Marathon Training Begins!

My 18-week training plan for the Jack & Jill Downhill Marathon starts today! I’m not training to qualify for the Boston Marathon. But I’m not not training to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

You might be like, “Wait, Devon—your marathon PR is 3:59. The qualifying time for your age group is 3:35. Why are you even talking about Boston?”

You see, my friend and frequent running buddy Hallie ran Jack & Jill last year as her first marathon-distance race (she had run farther in 50K trail races) and qualified for Boston in 3:34:38. That was her goal; she trained her butt off and achieved it. The course is also a gentle downhill the entire way, making it a particularly fast one that’s popular for runners chasing BQs.

Hallie thinks I can do it. I sort of think I can, if I put all my energy and focus into my training and happen to feel good on race day and execute a perfect race strategy.

Here’s the thing, though: I’ve run five marathons, and I’ve experienced high highs and low lows during those races. I mostly enjoyed highs when my primary goal for the race was to have fun and finish strong. I mostly suffered lows when my primary goal was to PR or hit a certain time on the clock. I ran a seven-minute PR at my second marathon and was so upset afterward because I didn’t hit the time I wanted. What is that about?!?

I know some people thrive on setting a big, scary goal, believing they can do it and putting every ounce of their energy toward it. I’m not the type of person who can do that and then relax enough to enjoy race day regardless of what happens. The pressure is too much. I’ve learned that I’d rather go in with a laid-back attitude and low expectations than pin all my hopes and dreams on a single goal and feel crushed when I don’t meet it.

So my strategy for this training cycle is a little weird, but I feel good about it. I will train with the goal of qualifying for Boston in mind, but my actual goal will just be to enjoy the race and finish strong. And to PR, too, because I think I can do that for sure. Running a strong Lake Sammamish Half and achieving a nine-minute PR convinced me of that.

I’ll do all the things someone would do to train for a Boston-qualifying time: use an advanced training plan that includes six days of running per week, regular speedwork and three 20-mile runs. I’ll aim to do my marathon-pace training runs at Boston-qualifying pace. I’ll stretch, foam roll and use NormaTec boots to help with recovery. I’ll eat well and eliminate alcohol for three weeks before the race. On race day, I’ll aim to run a negative split and finish under 3:35:00.

But I won’t be disappointed if I don’t. And I don’t want anyone else to be disappointed for me, either. It’s a far-out idea, but it doesn’t hurt to try.

Let’s get started!

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