This weeks long run with marathon pace made me think about the kinds of workouts that give me confidence for race day. I used to think the answer was easy: If I do one of those workouts known to be "indicator workouts" and I hit race pace, then it gives me confidence for race day. With the marathon though, things seem to be different. Sometimes I hit race pace in training but then can't put it together on race day, so it's no longer a race day confidence boost. There are times when I can run marathon pace in training, but finish that portion of the workout so exhausted that I'm barely able to run the rest of the long run afterwards. I don't get confidence from those runs because usually the marathon pace portion is less than a half-marathon and it's hard to imagine that I'll magically be able to complete a marathon at that pace in a few weeks.
Today I ran a little slower than my goal marathon pace for the Petit Train du Nord Marathon on October 1st, but I finished feeling relatively comfortable. It's also the end of 120+ kilometre week so I felt like a superhero. The marathon pace was divided into intervals, four time four kilometres with three minutes jog in between, so it was much more manageable than the original 16 kilometres at marathon pace in the original plan. That means that I ran an easier workout at a slower pace, while feeling better about the run than previous runs where I did the harder workout. Why? Because feeling strong hitting almost the right pace, is better than feeling destroyed after 16 kilometres when you have to race 42 at the same speed.
Of course feeling confident won't get me a marathon PB (personal best), but it will help me stay positive when the race starts to feel hard. My running experience has also taught me that workouts don't always predict race performance. The marathon has been a mystery to me because unlike other race distances, most of my marathon PB's happened when my training was less than ideal. In shorter distance races I used to know when I was fit and most of the time ended up with a good race if training had been going well. So what do I do with all this conflicting information? Well since workout performance won't guarantee a PB in the marathon, I'll focus on enjoying the workouts instead. They're much easier to enjoy when I don't need to walk back to the car after bonking halfway through the run.
Are there any workouts that give you confidence for marathon day? If so, what are they?
Photo: In 2019 I ran the Transelkirks 5-day run with my training buddy Alan. This race can be done as a solo participant or a team of two, but since it was my first time doing a multi-day trail run and it was in bear country, I was happy that Alan agreed to be my partner. This is us crossing the finish line on one of the days.