Well, this is a bit awkward. I’m currently trying to figure out a strategy for running a slow marathon. Yes, you’ve read that right; this time next week, I’ll be heading to Rome in order to run a very leisurely 26.2 mile loop around the eternal city.
Where most runners would be planning a race strategy and pacing plan that will allow them to shave a few seconds off their personal best time, I’m actively trying to figure out a path which will lead me to a new personal worst. I will be most upset with anything better than that.
I promise there is madness to my method. Firstly, I have run my socks off at a half marathon last weekend, and although I can’t feel it in my legs at all, I still want to give my body a chance to fully recover without demanding another endurance race straight away. This is especially important given that my next target race is a 55 mile ultramarathon in June; that is, only three months away now. And because ultras don’t run themselves, I want to be able to hurl myself into training for the monstrosity when I return from Rome, rather than having to make room for extensive recovery time from my latest racing folly.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the Rome marathon is notorious for following a downright amazing route, which passes the Colosseum, the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, the Vatican and countless other monuments, landmarks and cool stuff. I’d rather enjoy the truly awesome scenery than spend my time alternately focussing my attention on the extent of the pain in my abs and the numbers flashing on my watch.
So having decided that I’ll go slow, all that’s left to do now is to figure out just how slow I want to go and how to achieve this.
Given my recent half-marathon race time, I should be able run the big 26.2 in about 3:30 if I were to attack it. Therefore, I have decided that I shall be most upset if I run the Rome marathon in anything under four hours. I honestly don’t care how long it takes me to reach the finish line, as long as it’s over that threshold.
Here are some of the specific things that I can do to ensure that my pace remains leisurely:
- Before the race begins, I’ll line up a couple of pens back from the one I have been allocated into, hoping that the slower moving masses will rein in any potential outbursts of speedy stupidity on my part.
- Once the race starts, I will make sure that my start is very slow indeed. I might even walk the first kilometre or so, just to make sure that all my splits are “terrible”. My theory is that this will drastically reduce the possibility of committing an act of idiocy after glancing at my watch at the 10/20/21.1/30km marker.
- I’ll be a good tourist. I shall study the route extensively on the three hour flight to Rome, so that during the race I can focus my attention and energy on spotting as many landmarks as possible. My camera might also make an appearance or two.
- I solemnly swear that I will walk through the aid stations. All of them.
- Should my watch, at any point, indicate that I’m running faster than 5:41/km (4 hour marathon) pace, I have to immediately perform a 100m walk of shame.
- Should I spot the 4:00 pacer at any point during the race, I’ll have to walk until the 4:15 pacer makes an appearance, using the time to think about what I’ve done.
Have you ever aimed for a minimum time in a race? Do you have any tips?