Running on Tilt

First two miles

Marathon incoming

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Of all the advice I’ve received on how to run a marathon, the most common is some form of don’t start too fast.

Last Thursday's workout with the Central Park Track Club was supposed to be run at half-marathon pace. I settled towards the back of a pack of a dozen some-odd runners, and after two comfortable miles at about 6:20 per, I accelerated. By the fourth mile I was running alongside Glen Redpath, an elite ultra-marathoner who clocked two hours, forty-five minutes at New York in 2006. I was able to sustain the heightened pace to the end of the five miles, but upon finishing I was spent. I made a mental note not to accelerate too early in the marathon lest I have that beaten feeling with, say, 13 miles to go.

The post-workout chit-chat was more animated than usual, this being the last hard practice before the marathon for the many runners there. While Coach Tony held court in front of the Daniel Webster statue, Glen provided counsel to me and to several Europeans who like me are hoping to break three hours for the first time. “You can ruin your race in the first two miles,” Glen said.

The first mile of the New York City marathon is up one side of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and the second mile is down the other. Both times I’ve run New York I relaxed on the uphill and sped down the downhill, figuring that the time gained on the downhill would more than compensate for time lost on the uphill, and that I could open up on the downhill without expending too much energy. Nope, Glen advised, you’ve got to just relax and let the people pass you, even on the downhill. You’ll see them again when you pass them back later in the race.

Point taken.