Thursday, April 27, 2006


Donald's post the other day got me thinking about this again. Recent events have kept it in the front of my mind. I'm in the 5K series with Jesse from my running group. Jesse's only a couple of months older than me but he's definitely faster. I don't really know how long he has been running but I know he trained really hard trying to qualify for Boston, but missed it by 15 minutes at Rock & Roll AZ in 2004. He disappeared from the group for a while after that. The effort took a lot out of him and he ended up hurting himself. He's back now over 2 years later but still in no big hurry to run another marathon. Now he's focusing on speed. He hopes to break 20 minutes on Saturday at the Donate Life 5K. Robb is also shooting for a 20 minute 5K. I'm pretty sure Jesse can shave off 26 seconds to make his goal. We'll have to wait a little longer to see about Robb. But if I had to predict, I'd bet he makes it too. My goal when I started this 5K was to catch Jesse or at least close the gap. Frankly I'm shocked that I've been at 22:43 and 22:20 these last two. I never expected that. My best before that was 24:00. I got here just doing what I always do with a little, and I mean little, speed work thrown in. Back to Donald's point how much improvement could I have gotten if I had trained harder, smarter, or better. Could I realistically achieve that 20 minute 5K? I've been a runner for just less than 3 years, I'm not getting any younger, and I can guarantee there's no genetic predisposition to speed in my family.

On the other end of the spectrum, the 110th Boston Marathon has really stirred my passion for that distance. How could you not get excited about Boston after reading Jeff's account and the RBF reunion there on the east coast. Listening to SteveRunner's podcast #41 was just amazing. The minute that anyone ever finds out that I run marathons, it's "have you run Boston?" Even none runners understand the mystique of Boston. I've pretty much resigned myself to choosing another one to cross Massachusetts of my state list. With 4:06 as my best, how could I ever hope to meet the 3:30 qualifying time. I'll be happy to break 4:00 at SEAFAIR, 2 days before I turn 45, technically requiring a 3:20 BQ. Do I have it in me to shoot for 3:30. Would my body hold up? Are there enough hours in the day? My wife is supportive of my running jones most of the time, but I do take the occasional hit. And rightfully so, I imagine.

My 4:06 was at Hartford after running 3 other marathons that year. I averaged only 25 miles a week leading up to that one. Last year for NYC, I averaged 32 miles a week over the same time frame including 4 weeks at 40+ miles. That one was my 2nd worst at nearly 5 hours. I would clearly have to run longer and faster to make this goal. Back to Donald again. I wonder if I could really do it? Am I willing to even try? I doubt I could do it alone. I believe I would need some coaching to provide a focused plan. Up to this point I've gotten where I am pretty much on my own. Something to think about. Definitely easier to write about than to actually execute.

This week was a scheduled easy week leading up to a 20 miler on Saturday. Tuesday I got whacked bad with a head cold, so no running. I didn't manage to make it up on Wednesday either. I did make it out tonight for 5 miles over on the roads in Bonelli. I took it easy and felt alright. Saturday morning most of my running group is joining Jesse at the 5K. No one else is up to 20 miles, so I'm heading down to Irvine to meet up with the RBF's hippest member. I'm really looking forward to that.


PLANET3RRY said...

The human body is an amazing thing. We share similar PRs for the marathon (4:09) with similar goals... BQ. I think we would have to run an unconventional training program, that is much longer than the normal 12-16 weeks. It would invovle a more rigorous attention to schedule and watching the signs of our body to avoid injury and sickness. During the race, we would need the fortitude and mental focus that Prefontaine had... lay everything out on the table and just run... forget about the pain.

Out of my 9 marathon finishes, the training programs I have followed have been incomplete by my doing. I skipped training or cut running sessions short, especially the longer runs. If I had the open schedule, I would train for a marathon lightly and then use that marathon as a base for the goal marathon 4 months later. Of course, I need to win the lottery first.

Donald said...

Guess I should weigh in here with some observations...

For what it's worth, my first marathon was 4:26. Improvement does happen if you are persistent. Of course, I was only 23 at the time, so that certainly helped.

Running is definitely a long-term gain activity. If you try to improve too much too soon you'll burn out or get injured. It's better to take the turtle approach instead of the hare. Break 4 hrs first. Then worry about Boston.

As far as Boston goes, the nice thing about qualifying is that you don't necessarily have to get better - just older. If you're still running 10 years from now, making gradual improvements along the way, before you know it a BQ will be within your grasp.

Also, 30 miles per week for marathon training is definitely on the low end. If you're serious about wanting to run faster, that number has to be higher. You'll see some big improvements once you get up toward 50 or more mi/wk.

Finally...don't lose too much sleep over these things. We can't change what we did or didn't do in the past. Just figure out your primary goals and how much priority you want to give them now, and do the best you can.

Joe said...

Darrell, nice post. You capture things I've ruminated about.

I have settled that a BQ is simply not where I'm called to be. Not that it isn't possible but the cost in time and training is not something I see happening.

Completing marathons on a semi-regular basis (2 per year??) OTOH, seems a reasonable goal for me. And there are some awesome marathons to do that in. And how many people can do that??

I do think the speed only happens with increasde milage and 50+ miloe weeks just is not going to happen, at least not with a busy job and being even moderately responsible to my family.

Choices...always choices. And those flow from priorities.

Great thoughts...thanks!

Robb said...

I was surprised to see my name highlighted in your post. That's pretty cool Darrell, thanks for that.

You and I are thinking through the same issues. I suppose, to some extent, all of us wonder about the larger questions; what we are capable of and where will it lead us?

I started running two years ago. At first, I focused on simply running a 5 K in under 25 minutes. I have only run one race and was thrilled to finish in 22:53. Frankly, I couldn't believe it! As I reviewed the list of runners/times I began to question if I could pull off a sub 20 minute 5 K. So, here I am today.

Tomorrow (Sunday), I'll have a better sense of it. I'm half way through a 12 week training program that calls for a 'time trail'...a test to see where I stand. Honestly, I'm anxious about it. It's got my guts in turmoil.

Such is life eh? This is stuff we remember; the markers along the path. My running journey has spilled over into the other areas my life and has help renew me spiritually and mentally. It's good! Sub 20 minutes or not...I now hope to run a 1/2 M this year and to attempt a full M next year.

Wouldn't it be cool Darrell, if you and I managed to qualify for Boston at some point? A couple more mid-40's guys making the cut? All of those guys you mention in your post - Jeff, Steve Runner...all of them and their stories have inspired me as well. I think you and I both have what it takes, it's just a matter of time my friend.

Excellent post. I'll be thinking of Jesse today. Thanks, and have fun in Irvine with the Hip One.

robtherunner said...

I think the great thing about Boston's qualifying time is that it makes us challenge ourselves to a point where not everyone is going to reach and because of that it makes Boston that much more of an accomplishment to get to. I started running four years ago and I did not really have Boston on my mind until, like you said, all the non runners in my life started asking me if I had run Boston yet.

I have no doubt that you can qualify for Boston if that is what you are committed to doing. Some smart planning, increased mileage with proper rest and you can get there. I think if running stops being fun because of it and starts interfering with other important aspects of your life then it may be time to step back and refocus your efforts so that you can continue to enjoy running for what it is worth.

You have a great resource here in the blogging world and a lot of people who I am sure would love to help you figure things out as you go along.

Rae said...

Maybe we'll all make it to Boston at the same time! 2009 anyone??? Wouldn't that be great??

Speed is a crazy thing, sometimes it just sneaks up on you. I think I like the longer distances more than the shorter ones, a half is really my fave.

Happy weekend!

Anne said...

How'd you like to be on live radio when the DJ finds out you run marathons, asks if you've done Boston and then proceeds to fill the rest of the time poking fun at you because you haven't...arghhh. As years go by, and my time goal gets a little easier, I keep thinking it's just a matter of time.

Keep at it, Darrell. It'll happen.