18-Mile Tune-Up Recap/NYC Marathon Training Update

Pardon the radio silence since last month’s post. To be honest, there wasn’t much positive news to report; while I’ve been nailing my speed paces and my Wednesday 5Ks weren’t too shabby, I’ve been feeling discouraged that my long-run paces have been much slower than what felt like easy LR paces a year ago. Enter the NYRR 18-Mile Marathon Tune-Up. 

When I signed up for this “race” a few months ago, I hoped it would be a good opportunity to practice marathon goal pace (~9-minute miles). After several long runs averaging 10+ per mile, I started to think that goal was a bit delusional, especially since I hadn’t made it up to Central Park at all this training cycle. How could I expect to manage that pace for three CP loops including three climbs each up Harlem Hill and Cat Hill?! I started to think 2:42 (9:00 pace) was out of the question. Maybe I could run 2:50 if I had a good day, but I was sure I’d be venturing into 3:00+ territory for this one. I wasn’t happy about it, but I figured if I could get to mile 18 in three hours in a tune-up, then there still might be a chance that I’d  reach mile 20 in three hours on race day. Spoiler alert: I crushed my three-hour estimate with a finish time of 2:46:26!

I was feeling anxious in the minutes before the race because the baggage and bathroom lines were ridiculously long and I was still waiting my turn when the corrals closed. However, NYRR announced they’d be keeping the starting line open for an extra 45 minutes, and when I finally crossed it (only 18 minutes after gun time), it was so nice to be able to cruise right through it instead of tripping over everyone else who would have been packed like sardines in the yellow corral.

I made a game-time decision to ditch the Garmin and wear a regular stopwatch instead for a couple of reasons: a) After the aforementioned long runs, I really didn’t want to let my pace and mile splits get to my head for 18 miles, and b) I really didn’t want to care about not hitting the tangents. I hate hearing a mile tick off when I can’t even see the mile marker yet because it’s still so far away.

I started with my former roommate Amy, who told me she was aiming to average 9:00 today. As we approached mile 1 she asked if I wanted to know our pace, and I responded that I only wanted to know if we were going too fast. I figured we’d get separated before long, but we ended up running the whole race together, a first for us! Aside from the uphills, our pace was often conversational, which was a great distraction from a pretty repetitive course. When we reached mile 17 Amy asked if I wanted to finish together. I didn’t think I had any kind of kick left, so I said I did as long as I could keep up. But once we reached Engineers’ Gate my legs got excited about being almost done, and the two of us managed something resembling a sprint through the home stretch.

According to Amy’s Garmin, we ran 18.5 miles at an 8:58 average pace (!!!), but NYRR’s official results have us at 9:15. I’m obviously annoyed that we ran so much “extra,” but I’m sticking to the 9:15 pace since I won’t be going by the tangents on race day. Speaking of race day, I’m now fairly certain that I won’t be using a Garmin on Marathon Sunday. Yes, I still wore a watch today, but it ended up being more of a security blanket since I hardly looked at it except as we came through each park loop. Each loop was approximately 55 minutes and change, so I’m pretty pleased with what was a successful attempt at running on feel. I’m even happier that I managed to run so close to marathon goal pace while closing out my highest weekly mileage to date (45 miles)! It’s safe to say my sub-4 confidence has been boosted. Averaging 9:15 pace on tired legs has made me feel much better about shooting for 9:00 pace on fresh, tapered ones.

Of course, once everything was said and done (said and run?), I decided I was interested in seeing some data after all. Here are today’s splits, compliments of Amy:

Whoa, where did that 8:35 come from? Also, that extra .55 is a little bit easier to swallow when it's attached to that 7:22! I've never even run a 5K at that pace and yet somehow I pulled it out at the end of 18 miles. What the what?
Whoa, where did that 8:35 come from? And I can’t hate that extra .55 as much when it’s attached to that 7:22! I’ve never even run a 5K at that pace and yet I somehow pulled it out at the end of 18 miles. What the what?

Here’s what’s coming up on the training front, with a few goals thrown in:

  • A week in Houston for some beach time with my sister. Goal: Don’t die while attempting to train in the Texas humidity.
  • Bronx 10-Miler on September 29. Goal: Perhaps a baby PR, which would be faster than 8:45 pace, i.e. not too much of a reach. Tack on 10 miles (most likely the NYCM course!) to total 20 that day.
  • Grete’s Great Gallop Half Marathon on October 6. Goal: Run as close to 1:50 as possible if the stars align that day. I’m hoping “only” two Central Park loops will feel easy after today’s three!
  • Staten Island Half Marathon on October 13 with 9 miles beforehand for a total of 22. Goal: Take the first 9 miles very easy and maybe, just maybe, finish the half in under two hours, even if it’s simply 1:59:59. This seemed like a much crazier goal before today’s Tune-Up results.

48 days to go until NYCM!

2 thoughts on “18-Mile Tune-Up Recap/NYC Marathon Training Update

    1. Thank you! This was my first longer race since I started training in July, and it definitely lowered my doubts about maintaining my MGP. Maybe you should try to find a half in the next couple of weeks to test out where you are.

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