I admit it: I love the training for a marathon more than the race itself. Best of all, for me, are the long runs. As the double-digit runs get longer and longer, I spend more time daydreaming about possible routes, a playlist to listen to and friends to join me. I’m training for my 12th marathon, and the thrill of running 18 to 22 miles for training never dulls.
As my running competence—and confidence—has grown, I now especially love a long run with race pace sandwiched into it. My most demanding run this fall, nearly 22 miles in length, started with five miles at a very, very gradual warm-up pace—like 10:15-10:30, settling into a 10:00 pace. For the next seven miles, I bumped it down to 9:45ish, still very controlled but with one little caveat. At the start of each mile, I ran 80 fast footsteps, thinking light feet and relaxed upper body. During those minute-or-so pick-ups, I mentally envisioned myself running strong in the final miles of my marathon.
Twelve miles into the run, and it was time to hit race pace: four miles at 9:00 pace, give or take 5 seconds. It was tough picking up the pace mid-run, but chills went down my sweat-soaked arms when I looked at my GPS and kept seeing numbers like “8:58” and “9:02” dancing around on it.
I got to dial it back to 9:45 for, oh, a whopping half mile before putting down the hammer for three more miles, again at the same 9:00-ish pace. Oddly enough, it was easier to maintain my speed this go-around (maybe it was that Roctane gel I sucked down at mile 16 …).
But, wait, the fun wasn’t done at mile 20. Oh, no, then I busted out eight 100-meter strides with fast turnover. The first three were nearly were my undoing, but the last five were fueled by hopped-up, I-am-nailing-it excitement. I’m pretty sure I wore a smile on my face for the final two miles home.
For more on the Saucony 26 Strong program, which pairs up 13 coaches with 13 marathon rookies, visit 26Strong.com.