Skip to content

2:59 on my mind.


At what point is it no longer delusional to actively train for a 2:59:xx marathon?

I don’t mean having the goal hanging there as some vague aspiration for the distant future. I mean acting upon the statement, “I want to prepare myself to string together twenty-six 6:51 miles in my next marathon.”

Look, hold the cricket symphony, because I know. On paper, I don’t have the street cred to be seriously thinking about sub-3 yet. Not even close. Consider:

  • Using my strongest PR (10K) on the run-down calculator, only one of the five magical math methods has me squeaking under 3:00. Everything else projects me more into the 3:03 range… and we all know how kind those calculators can be. The 3:03 only happens if I have a really good day.
  • I recently ran an 11.6 mile road race at a 6:49 pace. It was hot, humid, hilly, and hopefully nothing like how the Philadelphia marathon will be, but the cold hard truth is that I’d need to hold that pace for more than twice that distance in order to see 2: at the beginning of my finish time.

I can’t get 6:51 out of my head, even though it seems dangerous to reach that far given how wholly unprepared I am. And yet… I have three months to work with. What could I do to make it happen?

What I’d like to develop is more thoughtful use of my long runs. More race-paced running over longer distances. More 20+ runs in general. Looking back at what I did for the Louisiana marathon, it’s clear that I was more interested in chasing overall mileage than doing quality work. In the 18 weeks leading up to that marathon, I had many runs in the 15-18 range but only two at or above 20 miles. A 18-mile steady run is nice, but what is it accomplishing if I’m running it at 8:15 pace? Or even 7:45 pace? Have I been reading too much Canova?

The approach I used for Louisiana was fine for where I was then, because all those miles were building blocks for where I am now. To earn any significant improvement, however, will mean going beyond mindless mileage-hogging.

Still, I’m a bit confused about picking a goal pace around which to base my more meaningful runs and workouts. 7:05 or 7:10 are reasonable figures, but I can’t stop thinking about those 6:51s.

It’s scary to admit you want to go under 3 hours. The blow-up potential is enormous, so there’s a giant part of me that just wants to settle back and focus on chipping away at more manageable barriers first. 3:05 will be a tall enough order to fill, after all.

Still, what is there to lose? What’s the worst that could happen — I try for the 2:59 and have an awful blowup and stagger across the line an hour later than I thought I would? I’m sure that for my three readers, the Schadenfreude potential here is tantalizing.  At least such a failure would make for an interesting story.

Guess I’ll revisit this idea after a few months when I have a better idea of where my fitness will actually be for the marathon.


It could be that I completely lose the motivation to train intelligently once I start school. I wasn’t a slacker as an undergrad, but I was decidedly more concerned with rowing than with academics. Athletic hobbies can’t be the priority this time around. (And there’s no real possibility of that, but there is a danger of me not putting enough effort into having a social life in this new city if I prioritize the running too highly. Then again, it makes me happy, so maybe I can find like-minded boring-ass grumpy introverted runners with whom to be social.)

Speaking of that move to Philly, it’s strange how content I am right now during this little transition period between my last workplace and the grad program. (Real talk, my “transition period” has more or less been a long vacation living like a parasite off my parents and being useless. No wonder life feels so easy. Go ahead and tell me to GOMI.) Right now everything is really good, I’m excited about school and excited about my professional (lol) goals. Except you know in two weeks I’m going to get to school and suddenly be surrounded by people who are smarter and more experienced and more confident than me and I’ll consequently revisit these same crises of life direction/self-esteem and then on top of that I might cripple myself with student loan debt.  (Which reminds me, has anyone else experienced the phenomenon where all the people telling you not to go to graduate school seem to have both a graduate degree and a roof over their heads? I’m not sure what I’m supposed to conclude from that.)

Maybe by the time I need to start paying off my debts, the economy will have crashed, we’ll have burned through all our fossil fuels, and someone will have shot the satellites out of the sky, which at the very least means there will be no dopes swerving around at 20 MPH above the speed limit in neighborhoods as they text on their mensaphones while I’m trying to run. I wouldn’t mind that.

18 Comments leave one →
  1. 08/18/2012 17:24

    For you SK, I think it’s a great goal. Maybe it’s on the edge of what’s possible, but that’s what you want to strive for. Impossible? Bad idea. Ambitious ? Good! Hope back to school goes well this fall too.

    • 08/19/2012 09:52

      Thanks! What a good way to think about it. I agree, it’s a big reach, but it’s not completely ridiculous, so what’s the harm in going for it?

  2. 08/18/2012 18:39

    Your blog always makes me wanna go out and run until I puke. And I mean that in a sincere way, not in a post-it note kind of way. I still like to tell people what you said and pass it off as my own: “the race is the reward.” YOU CAN DOOOOO IT.

    ❤ ❤ ❤ queef queef drool drool
    ur creepy stalker

    • 08/19/2012 09:54

      Well, don’t feel guilty about passing it off as your own, because anything I say that sounds intelligent is probably something I heard from someone else.

  3. 08/19/2012 03:20

    What do you have to lose? Nothing! If you train for a 3:05 it will take tons of handwork just the same as training for a 2:59. When you get that 2:59 you won’t be able to keep a smile off your face for weeks. Get after it!!

    • 08/19/2012 09:57

      Ah, that third sentence is such a good way to look at it. It’s going to take work no matter what I end up going for… so I may as well go all in. Thank you for that frame of mind 🙂

    • 09/15/2012 16:49

      I love this perspective – both will take tons of hard work, so why not go for it! (I just assumed you were training for sub-3 either this fall or the next spring).

  4. 08/20/2012 03:43

    I say go for it! Sometimes we have to dream big. You might fail. You might do it.
    The only thing I ask is that you blog every step of the way. I LOVE reading people that have big goals and are busting their asses to get there.

    • 08/20/2012 11:50

      I’ll try! I certainly haven’t been the most prolific of bloggers lately. Is it pathetic that blogging even on a “once a week” basis sounds challenging?

  5. 08/20/2012 07:43

    re: your point about people telling you not to go to grad school: i tell everyone not to go to law school. if i showed you my debt to income ratio and explain options were not really any better when i was actually USING the law degree you’d know why.

    also, i feel like this post is a giant humblebrag so GOMI FOR THAT, BITCH.

    KIDDING! Kinda. But clearly, you know you are within striking distance of that mystical 3:00 barrier so just make it a goal, ok? Doesn’t have to be for the Philly marathon, but still. Horizons.

    • 08/20/2012 11:56

      Nooo, I don’t want to be a humblebragger. How obnoxious! I will accept any tips to avoid giving off that vibe. It’s hard to talk about running goals without also talking paces and mileage, I guess (if that’s where the HB stuff is coming from).

      • 08/23/2012 05:35

        Just giving you a hard time! But seriously, unfortunately when you’re fast sometimes that happens. But I think the bottom line not to be scared of your own goals. If that makes sense. You’re not some idiot who hasn’t broken 3:50 in the full – you’re within legit striking distance and seem to run non stop so…yeah. No shame.

  6. Ewen permalink
    08/20/2012 21:48

    I’ve always thought of you as a potential sub-3 runner. Definitely not an over-stretch to have that as a goal time. For what it’s worth I’d suggest you just haven’t raced enough 10ks on fast courses with competitive fields to run a 38 10k to put into those calculators.

    Don’t be put off by the intimidating paces of Canova-type workouts. I don’t think you have to do long runs at 95% of mara pace etc to go sub-3 on the day. I have a friend who only did a few of those type of workouts (middle 15k of a long run at mara pace etc) and broke 3. She was generally doing ‘good’ mileage though.

    • 08/21/2012 09:10

      Not a bad point about the lack of general 10K racing experience. I do get into the mentality of “you’re only as good as your last race,” which isn’t necessarily an accurate reflection of current fitness at all. Especially since that race was, sheesh, five months ago. The intensity of the Canova workouts is nuts to me in some ways, but he also makes a lot of sense. I like the emphasis on lots of recovery.

  7. 08/22/2012 09:07

    I think the only good goals, the only ones worth striving for, are the ones that sound ridiculous when you say them out loud. Go for it.

  8. 08/23/2012 09:09

    I have no doubt you will get your 2:xx marathon. I believe I will hit that goal one day, and I also believe you and I are very similar runners, so for the sake of having no doubt in myself I have no doubt in you!

    Your 11 mile race is a great sign. I’m sure there was no tapering and all that other good stuff that will help on marathon day. However, I had some of these ponderings last year, and I had to settle on the 3:05 goal. I just wasn’t ready and didn’t want to set myself up for a major crash by running a sub 1:30 first half. Baby steps….I realistically think that this year, with hard training, I may only jump to a 3:02. Just keep chipping away….you’re already scratching the surface

    • 08/23/2012 12:48

      I agree that it makes more sense to just “chip away” at the goal instead of going all in. If this were a 10K, it would be different — the blow-up risk-factor just isn’t as big… Luckily, I have plenty of time to give my race day approach more thought if I want to. I think 3:05 is a solid enough goal for me right now…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: