Learn : Marathon Story  

Running Background:

marathon photoI consider myself an advanced runner and I primarily run for competition. I initially planned on running Missoula as a training run to prepare for a 50 miler in August. But, after I failed to qualify for Boston at the Colorado Marathon in May, I decided to try again in Missoula if the weather was decent. The weather turned out perfect, so I gave it a shot (and made it).


I used a combination of Pete Pfitzinger and Jack Daniels methodology, mostly Daniels in the last 5 weeks leading up to Missoula. I ran 60-70 miles per week in that time, including one speedwork session, one long run and easy running on the other five days.

Prior to that, I had completed a Pfitzinger 18 week plan leading up to the Colorado Marathon on May 4. That plan topped out at 100 miles per week, including a long run, a mid-week medium-long run, and on session of either speedwork or tempo running.

In terms of training advice, I will say that I followed a very rigid, high mileage training plan leading up to Colorado and did not have a good race there. My schedule between Colorado and Missoula (which included the Deadwood-Mickelson Trail Marathon on June 8 as a training run) was much more loose and lower mileage and I ended up having a great race at Missoula.

Race Day:

The 2008 Missoula Marathon was better than expected. I told everyone I know that I was planning on trying to qualify for Boston at the Colorado Marathon back in May. That didn't work out so well, and I ran a 3:18:06, which was a PR, but still 8 minutes short of a BQ. For Missoula, I kept my mouth shut, not telling a soul that I was secretly planning on giving it another shot.

For the first 12 miles, the pace was almost effortless. I needed to run a 7:17 pace to get a 3:10:59 for my BQ, and I was running consistent 7:10 miles for those first 12. This was on purpose because I knew from running Missoula last year that the only significant hill on the course was right at halfway and was about a mile and a half long, so I would be losing some time there. I wanted to have a cushion for that hill and for the almost inevitable fade in the final 6 miles.

I was able to maintain a fairly good pace on the hill this year. I did lose some of my cushion, but not as much as I had thought I would. After coming down off the hill, I ran a few more miles at around 7:17 and then the fade began. Around mile 19, I noticed that my heart rate was creeping up and my pace was slowing to around 7:20 even though it felt like I was pushing just as hard, if not harder. I tried to do a bunch of calculations in my head to figure out how much of a cushion I had and how many seconds per mile I could spare and still make it in time. This is hard to do under normal circumstances, much less after having run 20 miles.

By mile 21 or so, I was fairly convinced the I wasn't going to make it because it just felt like my pace was slipping too much and I didn't think I'd be able to keep it from slipping further. But, at mile 23 a glance at my pace band revealed that I still had a decent cushion and that if I just maintained the pace I was running, I would make it. By this point, though, my calves were very tight and felt like they were on the verge of an all-out revolt. I pressed forward, keeping my focus on the guy in the yellow shirt about 15 seconds ahead of me, who I had been following for a few miles already. When I hit mile 25, I knew I would BQ unless something went horribly, horribly wrong (like my calves seizing). Finally, we made the last right hand turn off of 4th St. and onto the Higgins Ave. Bridge, which marked the 0.2 to go mark. I could see the balloon arch marking the finish line on the other side of the bridge. I glanced at my Garmin about halfway across the bridge and saw 3:09:18 and knew that I was definitely going to make it. I pushed a tiny bit harder (a tiny bit is all I had left), pumped my right fist in the air a few times and crossed the line in 3:09:41, good enough for my first ever BQ and, as it turns out, also good enough for 1st place in my age group!


I didn't have any recovery problems. I was shocked by how good my legs felt immediately after the race and in the following days. In fact, they feel good enough to run a 10.4 mile race, 5 days after the marathon.

Running Gear Recommendations:

ASICS Stratus Running Shoes
These shoes have been my go to racing shoe ever since they came out. They are very similar to older versions of the Asics Cumulus. The Stratus are fairly lightweight and more flexible than the rest of the Asics neutral lineup.
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Garmin Forerunner 305
I just got my Garmin in May and honestly don't know how I ever ran without it. Being able to see my pace and heart rate during racing and training has been a great help.
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Hammer Gel
I've tried several different gels and have settled on Hammer Gel as my racing fuel of choice. They use natural ingredients, so Raspberry actually tastes like raspberries.
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Tips/Words of Encouragement:

It's all about putting in the miles. That doesn't mean you have to run 100 miles per week, you just have to have the dedication to stick to a schedule and spend some time on your feet. Focus first on just covering the distance; worry about how fast you are covering it later on.

Plans to Run Another:

Yes! I qualified for Boston! Not running it would be like an NFL team making it to the Super Bowl and then deciding not to play the game.

Missoula went just about as well as I could have hoped for. If every marathon went that smoothly, I'd be just fine with that. Now that I've qualified for Boston, I would like to run a sub-3 hour marathon some day.

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