A Marathon Experiment


Two words that probably shouldn’t go together: marathon and experiment.

And yet I find myself two and a half weeks away from a marathon that will indeed be a bit of an experiment. Why?  Well, I haven’t actually been training for a marathon, or more specifically a marathon pace. I spent the summer hiking and trail running.  I have this year completed three 50k races, the last one only two and a half weeks ago.  So, can I finish 42.2km?  Absolutely (that is of course assuming no injuries – at this moment I am knocking wood!).  But trail running 50km of rolling hills is very different from running a marathon on roads.  On the surface, the marathon should seem a little easier.  Pavement is faster than dirt, it is almost 8k shorter, and the Road2Hope marathon is famous for its lengthy downhill section.  Piece of cake, right?

Here’s the slight glitch – I have not been running “faster” paces (faster always being relative) for any distance.  I may be slow in a marathon, but I really slow down on trails.  I also walk many of the inclines in a trail race, so  I have not been trying to sustain long steady efforts.  OK, as I reread that it sounds a little ridiculous.  I guess if you do 50k’s you are in fact trying to sustain long steady efforts.  But, the fact is, as much as I may be able to finish a 50k (and recover nicely I might add), trying to maintain even a 6:20 min/km pace over a distance is currently challenging for me.  I honestly can’t believe that I have actually run half marathons under a 5:45 pace.  How did I do that and not die???

So this marathon is truly going to be an experiment.  What happens when you have done plenty of long, very slow runs, but virtually no tempo or speed runs?  What happens when you have already done 3 ultra races in 5 months?  What happens when you are trying to combine a recovery period with a taper to be ready for a marathon?  And just to throw in one more variable, what happens when your final “long run” is actually going to be a 6 hour orienteering event in the Gatineau Hills?  At the moment I have no idea!  All I know is that I do actually have a plan:

  1. Start slowly!!!
  2. Use 10 and 1’s.  I have not raced a marathon this way, but I did use this method when pacing the Ottawa Marathon
  3. Try to maintain a 6:20 – 6:30 min/km pace, but take advantage of the downhill to pick up the pace a bit. The weekend before last I did 20k at this pace and found it to be a bit of an effort to maintain.  This past Saturday I held the pace very comfortably for 26k.  But another 16k??? Hmmmm…..
  4. Eat M&M’s.  They worked on the ultras so why not?
  5. Pray for no potty stops and no gale force winds, both of which occurred at the same race last year.

Speaking of last year, my time was 4:34.  I’m going to put it out there that I think it is possible I could beat that time by a slim margin.  If not, well Road2Hope will be my last long run of the season because regardless, it is time to take a little break!

7 thoughts on “A Marathon Experiment

  1. Ann-Marie

    Good luck! I think you are more than ready. And at the very least, it’s such a nice race. I love the friendly, low-key atmosphere. Just hope it’s not windy!!

  2. Jeff

    Good luck! I think you should be in good shape given your plan of attack. And thabks for the tips on M&Ms, I will have to give that a shot!

    1. kristi Post author

      Thanks Jeff! M&M’s seem to be a staple at ultras and have to say they taste waaaaay better than gels!

  3. Rod

    Firstly and rightfully, no matter what happens with your experiment we are all so very proud of you! Look what you have achieved! You are nothing short of amazing.

    I will offer you some food for thought regarding part of your third point. I have been strongly encouraged by a multiple ultra marathon champion to use downhills as “free speed”. Meaning let the downhill help you maintain your pace not increase it. Think of it as putting your engine in neutral. Because of gravity, the downhill helps you maintain your speed with less effort than you would otherwise use on a flat portion of the course.

    This way you have more energy later in the race. And with your stellar endurance, this could very well allow you to pick up the pace in the second half of the course

    Again, just food for thought.

    Whatever you do, You Are A STAR! So go out there and shine.

    Big big hugs from me & D.

    Good luck Kristi!!!

    1. kristi Post author

      Ahh, thank you! Slow and steady will be the plan. Don’t worry, no bombing down the hill but will let my body speed up a little while letting gravity do its thing. Not much though, once the hill is done there is still another 15k to go!


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