Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Road to Boston Passes Through Hartford

Hartford, CT, that is. In order to run the prestigious Boston Marathon, I must first qualify, and I plan on doing that at the Hartford Marathon on Saturday, October 11, 2008. I need to run the race in 3:40:59 or faster.

Why do I think I can qualify?
This will be my 8th marathon, but my first attempt to qualify for Boston. I'll need to shave 11 minutes off of the time I ran last March-- the 3:51:49. Looking back on my training log leading up to this race, there was only six weeks of consistent training. I was injured for the second half of December and the first part of January. I only trained from late January to early March, and then I tapered. If I extend that out to an 18-week training program, I think I will see a faster result. Additionally, my weekly mileage (a large factor in marathon performance) was about 40-45 when training for Shamrock. The program I plan to undertake has me running an average of 45-55 miles per week.

Why Hartford of all places?
At first, I thought I would use the Steamtown marathon to qualify. It has a net decrease in elevation, and most of the race is downhill. But then I thought twice about that. I would have to do a lot of downhill training, and there isn't really proper terrain for that around here. Additionally, all of my marathons have been flat or slightly hilly. I know what I am getting into with a flat course, so I figured I should veer away from Steamtown and find something flat.

My next thought was going to Chicago. About as flat as they come! I earned myself a position in one of the faster starting corrals, so I wouldn't have to worry about weaving through people in the first few miles. Plus, I was supposed to run that last year but I ended up dropping out due to injury. But then I realized that Chicago would be somewhat of a "production" with the travel, getting to the start line, etc. And I wanted something a bit lower key.

So, I did my research and I discovered Hartford. It's a quick flight (which I assumed would be inexpensive, but it's not) and I was able to get a hotel right next to the start/finish area. It's a small enough for there not to be crowding on the course, but large enough to have crowd support (about 1500 runners). It's flat, and has a great reputation. I convinced my friend Jenna to run this one with me, and we are hoping that our friend Randi will join us as well. Also, the race is on a Saturday, which I prefer to a Sunday race. Hartford in October should be ideal race weather (upper 40's - lower 50's in the morning), but I guess you can never be sure!

What are the possible roadblocks?
Injury. My knee is about 99% recovered (I ran 8 pain-free miles yesterday). In order to stay injury free, I plan on monitoring my resting heart rate in the morning when I wake up. I will continue with my core strengthening routine, as well as lower-body strengthening. Most importantly, I will listen to my body for signals that I am doing too much. If I don't get injured, I am fairly confident I will qualify.

What about a training philosophy?
I'm approaching this marathon very differently from those in the past. In the past, I was very goal-focused, and now I plan to focus more heavily on the training, itself, as its own reward. I am only doing two races between now and the marathon (one of them is next weekend) so I won't have that kind of "high". Instead, I am highly enthusiastic about my training, acknowledging the benefits of training-- not just the "reward" of getting a good time. I'll probably blog more about my training than I have in the past-- simply because training will take the place of all the races I used to run. And I need support from you all! Anything can happen on race day, so if I focus all my energy on that particular day, I could be really let down (bad weather, illness, injury, etc.) So I need to stay focused on the benefits I am getting from simply training.

Track my Training!
If you go to the right hand colum on the page, there is a link to view my training log. You can click on that and get an up-to-date view of what I've been doing. Right now, all you will see is someone who's been gradually ramping up miles with short/easy runs, accompanied by a great deal of cross training. A month from now, this will be a bit more exciting!

The program starts tomorrow. I'm standing at the unofficial start line of my BQ journey. Wish me luck.

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