It’s the cornerstone of the typical marathon training program. Your 20-miler. If you can do that, you can do that extra 6.2. Some advise against running further or doing it more than once because of injury risk and peaking too soon. Of course, advanced/competitive runners often do choose to do more. I do not fall into that category.
Since my tumultuous 20miler in 2012, each year has gotten easier – mostly mentally as that is where the biggest challenge lies. In 2014, I created a course that made all the difference – essentially it combined a bunch of shorter routes I typically take, thus breaking the run into chewable increments. This year was the best of them all – I stayed focused, enjoyed the run, and felt 100% fine aftewards… like I barely earned the massage I had the next day.
I thought it would be interesting to compare my times for my marathons and the most important runs of training season – the 18mi NYRR Tune Up race, the 20mi run, and the half marathon race (Grete’s Gallop 2012-2014 and now the Staten Island Half). There are no runs from 2015 as I was injured that year. I also included both my watch times and my official race times as they typically vary. I even had a brief freak out thinking it was possible I PRed last year when I noticed a 6-min discrepancy between my watch and official times for the 2016 NYC Marathon – but that was not the case, rather I was misreading the data (never buy a TomTom!).
My PR was in 2012 – it was my first marathon – and Philadelphia rather than NYC, which is a slightly flatter course. I had an extra two week taper thanks to the cancellation of the NYC marathon. I also ran the last half of it with my brother, which I wonder if his company gave me any motivation to go faster (it certainly prevented me from making the unwise decision of stopping for a bathroom break around mile 19).
2014 was clearly a bad year for me. I didn’t recover well from the 2013 marathon and pulled my calf while running on a cruise ship that January. Somehow in June, just before training was set to begin, much of my physical pain faded away, but I still lacked flexibility and struggled to reach anywhere near my toes. I was well enough to train for the NYC Marathon and subsequently died at the end of the race with my final mile being about 11:21 pace. I couldn’t even keep up with my 74-year-old dad in that final home stretch (he likes to join me for a block or two at the halfway point and near the finish).
With the exception of 2014, I have been relatively consistent, with about a 3-minute time range for the same run over the years. So far, this year is on the higher end of that scale. I had hoped incorporating more speed/interval work into training this year would make a difference, it doesn’t seem to have paid off. Rather, I’ve found my quality runs to be pretty good, and my regular runs to be quite pathetic. It’s looking like this may not be my moment to PR. But I can still have fun while doing it!