A couple weeks have passed since I finished the Fargo Marathon. That has given me time to reflect, recover and develop a strategy for my next race.
The first couple days following the race, I thought a lot about my performance. I was initially very disappointed because my expectations were so high going into the race. My training went great and I was sure this could be the race I ran a sub 3-hour time.
I don’t want to make excuses, but there definitely were some things that made running a fast time difficult.
1. It was a warm day.
I trained in every weather condition imaginable, including snow, sleet, cold, high wind and rain—but not heat. Normally I don’t mind running when it’s hot, but going into Fargo, my body was not yet properly acclimated to running in warm temperatures.
I spoke briefly with a couple guys from Minneapolis early on in the race. They were running together with a 2:50 goal time. They invited me to run with them since our pacer was a no-show, but instead I took that as a sign I needed to slow down. They ended up running around 3:05 and one of them needed two IVs at the finish line because he was dehydrated. This clearly showed me just how much the warm weather played a role. They missed their goal by about 15 minutes and so did I.
To further estimate how much of a difference the weather played a factor, I looked at results from previous years. In 2015, on a much cooler day (runners wore long sleeves, hats and gloves) 45th, the place I finished in, was 12 minutes faster than me.
2. The 3:05 pacer didn’t show up.
The other thing I considered to be a setback for this race was that the 3:05 pacer I planned on running the first half with didn’t show up. I went out about a minute too fast the first 5K, started backing off, and by the halfway point I was right where I wanted to be for pace (1:31:16). I think even though my pace was right on at the halfway point, starting out too fast played some role in my struggles later on.
Somewhere between mile 18-20, my body started to shut down. My race strategy was to relax and roll the first 20 miles and then pick up the pace for the final 10K. That clearly wasn’t going to happen.
I felt bummed that my race strategy didn’t go as planned. I think every athlete, no matter what the sport, feels bummed when they don’t hit their goal. That is especially true when the event is one that takes months of preparation. Ultimately, I concluded that I did a good job—given the circumstances.
I have come to learn that I shouldn’t expect a personal best every race. The marathon is an especially tricky distance. It doesn’t really matter how well trained you are because come race day, anything can happen. In order to run a PR it takes a bit of magic. Everything has to go right.
This was my seventh full marathon and in terms of finishing time, it falls right in the median (3 races faster, 3 races slower.)
I encountered lower back pain on some of my long training runs and also during the last 10K of the race. I need to address the underlying cause of that. Other than that, I feel really good about the training I put in. I know all the hard work will carry over into my next race. That’s the great thing about running—it’s cumulative. Every run, every race, every time you lift weights, etc., it adds up and makes you better.