Tuesday, August 16, 2011

I Can Do Better

Me in San Francisco, July 2011In my mind, crossing the finish line of a marathon can never be called a failure. To get to that point, there’s just too much energy and effort invested to say that it was wasted on not achieving a time goal.

Running several hundred miles in four months is no small feat, and as I’ve said before, that kind of dedication is in and of itself a huge accomplishment.

A few weeks hence, though, I’m convinced that I can do better than I did in the San Francisco Marathon. When I finished in under their six-hour time limit, it was with just ten minutes to spare. I hit an early wall at Mile 14, and a big one at Mile 21. Only switching to a run/walk plan for the last five miles enabled me to finish. Had I kept trying to run the whole way I think I would actually have been slower and may have missed the time limit.

As I start planning what to do next I am building a four-pronged plan of attack:

  1. Run faster.
  2. Run shorter.
  3. Run lighter.
  4. Run Stronger.

Although it’s true that as you age you inherently slow down—and I have significant experience to prove it—I don’t believe that I should be THIS slow already. I’m an older guy, but when the *much* older guy running next to me has completed over 100 marathons—and is running faster than me—well, there is clearly room for improvement.

Many years ago (about 1990) I ran the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler in 70 minutes, but I’m not going for that pace. I think that I can get to running a 5k or 10k at eight minutes per mile again. I’d be quite satisfied with that, and achieving that goal would give me confidence that I could run a marathon faster—if not quite that fast. I will run faster.

For at least the next 8 months I’m going to concentrate on shorter runs (5k, 10k, 10 miles) up to half marathon distance (13 miles). I jumped right into marathons in 2009 after not having run much for more than fifteen years. By building and solidifying my power and confidence at shorter distances I can achieve more athletically. I will run shorter.

In preparation for San Francisco I didn’t do a good enough job of managing my weight or overall nutrition. I feel into the trap of consuming lots of calories under the assumption that I was burning way more than I was eating. As a result, I will focus on overall fitness for the next fourteen months to see if I can stay strong for more of the marathon than just  the first fourteen miles, which is where I have consistently started to fade. I will run lighter.

My San Francisco plan called for strength training and cross training each of the eighteen weeks, but I largely ignored that after the first third of the program. In hindsight, that was a mistake and cost me dearly during the race. I had the power to climb all of the hills (the first 20 miles), but nothing left when they were done (the last six miles). I will run stronger.

So watch for my progress over the next year as I try to achieve:

  1. 5k in 24:00.
  2. 10k in 50:00.
  3. 10 Miles in 1:30:00
  4. Half Marathon in 2:00:00

After that, I’ll see you at the Chicago Marathon in October 2012.

I can do better. I know it.


  1. Goals are good Chas. Mine is to read your blog posts without feeling depressed about my lack of motivation.