For anyone who’s six to eight weeks out from a marathon right now, it’s half-marathon season. Unless you’re feeling up to a 20-mile race at the start of October, such as the one coming up in Athlone, the half will be the last test before tapering and race-day.
I’ll be doing the Dublin Half Marathon tomorrow (20 September) around the Phoenix Park.
The main decision for marathon trainees is whether to race the half marathon or use it as a training run. If you’re just looking to get around the 26-and-a-bit miles on race day without any fuss over your finishing time, then maybe this question doesn’t arise. But if a marathon P.B. is your aim in six weeks, do you smash out the half or do you play the long game and spin around at your target marathon pace?
The training plan I’m following, by the illustrious pair of Pfitzinger and Douglas, calls this weekend for an 18-mile run with 14 of those miles at marathon race pace.
But once again I’ll be pfiddling around with the Pf. & D. schedule. I’m going to race this half marathon tomorrow, and that’ll replace this week’s marathon-pace long run and the V02 max workout.
I must admit that I’m a bit subdued about tomorrow’s race. My run of 67:08 in the Frank Duffy 10 Mile a few weeks ago suggests that, all going well, I could do the half marathon in around 1:29:30 and just about squeak under 90 minutes.
But, if you’ll excuse the pun, it would be a close-run thing – and maybe too close for comfort. With such a narrow target, would I get tense and scupper my chances?
There’ll be a lot of other runners hoping to go under the landmark 90 minutes tomorrow too – all bunched behind a sub-1:30 pacer. I’d prefer to be running apart from crowds like that, and I feel extra pressure in having to stay in touch with a pacer, even if the pace is realistic for me.
What’s more, sub-90 would be over six minutes faster than my current P.B. of 1:36:16, which I set only a few months ago at the Clontarf Half Marathon.
However, that race was unusual – I ran the first 8 miles as a threshold session, so I knew I was going to fade in the last third. Also, that Clontarf race had a couple of miles on the beach at Dollymount Strand, including two passes through short stretches of soft sand – they really sucked the energy out of my legs. And I’ve had some good, hard months of marathon training since then – as my 10 miler performance shows.
So, on balance I should be optimistic and give the sub-90 half marathon a crack.
Of course, what I really need is a secret pacer of my own who’ll shepherd me to the line and even let me take all the glory. But in a high-profile half marathon, what are the chances of that?