Can I do a 4-hour marathon run?

If my two previous runs are to be my guide (I recently did the Go Natural 21K in 2:17 and the Timex 16K in 1:33, both with still some gas under the hood), things are looking positive that should be able to complete a marathon in under 5 hours.

The next question will be: can I run a marathon in under 4 hours?

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Dear run organizers: show us how you calculated the distance!

(Photo Credit)

One thing I noticed about runners after a run is that they begin to question the race distance.  It’s probably because they are sporting a GPS-enabled device—maybe a watch or a smartphone.  It’s also probably because they couldn’t believe their race times or the exhaustion they felt when they crossed the finish line.  I know, for example, that the Ateneo-sponsored Run With ME 21K couldn’t possibly be 21K.  I finished in PR time but I was far from exhausted and I didn’t go all-out in that event.  What’s more, my Runkeeper app registered a distance of 19.95 kilometers. And it sure didn’t feel like 21K.  As I saw the finish line looming in front of me, I asked myself: “Is that it?”

And as I walked back to my car, I wondered: how did they measure the race distance?

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Timex 16K

From the time I signed up for the Timex 16K run I knew I was going to best my previous time.  The last time I ran a 16K was at the Condura Skyway run on February 6, 2011.  That was my very first 16K.  Before that I was doing 5Ks and 10Ks.  Back then, the reason why I signed up for a 16K was to maximize the experience of running atop the Skyway.  As a side note, two of my friends who had never signed up for an organized run were running a 10K.

For this 16K run, I had already a few half-marathons notched on my belt.  I figured I should be able to maintain a 6 min/km pace.  What surprised me was that not only did I maintain that pace (my unofficial time, which is definitely a new PR, is 1:33:52, which translates to a 5:52 per kilometer pace), I still had more gas under the hood.  I went balls-to-the-wall in the last 2 kilometers and I still felt strong!  I didn’t have that weary, wobbly, rubbery feeling in my legs.

Here are my split times:

I know that my split times are laughable to the elite and otherwise serious runners, but I’m close to 50 years of age and I’ve rarely been able to sustain such a pace for 16 kilometers.   Such is the beauty of running—I can still show improvement despite my age.

Now that I have proven to myself that I can sustain a sub-6 minute pace, the question is: what would be my marathon pace?

One month to go

One month from now, on February 5, I will be running my first marathon.  Undoubtedly I am filled with excitement and anxiety.  Here are my five top questions that are nagging me as I approach D-day:

1) Will I finish?

I have to.  And I will. Failure is not an option.

2) What will be my time?

My goal, first and foremost, is to finish.  But in the back of my mind, I do want to finish with a decent time. I hope I can finish below 5 hours.

3) Will I cramp up?

Recent experience (i.e., my 32K run and my CIHM run) had shown that I am prone to cramping.  I’ve been doing some web-research on how to prevent cramping, and yes I’ve been adding training routines that would hopefully strengthen my hips and calves (perennially the areas where I experience cramping seizures).  But as they say, proof of the pudding is in the eating.

4) Will I run a marathon again?

When I first crossed the finish line in a 21K run, I swore never to run a half-marathon again.  3 weeks later I ran another 21K!  I suppose the same thing will happen—I will run the Condura Marathon, then, maybe after a few days, I’ll begin planning my second marathon to beat my time, especially if I didn’t meet my 5-hour goal.  Much more if I miss that goal by just a few minutes!

5) What gear should I use?

Should I change to traditional running shoes? I have been running using Vibram FiveFingers, the longest distance being 32K, but I’m still wondering if I can survive the long 42-kilometers using minimalist foot wear.  But now is not the best time to change a routine.

Should I use compression shorts to reduce cramping and delay any fatigue?  Do those things actually work?

Change of plans. Am joining the Run with ME.

It’s the start of the new year and already I have to learn how to be flexible.  And accept no excuse.

I just got an SMS saying that my high school class reunion was moved from Saturday to Friday, making it extremely difficult to run the Run for Pinoy Glory.  I mean, even if I don’t imbibe copious amounts of alcohol, it is a sure bet that the party will extend to beyond midnight.  How can I wake up in time for the 5 am start?

Fortunately, there is the Run with ME event scheduled for February 8.   I really want to stick with my objective of doing long runs on the weekends leading to the Condura Skyway Marathon.  Now that I am assured of a good night sleep on Saturday, I can signup for that run, achieve my objectives,  show support for my alma mater (yes, I am an Atenean) as well as my college course (I am a proud Management Engineering graduate!), and donate funds to the Sendong victims!

Run with ME poster, a fun run to raise funds for the Ateneo College Scholarship Fund, sponsored by  the John Gokongwei School of Management (JGSOM), in partnership with the Management Engineering Association (MEA) and Foundation of Ateneo Management Engineering (FAME).

I checked out their Facebook page and found the map for the 21K:

Run with ME 21K map

It looks pretty awesome! The scenery will be a welcome change from the usual BGC and MOA routes.  According to the caption, the run will extend into UP and will include a run around the UP oval.   Now I am all pumped up to participate!  I’ve been participating in several Ateneo fun runs, but this will be my first time to run inside the UP campus since my college track-and-field days.

Historically, the Ateneo fun runs are not in the same calibre as the other events organized by the more marquee organizers.  For one, there are no timing chips and, from previous experience, there were not many kilometer markings.  But at least they have ample hydration stations and many run marshals.  As for the absence of a timing chip, I don’t expect to win any medals or to even establish a personal record.  It’s for a good cause.

For more info, visit their website or their Facebook page.