Marathon Goal Pace Run: If you want to GET there, you have to GO there

I’ll be honest, running in the record heat last week really had me doubting my fitness.  I was second guessing whether or not I could handle training for a 3:20 marathon.  Maybe I was dreaming too big?  Maybe I should adjust my goal and aim for a 3:25 instead?  Every run took tremendous effort and despite that, I wasn’t even close to hitting the paces I was hitting just a week before.  Logic told me it was the heat, that my body needed time to acclimate to the (much) higher temperatures.  I surrendered and slowed down, running by feel instead of concerning myself with the times on my watch.  It took a lot of faith to do that – to let go of control over my paces and just run whatever pace FELT good.  It was the right decision though.  As a result, my body adjusted – I got the miles in uninjured and strong, and when the temperatures dropped this week the faster paces returned with a lot less effort.

This morning brought with it a special gift – 8 solo miles along the ocean.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the mental aspect of running.  How negative thoughts are inevitable, and how it is my reaction to them that really is what I need to learn to manage.

Yesterday I read one of the BEST posts I have ever read on the mental game of endurance sports.

CLICK HERE to read it.

The author, Elizabeth Waterstraat, is one of my very favorite bloggers who also happens to be an incredibly accomplished Ironman triathlete and a mother.  Every time I read her blog, I am inspired.  She is intelligent, funny and just so awesome.  Her post yesterday struck a chord with me and I have not been able to stop thinking about it.  I think I’ve already read it ten times (or more).  I shared it on my Facebook page and I tweeted it.  I think every endurance athlete needs to read it!

So much of what Elizabeth says hit home with me (pretty much every word!).  But one particular sentence that I could not get out of my head on my run today was this:

If you want to GET there, you have to GO there.

My goal pace for my fall marathon is somewhere around a 7:40 mile.  That number scares me.  I can’t be scared of that number if I plan to run 26.2 miles that fast!  I need to go there if I want to get there.  I need to believe I can do it, that I am built for it and that I am prepared for it.

Today I was supposed to run 8 “easy” miles.  According to the McMillan pace calculator, “easy” should be anywhere from a 7:42-8:41 pace.

Mile 1 – 8:36
Mile 2 – 8:03

This was feeling easy.  I decided I needed to go there, to that marathon goal pace range.  I needed to test the waters, to see if it would feel easy, or terrifying.

Mile 3 – 7:45
Mile 4 – 7:42

It felt easy.  It felt right.  I can do this.  I am not being unrealistic about my goal.

At this point I turned around to go home and that’s when it hit me.  The wind.  It was awful, right in my face and STRONG on the ocean front.  I decided not to fight it.  I hung onto my effort level and my pace slowed.

Mile 5 – 7:57
Mile 6 – 7:52
Mile 7 – 7:54

I started to get annoyed with myself for not pushing the pace.  I asked myself – What will you do on race day if you are running against wind like this?  Will you give up on your goal, change your mind?  What will it feel like to try to push here, to make it NOT feel easy – so you can hit your pace and reach your goal?

To GET there, you have got to GO there.

I picked up my pace and pushed through the wind.  It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be.  I dialed in and could have kept going.  I was determined.

Mile 8 – 7:21

I went there.  And I am going there.  And I WILL get there.

I’ve decided that every Friday is going to be a marathon goal pace run from here on out.  I need to test the waters, to get comfortable with the number.  To show myself that the pace is not so scary at all – it is, in fact, MY pace and I am ready for it.   I often throw race pace miles in at the end of my long runs and that gives me a lot of confidence and I will continue to do that.  But a Friday goal pace run – a run with the sole purpose of “going there so I can get there” – is going to be another valuable tool in my training this time around.  For mental reasons more than anything else.  Because I REALLY want to get there.

12 thoughts on “Marathon Goal Pace Run: If you want to GET there, you have to GO there

  1. Awesome post!!! I am missing you terribly, but happy that you are keeping strong. I read the article too, and you could have not been more right, it was exactly what I need it. Can't wait until you are back so we can run together. Xoxo

  2. Brilliant!!

    And echoes the sentiment in a book recommended to me by a dear friend who also serves Olympic athletes through the USOC. … “Mind Gym”.

    Love this so much, and will most certainly share with the world of women who come to GOTRIbal to meet other women who aspire to lead active lifestyles thorough endurance sports!! The Tribal Talk newsletter comes out Sunday, and this post will be highlighted for them! I'll also share via our FB page on Monday.

    Thank you – for the great idea, and one that will be now a part of my own toolkit. Love it.

    Onward and upward, always.
    Founder, GOTRIbal

  3. great post:) I just did marathon race pace miles in my run – it's scary! Only made me realize what you realized, I need to do more of it and I need to know that I can do it! Thanks for the link to the other blog – amazing read.

  4. I'm enjoying reading these posts! I am going for a big PR at a half in November and my real training will start in a few weeks and you are helping me believe I can do it!

  5. Jess…you have really been inspiring me to push myself lately. I have started to get overwhelmed by my goals for Chicago and your words always make me want to push myself. xoxoxo!

  6. I found your blog through your “Follow This Mother” post on Another Mother Runner. Your words on that post and on the one above so inspired me! I am 44, a mother of two, and am running the Marine Corps Marathon on Oct. 28 as my second one, with a goal pace of 3:30. While I only need 3:55 to qualify for Boston 2014, I really want to challenge myself to get this goal. I love the concept of “getting there” by “going there.” You have definitely shown that you have what it takes to get there! I have had some successes in recent half marathons and 10Ks, where sub-8s have not been that hard to maintain. However, in the marathon, it truly is the last 10K which will make or break me. Your words give me inspiration to continue the rigorous training to make my dream a reality! Thanks!

  7. You guys are all so awesome! I went out and did another MGP run yesterday. It is feeling easier – I am gaining confidence that I can OWN this pace and accomplish what I am setting out to do.
    Gail – I'm so happy to “meet” you and will be checking out your blog! I will be cheering you on as you strive for your goal – and hope we can meet in person at MCM! That is my race too!!

  8. Awesome run! Question about goal paces.. How hard should half marathon & marathon goal pace feel during training? I want to make sure I'm pushing myself but not to an unrealistic point

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