Photo: Krazy Diamond, Flickr Creative Commons
But I'm moderately terrified.
This will be my first ever race where I haven't actually completed the distance before running the race. You're not actually supposed to run a marathon distance in training. Even really experienced marathoners apparently only run that far during an actual race. I did a 20-mile training run a couple of weeks ago and my body handled it fine. My brain, on the other hand, hadn't really wanted to go for a run and my infant daughter acted like I was leaving forever when I ducked back in the house to refill my water at the halfway point of the run. Stupid babies sucking out all my motivation. Emotional vampires.
Anyway, 20 miles sounds like a lot. That would be because it is. The only thing is that when I hit the 20 mile mark of the marathon, I'll still have more than 6 miles left to go. After 20 miles, 6 miles is still a lot. In fact, I've never heard anything positive about those last 6 miles. Running those last six miles will be like going on a blind date when people have been hinting to you for weeks that your date may be a little bit of a serial killer.
I've never been on a blind date either.
Truthfully, I know I'll probably be fine. Like I said, I've trained. I've watched myself and taken days off when it felt like I might have been over-training and setting myself up for an overuse injury. I've tested my hydration and fueling routine on long runs and know raspberry Hammer Gel works for me (and tastes like Jolly Ranchers!) I'm feeling good on my last few runs.
I even have my strategy down. Unlike 5k races where I go out pretty hard and then just try to hold on to my body for dear life for the rest of the race, I'm going to hold myself back just a little in the opening miles. During my Thanksgiving half marathon I made the mistake of running my first four miles at paces between 7:30 and 7:45 per mile. I hit a wall in mile 5 and lost a lot of time. Luckily, I got a second wind around mile 8 and finished with a better-than-expected time, but I can't afford to run out of gas on a race this long. I also know that my goal pace is 8:30 per mile this time. The race is flat enough that I can expect to keep that pace for pretty much every mile as long as my legs hold up. That half marathon was fairly hilly and I still managed an 8:10 pace. I think 8:30 on a pancake is doable. That would put me at a 3:43:00 marathon. I'd be happy with that result.
However, after playing with the McMillan Running Calculator, it turns out that based on recent 5k and 10k races, I should be able to run a 3:39:00. Breaking 3:40:00 is now my stretch goal for this race. I'll actually be happy as long as I finish in under 4 hours.
This is assuming, of course, that I don't wimp out and just hole up in Kickbacks Gastropub and drink away my shame. That seems kind of tempting, actually.