I've done a quick comparison of the Valencia Marathon 2011 versus the Valencia Marathon 2012 using the excellent (Mac only software) Rubitrack.
If you look closely at the graphs, the first bar corresponds to 2011 while the second one corresponds to 2012. I was struck by how remarkably similar the two performances were except for a few points:
- I started off faster this year but my heart rate was slightly lower (I completed half the Marathon in 1:27:30 in 2012 versus 1:30 in 2011). I think that I am in better running shape than I was last year. Perhaps I did run the first few kilometres too fast.
- I "blew up" in almost exactly the same spot both years and in almost exactly the same way except that, this year, I didn't get a second wind. (I re-read my post mortem from last year and one of the points I made was that I found that I could push myself through the wall without the onset of cramps; this year it wasn't so.)
- In both cases, the blow up looks like it takes place just as we were coming out of the tunnel, although the pace had already started to drop by then
- Last year I figured I must have been incubating a virus as my eldest son had a temperature the day of the Marathon and I was ill the next day myself. This year it was much more humid (90%). After looking at the graphs above, I wonder whether either of these facts had any bearing on the result and whether there is some altogether more fundamental reason.
I also compared the data with the Marathon I ran in Seville in 2:54. The earliest differences are evident after the halfway mark when my heart rate in Valencia was noticeably higher but the pace was lower (averaged from 20 to 30 kilometres). For some reason, I was struggling to maintain the same pace. It's clear that however I would have run the race, I wouldn't have beaten my time in Seville, but I'm left with the doubt that, had I eased up a little bit when I first started to struggle at the halfway point, would I have paid less of a penalty later and perhaps been more motivated by a (potentially possible) sub 3 hour finish time to push through at the end?
So what have I learnt from this Marathon? What will I try to do differently in the next one?
- Always respect the Marathon but never fear it. Just when you think you have got it licked it can come back and bite you.
- Run the first few kilometres a little more slowly than the target pace - it will only add a few seconds to the overall time and may save many minutes by getting the body into the right running and metabolic rhythm.
- Try not to worry too much about heart race or pace in the first half but concentrate on good rhythm and form. This is a waste of mental effort which detracts from the concentration that will be needed to maintain pace in the second half.
- Consider easing up a little between 20 and 30 kilometres if my heart rate starts to creep up. Better to have a differential between first and second halves in the order of 5 minutes than 15.
- Be prepared to fight. Have several target times and reasons to hit them - not just one - so that if I find myself off pace I still have a reason to keep pushing. More than anything, this will help me feel satisfied with my performance which is the most important objective.
- Try incorporating acceleration long runs into my training schedule, so that they feel more like the last kilometres of a Marathon and less like the first. I've bought the Hansons Marathon Method book which appears to be creating waves by, amongst other things, replacing the 35 km long run with a 25 km acceleration run. (More on that when I have read it.)
- Consider starting the specific training earlier - even though I have a pretty good base level of fitness most of the year round, perhaps 9-11 weeks is not long enough to cover all the aspects: strength, endurance and speed.
When I think of the top Marathon runners, I am amazed not only by how fast they run but also by how consistent they are (for the most part). It's true that they are running a different kind of race than the rest of us (near 2 hours at close to anaerobic threshold versus near 3 hours at close to aerobic threshold) but, even for the elite runners, the Marathon is not a distance to be taken lightly. One thing is for sure, I may be inconsistent in my Marathon times but at least I am consistently inconsistent!