Being the chronic procrastinator and lifelong learner that I am, I went ahead and did some "research" before my run this afternoon.
I Googled things like: "how slow is too slow for a marathon" (nobody agrees on a number, but a lot of people have very strong opinions about it) and "Pittsburgh Marathon cut-off time"
I'm afraid of being too slow to finish a marathon. I know my former 5k race times were pretty good - not great, but I managed a few sub-24-minute races in high school. That translates to under 8 minutes per mile, which put me right in the middle of any pack of runners in my neck of the woods. 10+ years older and out of shape, I ran my last 5k race two years ago at an 11 minute pace and was proud. I'm aiming for 12:30 per mile for the marathon - manageable, I hope, but not easy.
So it was reassuring that among the raft of articles I skimmed this afternoon there were a lot of people who sounded a lot like me: "average" runners. Most of them had finished within the time limits of major marathons. It's especially good to hear because day to day it feels like I'm not making much progress toward running long(er) and fast(er).
But then I found two articles which said: You're running too hard. Train Slower, Race Faster. In a nutshell: the best training you can do is at low or high intensity. The most effective runners, the ones who had the best race times compared to their training times, were the ones who took the "Slow" in Long Slow Distance runs very literally, ie; conversational shuffles and not a "race pace" distance run.
One article recommended for "easy" runs: "If you can hear yourself breathing, you’re going too fast."
And I thought: "Oh. Shit."
Because I can totally hear my breathing and I can not carry on a conversation during my long runs.
So today when I went out, I went out with the intention of running at a "conversational" pace - 15 minutes per mile... and it was tough!
I ran the entire 3 short miles from my running plan and running that slow was a drag. It was cold, it was flurrying a little bit, my muscles felt stiff and then achy, and it took forever to get anywhere. In short it felt like way more work (albeit way less sweaty work) than the 4 mile "comfortable race pace" run I did earlier this week. But science says that's the kind of training I should be doing more, so here's to training better, and not just training harder.
I'm registering for the marathon today before the cost goes up again. This is it, folks. I'm officially a marathon trainee.