Now that I’m home and recovering comfortably with a stomach full of way too much meat, I can take some time and do more analysis of my marathon performance yesterday. In particular I want to look at how my marathon performance has improved over the past three marathons that I’ve done, because when looking at the data there is a distinct and marked improvement in every single race.
My first marathon was the Minneapolis Marathon, which was a miserable experience. The course was really ugly and I obviously wasn’t prepared like I should have been. Additionally I decided to run it as a “10K plus 20 miles”. All that meant is that I went out WAY too hard in the first six and blew up the final portion of the race. You can see in the chart below that I nailed the first portion, took a few walk breaks until 16 and then bam… everything fell apart and it was all complete crap after that.
My second marathon was last fall at the Twin Cities Marathon. I had sworn I’d never do another marathon again, but then I married another person who’s just as crazy about running as I am. Go figure. In this race I trained much smarter and felt much more prepared. I managed to run solidly until mile 16 when I started having calf cramps and began some intervals. The intervals didn’t last however and degraded to a slow walk the rest of the way in. My first 20 miles was incredibly consistent though, and I was very, very happy with how that felt. I just couldn’t get past that wall at 16-17 that seems to trip me up all the time.
Now, let’s contrast that with Grandma’s Marathon. I knew that a lot of what was holding me back was mental, and so as I started this race I told myself that under no circumstances was I going to take a walk break before 20. I HAD to get through those mental walls from 16-> and if I started taking walk breaks at 16 like usual I would never beat my goal time. Ignoring the quick pee break before mile 3, you can see in the chart that I broke through those walls like I intended, and managed a really consistent race right up until 20. The pace was slipping slightly in 18 and 19, and frankly 19 was the hardest mile I’ve done in just about any race. As soon as 20 hit I started some walking breaks, and in particular I walked up the dreaded lemon drop hill.
As I crested the hill and the 4:45 pacers caught me I realized my body still had some go left in it and I managed to completely run the last 3.5 (minus one small incline where I walked with the pacer). My pace obviously was a bit more erratic during this section, complicated by running near tall buildings which affected my GPS, but I was actually running and not walking. That was as much due to my mental state of breaking through walls, as how good my body was doing. Even though I was completely wasted at the end of the race, I felt like I had really pushed myself in a way that I’ve never done before and that made a huge difference.
Looking at these three charts I can’t help but be happy with my progress over the past few years. I’ve gone from someone who never ran a day in his life to completing three marathons in 5 years. As much as it’s helped my personal well being, I hope that it’s also influenced others to challenge themselves and see what they can accomplish. I talked to many people after the race yesterday, including a gentleman who just started running in January and went right into running a marathon. We all can feed off each other for inspiration and I hope that sharing this blog maybe helps others to make some positive changes in their lives and to see how you can surprise yourself in ways you’ve never imagined.