Newport Marathon, 2000

Short version: First Boston qualifying attempt knowing it would most likely be a crash and burn event. Crashed and burned big-time for a marathon PR by over 9 minutes, but missed my qualifier by 9 minutes with a 3:29:02.

Finish line photo

Long version:

I purposefully didn't let the Big List know that I was contemplating an attempt at a Boston Qualifier. Primarily because I felt that it was most likely out of my reach unless everything went perfectly. Well, the weather was just about perfect, chilly at the start and just a touch warm near the end. We had a slight breeze, but nothing to really affect my time. The course was a very nice course with just a couple of short hills. I simply am not a 3:20 marathoner, yet.

My plan was about as conservative as you can get for a 3:20 time goal. I wanted to run 7:40s for 16 miles then run 7:30s till the finish. This would give me the 3:20 and if I had to keep it at 7:40s I could still get the needed 3:20:59 for Boston. I wrote out my goal splits every 4 miles on my hand since I can't calculate on the run.

I started with Marc Frommer and Jerome Fecosi and it only took 3 seconds to cross the start. Marc started us out at a nice 7:46 pace but we slowed down a little and I left them to move ahead. By the 3rd mile however, I was 30 seconds off my goal pace. I then figured that I would try to make up the time gradually so that I would be on track by 16 miles. I walked through the aid stations just long enough to drink what I needed and other than a few miles when I lost concentration was able to keep my pace reasonably steady. To my pleasure and surprise, I hit 16 miles at 2:02:39, 1 second faster than my planned split. I was feeling pretty confident at this point. I was tired, but still running reasonably strong. I tried to pick the pace up, but I new that all I needed to do was maintain a 7:40 then add a slight kick going downhill to the finish chute and I would make my time.

Miles 6 to the finish were a long out and back along the shore of Newport bay. Actually a great place to run although the camber of the road was a little much. The turn around was just after 15 miles. Mile 16 was 7:41 and included two aid stations so I was feeling my pace was going to be OK. I increased the effort a tad hoping to see 7:30s or at least 7:35. Unfortunately, mile 17 was 7:37, slower than I wanted but still better than the 7:40 minimum to qualify. Mile 18 was 7:44 however, and it was a lot harder. Mile 19 was 7:47 and I started to have serious doubts that I was going to pull it off. I was working pretty darn hard and my pace was slowing down. I gave last gasp effort and 20 was 7:43.

The rest of splits tell a very familiar and sad tale.

21 7:59
22 7:56
23 8:26
24 8:52
25 9:35
26 10:50 (uphill slightly)
.2 1:50

Very simply, I crashed and burned. I've never worked so hard in a race as in those last 5 miles nor ever felt so miserable. As I saw my mile times go by (as well as the runners that flashed by me) I started to think that I would have to settle for pulling out a 3:25. That quickly became a joke and I was doing everything I could to try and not walk so I could come in under 3:30. Marc Frommer clipped along past me at about an 8:00 pace or better the last mile as if I was standing still. It was miserable.

However, the good news is that I now have a solid Marathon PR set on an accurate course and I never would have thought 6 months ago that I could ever break 3:30. Just a year and 1 week ago I ran my first Marathon in 4:20:14, so a 50 minute improvement isn't too bad. In the process I also ran better than a number of other race PRs:

Beat my 12k PR (Sound to Narrows 99)
Beat my 15k PR (FSRC Resolution Series 99)
Beat my 10 mile PR (FSRC Resolution Series 98)
Beat my 20k PR (FSRC Resolution Series 99)
Beat my Half PR (Pac Rim Half 99)

So while I am disappointed in not qualifying for Boston (by a BIG margin), I'm not unhappy with my race. I "went for it" and crashed. It was a good learning experience and sure points out my weaknesses that I can work on in training. I would mention however, that if someone wants to run sub 3:30, I would not recommend this technique, it is way too painful. Just run 8:00 miles instead.

Not sure if I will be able to run the 12k Sound to Narrows on Saturday, I may have to run the 5k with my kids instead. OTOH, if I can walk, I'll tackle the 12k and see if I can beat my time from last year.

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David S. Hays, O.D.,dhays@uswest.net