Which One of You Pace Groups Wants Me?

I’m allowing myself to have a minor freak out over details this week.  Next week, assuming all of my fears and concerns and worries and general anxiety have been soothed and solved, I will move on to pep talks and inspiration and some loud Chariots of Fire music (extra points if Mr. Bean shows up).

But today. Today is Amy is Freaking Out Over Her Marathon #1.  Please consider this as an open invitation to give me honest and unsolicited advice, because oh my goodness am I listening! Not that I’m ever NOT listening. But you know what I mean.

Marathon Dilemma #1: Pace Groups. 

So, before I get into that, I was doing my daily stalking of the B.A.A. (Boston Athletic Association).  (Congratulations to all of you who got accepted for 2013!).  Registration is still open, which is pretty crazy.  We are currently into the 2014 qualifying window, and spots are still open for 2013.  Apparently, yesterday morning, there were still 2500 openings available.  I have never entertained the possibility of running Boston 2013 because it didn’t occur to me that spots would still be open this far into registration.  Even though I’m certain after this upcoming weekend’s races and the roughly 1 billion people hoping to BQ at Chicago that I won’t be getting in, there exists just a slight glimmer of hope.  Just maybe.

However, I stumbled upon this little tidbit of information on the Boston Marathon facebook page.  I don’t know how I missed it until now, but this makes my heart happy!

I set my 3:30 goal assuming that the times would be reduced by 5 minutes as they have been the last couple of years.  But, the times will remain the same! So, to qualify, I have to run 3:34:59 or 8:11 mile splits…5 minutes slower than I have been anticipating!

Herein lies my dilemma.

I’ve been planning on running with a pace group.  I figure when the going gets tough and I lose the ability to think, and I start fading away physically and wanting to curl up in fetal position , I can say to myself, “just stay with the pacer, and you’ll be ok.”  That’s it.  Just stay with the pacer.

I am of course hoping that the pacers know what they’re doing.  I’ve read some blogs of pacers who kind of screwed over their groups, but those were for smaller races.  I’d like to think that Chicago would have a competitive process for choosing these people who fearlessly lead hopefuls to victory.  Maybe?

Also, apparently the pacers keep a consistent pace throughout the race.

Luckily, both the 3:30 and 3:35 time groups are offered in my corral.   But which one do I choose?

(First, I’m being confident and positive Amy and assuming that I can keep up with these groups at all.  Obviously there is a HUGE chance that I won’t be able to hang after the first 15 miles.  But we’ll cross that bridge when we get there).

Should I go with the 3:30 group and give myself five minutes to fall behind pace?  This gives me wiggle room to not make some mile splits at goal time, or use the bathroom if necessary, or stop to walk, or curl up in fetal position for a bit, or whatever.


Do I go with the 3:35 group and hope that I’m feeling good enough the last 4-5 miles to pick up speed and come in somewhere around 3:33-3:35 since I saved so much energy by going 11 seconds slower per mile?

For me, going out too fast usually means that I start out about 6:45 and run my first few miles in the 7:00 range (not the best idea).  I don’t think starting at 8 or 8:11 will make or break me energy wise.  Plus, the one time I tried negative splits, I didn’t feel like it helped me at all.

So, do I give myself a cushion or do I conserve a bit of energy and hope that I have it in me to go crazy the last few miles?

My inclination is to go out for a 3:30, but I feel like everyone will say to go out slower and then pick it up for the last few miles.  But what if I’m too tired to pick it up?  I’m not giving myself any wiggle room if I go out slower.  But what if I really can’t handle 8 minute miles. I think I know what Pre would suggest!

I don’t know what I’m going to do.  What would you do and why?


Also, the problem with following all of the “big” running blogs is my envy over their participation in all of these cool relays.  The running social media world was recently taken over by Hood to Coast coverage (thanks to the 3 Nuun sponsored blogger teams who were tasked with talking about the race and Nuun as much as possible), and I added it to my bucket list.  It looks AMAZING!  Mountain AND Ocean views!

So, this race just happened, but they are already getting people pre-registered in anticipation of real registration in a couple of weeks.  Apparently this thing sells out in 1 day…10 months in advance! If only we could find 10 other people willing to commit to something 10 months in advance (and you know, running at night and living out of a van for a couple of days).

I hope you have a wonderful Tuesday!

19 thoughts on “Which One of You Pace Groups Wants Me?

  1. Hey Amy ! Good luck with the decision. But try not to let everything hang on a time goal (I know its easy for a slow person to say). But I ran the Cape Town Marathon in 6hrs 4 min. I was aiming for between 5hr 30min and 6hrs… but I ended up wasting so much time looking for bathrooms, etc and you’ll find that totally random things like that will come into play.

    The marathon is an amazing experience. I met so many great ppl en route who told me their stories. To tell the truth I actually enjoyed it up to 37km but the last 5km felt like 50km. LOL !

    Will be blogging in more detail on this tonight. hopefully 🙂

    Good luck with the taper !

    • CONGRATULATIONS on your first marathon! I’m so excited to read your recap, and glad you enjoyed the experience. I’m pretty nervous about that last 10Km…it seems like the great unknown!

      I’m anticipating a lot of extra time spent on those weird obstacles that get thrown in my way, and that’s why I’m kind of thinking to go with the faster group so I have some wiggle room. And I really am trying not to get too caught up in the times…but I can’t help it!

  2. Oh Amy, I don’t know what to tell you. Your statement about negative splits not helping you makes me think you should go out with the 3:30 group. I guess you can analyze your long run and half marathon history and see what strategy has worked for you in the past?

    I’d totally do the Hood to Coast relay! But am scared of the cost and logistics. The Ragnar Napa looks cool too.

    • Good idea about looking at my past races. My big worry is that because this is such a huge increase in distance, that those rules don’t necessarily apply. I really just think the solution is to calm the eff down. I’m trying!

      Yeah, I was checking out the price, and it is a little intimidating! Almost makes me want to start planning my entry video so I can get a free spot on the Nuun team! Ragnar Napa did look great! You should do that one. It’s right in your backyard!

  3. I would probably go with the 3:30 pace group and try to keep them in your sights for the race just making sure that you don’t get caught up in a fast start. If you feel like you can hang, do it and if not just run your own race. I just used pacers for my last run and I found that my mantra was the same as yours “just stay with he pacer and you’ll be okay”. McMillan Running has a really good article about how to avoid some common mistakes before your marathon.

    • Oooo! Thanks for the tip! And I agree…the pace groups will help make sure that I don’t start too fast (this has been my downfall on more than one occasion).

  4. Well you know I’m not a marathoner but I have done a lot of races and if what I said on a recent post is true (that mindset is important to you like me), I’d say pace with the slower folks and pick it up at the end. All the folks on the last few miles and the cheering and the excitement of knowing the end is near make me run faster every single time. Either way, I think you’ll have enough adrenaline going that you’ll have no trouble hitting your time!

    • And see, I know deep down that’s the right answer, and the smart thing to do. But it isn’t What I WANT to do! Thanks as always for your very wise perspective and encouragement!

  5. Amy, go with the 3:35 pace group. They will force you to run slower than you’d like at the beginning, which is what you want! The marathon is like no other race or training run you’ve run. If your goal is to qualify for Boston, have that be your goal. Most likely you will not feel stronger at the end…those last few miles are some of the hardest miles you will run. I am being honest here, and don’t want to scare you. For both marathons I qualified for Boston, I ran with the pace runner I needed to qualify for Boston, and I qualified. They are great at their job, and you feel like you’re a part of a little running family. Read my experiences here (you have to scroll toward the bottom of the post for the actual race part, sorry):

    And here:
    http://www.runrevolution.com/running-like-a-kenyan/ (toward the end of this post I describe the pain i had to endure to meet my goal)

    As you’ll read with my second experience, I felt so good the first half that I pulled away from my pace runner…huge mistake. I started to cramp and pretty much die the last few miles, barely qualifying. If I had stayed with the pace runner the entire time and not gotten overly confident, I probably would have had a bit of energy to push myself the last mile (like I did in San Diego) and finish strong.

    I know we’re all different runners, but this is your first one, and you really want to qualify for Boston. Let that be your only goal. 🙂 You’ve got this!

    • And…now that I think of it, my first marathon last year in San Diego, I needed 3:45 to qualify, but they only had 3:40 or 3:50 pace runners! So, I HAD to opt for the faster one to ensure I qualified. I still say go for the slower pace runner. 🙂

    • You have been extraordinarily helpful! Thank you! I hadn’t ever read your first marathon recap before. Hilarious! And quite clever of that lady to use her pace group bib as cover up! I hope to never have to use that, but a good tip nonetheless!

      I do know that going with the slower group is the smarter decision, but my brain doesn’t think that way (it likes the cushion idea), so it is just a matter of convincing myself. Your experiences have really pushed me in the right direction though!

  6. I think something to take into account with respect to the pace groups is whether there have been any trends in your long runs. Do you tend to need a few miles to find your groove, run evenly-paced miles from the get go, or start conservatively and leave more for the second half? The pacers are only human, so who knows how consistent they can actually be. 🙂

    • Haha…I want my pacers to be super humans with perfect paces! I don’t think that’s too much to ask! 🙂

      I do think I need a few warm-up miles. I think my biggest underlying fear is that I’ll start out too slow and then not have the time to make up for it at the end, even if I do have the energy to run faster. Who knew there would be so much strategy involved in running!

  7. I am having the same dilemma – my goal is to hit the 4 hour mark… so run with the 4 hour group, or the 3:55 group? Or, start out even slowed to hold me back/negative split and go with the 4:10’s to start??? AH! 🙂

    • I know! I’ve gotten some good advice, but I still have no idea what I’m going to do. Glad to see I’m not the only one stressing over every little detail!

  8. If this is going to be your first marathon (sorry I am not sure if this is the first for you) then my advice would be to go on the conservative side and run with the slower pace group. It is difficult to take a half marathon time and extrapolate that to how you will fare over a full marathon. It is even hard to take a 20 mile time as a predictor. This is because when you pass that 20 mile mark (for most people) much of your planning and all that goes out the window and it turns into survival mode.

    I ran the Philly marathon with a pacer (3:30) and he went out very fast and many of our early splits were sub 8. In the end, it seemed his strategy was to bank some time because there are a few hills on that course. I ended up hanging with the pacer until the 21 mile mark and then everything went downhill fast. I had to adjust my goal on the fly and then focused on not getting passed by the 3:40 pacer.

    I don’t think that is an issue in Chicago as the course is pancake flat and these pacers will be running even splits. I would encourage you to meet the pacer at the expo and talk to him/her about their strategy and recommendations for you. Anyway, I will be running with the 3:35 group in Corral C. Good luck!!

    • I think talking to the pacer is a great idea! I’m leaning towards going slower (3:35 Corral C too, actually!).

      This is my first marathon, which is definitely contributing to the anxiety. I know how to pace myself for half marathons, but this is such a bigger distance, and I don’t know if my usual rules can apply. I guess we’ll find out next week!

      Thanks for the encouragement!

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