Continued from yesterday's post ...
My goal for the Akron Marathon is, say it with me, to break four hours. I have run three marathons, and each time I hoped to break four hours. And each time failed. What I realize now is that I need to conquer the course mentally if I'm going to conquer it physically.
I was doomed last year when I reached the halfway mark at 1:54:27. I couldn't hold the pace, and the climb out of the Cuyahoga River Valley took its toll in Sand Run Park, as my legs started to cramp. My 8:44 mile pacing was too fast for a four-hour marathon (by 26 seconds per mile). This year, I need to shoot for a halfway split of no faster than 2:00:05.
After my failed effort at Akron last year, I tried to run negative splits at the Towpath Marathon two weeks later. Although, I did not actually succeed, the mental approach led to my current PR. I am focusing more on negative splits during my training runs, using the two-thirds method. This year, I will approach the marathon by running the first two-thirds (~17.5 miles) of the race comfortably, then picking up speed and intensity for the final third to achieve my four-hour goal.
I am also toying around with the idea of using a pacer for Akron, which I did successfully last year at the Buckeye Half Marathon. But then unsuccessfully at the 2008 Akron Marathon when I mistakenly on purpose lined up with the 3:50 pace group. This year, if I decide to line up with a pacer again, it will be with one who will get me over the finish line in less than four hours, which is my goal.
I am always leery of joining a pace group. You may not have noticed, but some say I'm cantankerous beyond my years. If the pacer or the group gets on my nerves, it could be detrimental to my race because I might have the urge to run too fast to outrun them or run too slow and let them pass. However, having a continual pace gauge is a benefit that I can't ignore.
The most important thing is that I have to run a smart race, which -- let's face it -- is not my strong suit. I'm a tinkerer, constantly adjusting my training, my goals and my strategy. This year, I need to stick to beating four hours. Because that is my ultimate goal.