: Accomplish all the mileage and not get injured. Objective # 2 is to be run the marathon at an 8:00-permile pace (3:29:46 finish). In my training, I am off that pace by approximately 10 seconds a mile. I have read your book, "Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide", a few times and I know the stresses of family and work can take their toll, as they have during this training cycle. Also, this is my comeback from a stress fracture 15 months ago. Due to crummy winter weather, I have not raced at all during the past 15 weeks, so all I have to go on is my own race-pace workouts. I am age 51 with two prior marathons 3:46 and 4:16.
So here are my questions: Are my times slower than anticipated because of the progression of a tough Intermediate 2 program? Can I thus anticipate a faster pace when I am fully rested from the taper? Do I join the 3:30 pace team and push for the elusive BQ now in the spring or in the fall? (I am registered for the Marine Corp marathon In October.) Do I just run this, say, at an 8:15 pace, rest a little, then use the summer to really attack my times for a fast race in October?
I am tempted to tell you to go for it, and join the 3:30 pacing team, and see if it can pull you along to the time you desire. The reality of the matter, however, is that if you cannot hit 8:00 race pace for runs up to 10 miles in training, you will have a difficult time maintaining that pace for 16 more miles. Another reality check: sneaking across the finishing line a few seconds under the BQ time for your age group probably will not get you to the starting line in Hopkinton for 2014. Because of the bombings, there is intense interest among runners to run Boston next year. Plus the BAA has invited the 5,000 unfinished runners from 2013 to return, taking up that many places in the 2014 field. I suspect the BAA will open the gates somewhat wider to accommodate more runners, but nobody knows that yet. Regardless, you may need more than 3:30 for entry.
So the smart advice is to join the 3:45 pace team and see if it can carry you to a PR, if not a BQ. The dumb advice would be to roll the dice and go for that BQ, joining the 3:30 pace team. If you succeed, you can probably use the time for 2015 when the pressure will be off qualifying. Plus you’ll learn something about your current level of fitness, which will allow you to train tougher this summer with Marine Corps in mind.