Why was I so far off my target time?

Mal asks:

Hi Lee,

Well firstly - thanks to Marathon Guru I've just completed my first marathon at the Gold Coast. I've trained for two marathons previously and never made the start line due to injury. I turned to marathon guru and managed 6 months of training without any injuries and made it to the start line feeling confident.

Now to my question... Whilst chuffed to finish the 42km, the last ten km was a huge test/struggle and I finished some 32 minutes outside my target time of 3:59:59. I appreciate that there are possibly several reasons and I'm looking for your help to narrow them down and minimise this happening again.

I averaged around 5:36 min/km up to 20 km and was feeling strong and confident. At the 29km mark I was averaging 5:39 min/km and still feeling good.  Somewhere between 30 - 32km I hit the wall. Glutes, quads and hamstrings went tight, I felt extremely nauseous and walked/jogged through to the finish line. I've got a few ideas:

1. I underestimated the heat? I've trained through the winter mornings of Canberra and 15- 20 degrees on the day may have zapped me. My first drink was at 7.5km and every drink station there after.

2. My goal time of 3:59:59 was unrealistic to start with? My training indicated 3:52. I've run three half's previously in 1:53, 1:49 and 1:49.

3. Training program and race plan not aligned? I opted for the beginners program. Did this give me the 'hardness' to run this far at this pace. In the lead up to race day I felt fresh and strong, though not that 'hardness' I'd felt though the middle of my program.

4. I just had an off day?

I am not looking for the exact answer, as it is probably somewhere between all of these, just hoping you can assist me in preparing better for the next one :-)

On the topic of the next one... I've just signed up to your recovery program. If at the end of that, I'm  feeling good, I'm thinking about Melbourne. Will that give me enough time to be prepared or should I look to a later one?

Huge thank you for getting me into the 42km club, I'm very proud and really loved the whole Gold Coast event.


Lee's response

Hi Mal,

Firstly congratulations on completing your first marathon. I know it was probably not the time that you wanted but you finished and have now joined the elusive "Marathon" club, so well done.

There are a number of areas we could look at to see why you struggled for the last 10km of the race and happy to try and work on a few of them with you to see if we can isolate what it may have been.-    Your goal time was realistic based on your half marathon performances.-    What did you consume the days leading into the race? Did you carbo load? What did you have the morning of the race? Did you hydrate in the days leading into the race with a balance of water and electrolytes? You said that you took your first drink in at 7.5km and then every one after that. Did you drink just water or were you drinking Endura? You should have been drinking Endura as it is a electrolyte drink which your body needs in the second half of the race. Had you trialled it before the race in any training? Did you consume any gels? Your body needs fuel as it is going to be out there for 4hrs. It would have been good to have one at 15km, 25km and then 30 and 35km. There was a strong head wind the last 6km so this did have a big effect on a number of runners. The weather was not that hot but with the proper hydration pre and during the race, you would have been ok.

The beginner program is designed to help you complete the marathon but is not designed really for "the hardness" as you are looking for. The intermediate program has more mileage and even has you going to 36km in one of your long runs in the lead up to the marathon with a couple of 32s. Those long runs certainly will give you much more preparation than the beginner program.?

How were your running shoes? Sometimes if you are wearing shoes that don't have great support, then you start to feel the effects of that in the latter stages of the race and then this also affects your stride pattern and as you start to fatigue it adds greater stress to your legs.?

What day did you fly in? Coming in the night before can still have you feeling dehydrated the next day.? 

Were you pacing yourself correctly from the start of the race?

You may have had an off day but I think the answer is more in one of the above comments/questions.?? How are you feeling now after the race? You could do the Melbourne Marathon if you really felt compelled to and you would have 10 weeks after the recovery program. If you are feeling great now, I would just switch onto the Melbourne marathon training and give yourself that extra week. If you are still feeling flat, then I would skip Melbourne and plan on another one and give yourself a good lead-in with your training.??

Congrats again and I look forward to hearing back from you.



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