Twenty three minutes.
I want to run this marathon twenty three minutes faster than my last. That’s an entire sitcom, people. No easy task!
And it’s not like my first marathon was easy. Throughout training, the final miles of every new distance kicked my butt. On race day in San Diego, I pretty much shuffled into the Marine Corps depot. Is there any hope for me to make a grander entrance into Memorial Stadium less than four months from now?
When I was in high school, my parents never missed a cross country race. No matter how many spectators stood along the course shouting encouragement to hundreds of runners at once, I could easily identify my dad’s voice in the crowd. He was the only one out of all of them bellowing, “RUN FASTER!”
During many races, I returned his sentiment with a glare pointed in the general direction of his voice. (Some of these death glares are even caught on video – yikes.) In the middle of a race, it’s HARD to kick it up a notch. But you know what? It is the simplest and truest bit of coaching advice I’ve ever received. If you want to run faster, all you have to do is run faster.
But it doesn’t just apply on race day. It starts now. I need to run faster every single step of the way – and get to be comfortable doing it.
Yesterday, I went out for my first long run – 8 miles. Not very long at all, in the grand scheme of things – but you have to start somewhere, right? I was nervous before this run. For my first marathon, I paid no attention to pace whatsoever. As long as I made it from start to finish, all runs were marked as successes. Now, I have a pace to try to maintain. What if I got out there and found out on my first run that my goal was completely unrealistic? Would I be able to maintain enthusiasm for training after scratching my biggest goal off the list?
It turns out, I have a great ally when it comes to finding and keeping that pace. For Christmas, my wonderful husband gave me the Garmin Forerunner 405. There is no question that I am completely in love. As a total stats addict, I knew I was going to love being able to analyze my every step after returning from a run. But I had no idea what a great resource it would be while out on the roads. I’ve never been able to know my pace at any time, only finding out how I was doing at the end of each mile. This little machine will undoubtedly be the greatest tool I could possibly have on my quest to stay under 8:24 pace.
That being said, this first run wasn’t easy. I definitely have a lot of work to do, and a long way to go. I battled fatigue and mental weakness from the start – come May 1, those first 8 miles need to be light and relaxed.
Furthermore, those first 8 miles need to be faster. As much as I struggled, I was overjoyed to review the stats at the end of the run and found that my overall average was exactly 8:24. (Fastest: mile 1, 8:11/slowest: mile 8, 8:31.) I need to run those first 8 miles faster than I ran them this weekend, followed by 16 more that can be absolutely no slower.
But you know what? I get to practice running those first 8 miles every time I go out for a long run between now and then. I have every reason to expect that the first 8 miles I ran yesterday will be the slowest first 8 miles I run this spring.
Even more encouaging, though, is the fact that I found the pace. I hope to spend the next 16 weeks getting good and familiar with that pace. I need to learn what it feels like, and grow accustomed to the amount of effort that it takes to maintain it.
8:24 and I are going to be good, good friends by the time this thing is done.