4:30 or Bust: A Quest for Marathon Mediocrity

Final thoughts before New York City Marathon

with 2 comments

In about 23 hours, I’ll be crossing the start line of the New York City Marathon, on the Verrazano Bridge!

On the one hand, I feel over-confident in the sense that I’ve run this race 6 times before and feel like I know everything there is to know about it, the hills, the bridges, the bends, the crowds, the morning preparation routine, etc.  I’ve also spectated a few times.

On the other hand I don’t feel like I’m properly ready.  I’ve put in a lot of miles, but not as many as I’ve wanted with nagging groin and shin injuries lately.  Also, my last long run was cut from 21 miles to 13 miles.  Also, my speed is down from where I’ve been in the past.  In short, while my goal is to beat last years 4:31, and to beat 4:30, I really am not sure I have it in me this time.

4:30 is definitely possible, but I’ll need to run a smart race and have everything fall into place. In particular, I need to make sure I hold back in the spots later in Brooklyn where the crowds are really great, Clinton Hill from mile 8-9, and in Williamsburg / GreenPoint from 11.5-13.  Those are spots where I tend to go too fast, and I think part of the reason I start to lose it at the end.

4:30 comes out to about 10:18 per mile.  So, the trick, and the key, is how long can I keep the miles in the 9:45-10:00 range.  For every 9:45 mile, I gain 30 seconds to allow for slowing down at the end.  In a perfect world, I would not be slowing down at the end, but in practice that always seems to be the case.  My strategy is to run 2:07-2:10 in the first half, and be fresh enough so that I could run the second half in under 2:20.  A tall order, and something I’m really nervous about, but welcoming the challenge.

The one thing I have going for me is my mileage base.  I analyzed back 12 weeks prior to each marathon I’ve done since 2000, and I’ve put in more miles for this one than any other!

  • 2000 Vermont City – 180.8
  • 2000 NYC – 164
  • 2002 Jersey Shore – 139.5
  • 2002 NYC – 187.1
  • 2005 Big Sur – 201.5
  • 2007 NYC – 137.1
  • 2008 NYC – 217.6
  • 2009 Austin – 232.9
  • 2009 NYC – 242.9

Some years, the mileage was pathetic, like in 2007, where my goal was, of course 4:30, but I finished in a disappointing 4:51.  The 242.9 miles I’ve done in the last 12 weeks (just over 20 miles per week) is the stat that helps to alleviate my anxiety.  You can also see from the screenshot below, that I’ve had a nice steady progression and taper. (Daily Mile has some great metrics as part of their latest updates!)




Running - Past 26 Weeks

With the exception of week 30 (back spasm) and weeks 35/36 (sick), my running numbers, for me at least, are pretty solid.



In terms of preparation, ate a nice big pasta dinner last night, with those leftovers planned for tonight.  Drinking a lot today to stay hydrated.  I will drink a ton today, and then once hydrated, will hardly drink in the morning before the race.  This strategy has worked very well for me in the past and prevents me from having to use the bathroom multiple times during the race.  Of course, will have some candy tonight, after trick-or-treating is all done!

Also just trying to stay calm and relaxed.  By myself in my NJ house last night, so it was very calm, peaceful and quiet.  Just me and the 5 loads of laundry assigned to me 🙂  Also had a really good night sleep.

I like to get to the race early, and sort of enjoy the calm before the storm at Fort Wadsworth, and so will probably take the ferry at 6 or 6:30.  The best advice I can give anyone running this race for the first time, especially if you are in the first wave, is to get there as early as possible.  You will not believe how crowded it gets, how long it will take for you to use the bathroom, check your bag and find your corral.  Last year there were almost fistfights between the marshals (mostly high school kids best I could tell) at the corrals, and the people fighting to get into their space even though they were late.  Anyway, I will get there early, get my bag checked in a leisurely fashion, and just have extra throwaway layers so I don’t get too cold during the wait.

The weather is looking to be pretty good.  Rain is forecasted for tonight and maybe early in the morning.  Once the rain clears out, it will be in the 50’s tomorrow, but maybe windy.  That is the biggest wildcard.  If it is windy, it will be out of the north, which means we would be running into the wind for much of the first 20 miles.  Will cross my fingers that it is not so bad.

In the end, I just want to have fun and enjoy the experience.  Especially since this will be my last NYC Marathon for awhile.  Starting next year, I’m going to run fall marathons in other states, so want to make sure I savor this one, and hopefully with an under 4:30 finishing time!


Written by SCL

October 31, 2009 at 10:24 am

2 Responses

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  1. “For every 9:45 mile, I gain 30 seconds to allow for slowing down at the end.”

    We have exactly the same plan for Nov 1.

    I used that kinda math to break 4 hours. I did it 9 years ago and now I want a 4:30. I kept adding up the seconds below 9 minutes. When I started running above slower than 9 minute miles I knew how many seconds I had left.

    Good Luck and have fun

    Chicken Underweaaar

    October 31, 2009 at 12:53 pm

  2. […] I knew in my heart of hearts that I didn’t really have it in me to finish in 4:30 (outlined here).  In many ways I had a great race and a great time, which you’ll see here, but, at the end […]

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