Third Austin Marathon Experience: Learning the balance …

I do not know how to best put this blog post out there. I have two things I want to share about this race experience. On one hand my third go at Austin taught me much about how to balance goal setting in the big picture of life. On the other hand I simply want to share with you how silly/crazy/ awesome my race strategy was for this particular race. So first things first – BIG PICTURE.

Since we were kids we have always heard people say, “Shoot for the moon and if you miss you will land among the stars.” OR we have heard, “Never sell yourself short.” “Expect great things.” “Set big goals.” And on and on … Big picture -we have, or at least I have, always had a person in my life encouraging me to set some huge goal. If you read my first race report you know I do exactly that. I have always set big goals. But is that the only thing we need to do in order to experience some type of success?

Let’s take the flip side of our favorite clichés. “Take life one day at a time.” “The journey of a thousand miles starts with one step.” “Build on your foundation.” So it seems that I have met respectable people who encourage two different ideas. One says shoot for the stars and another says build the base. Which is correct? Is it either, or? In the words of my favorite mentor “It is – Both, And.” We decide where we want to go, but we start with where we are currently …


Isn’t this supposed to be about running marathons?

Running the Austin Marathon this year was my 3rd time to run Austin and my 5th time to run a marathon. I had a strong desire to get it right. I had the big goal in mind – 55 minute PR from Austin Marathon 2010! HOWEVER, this time I wanted to incorporate where I was at the time. I had to lay out certain things that I knew about myself. (I would prefer not to talk about specific pace but in this post I have to) So here are the facts I knew about myself going into the 2011 Austin Marathon.

1)   I had a strong aerobic base built on running 9:00-9:30 pace long runs with Rogue for numerous weekends.

2)   When racing Chicago a few months prior I tried for a 3:40 and bonked.

3)   When racing half marathons I could run 7:30-7:40 pace … comfortably without needing a day to recover.

So how should I approach Austin? Well, I decided to start with the pace that felt most comfortable – 9:30. Knowing I could race a half at 7:30s made me think ending with 8:00 minute miles should be easy … So this was the plan.

5 miles @ 9:30, 5 miles @ 9:00, 5 miles @ 8:30, 11.2 miles @ 8:00 … and that is what I did! I woke up that morning with that game plan in mind. I knew I was capable of running any of those splits any day … so I created this ridiculous yet personal plan to help myself get just one step closer to the bigger goal …  I can now tell myself the 3:40s are secure and it makes more since to shoot for the 3:30s … and then soon the Boston Qualifying Standers … but I had to slow down and get things right. I had to break one barrier before over shooting to the next. Sometimes taking a breath and achieving a short-term goal is what we need in order to reach the long-term goal. Don’t forget the long-term goal; just hit the short one first! Now that structure, security, and self-belief  are in place … I will tweak the specifics and find a more fluid pace for the entire race.

Now concerning actual splits and times, I do not think this is the right plan for everyone. In fact, starting a minute and thirty seconds slower than goal pace sounds quite ridiculous. However, most marathoners do want to find a balance in their races and if at all possible run negative splits. More specific to Austin, keep in mind the hills and course design. The first half of the Austin Marathon is much tougher than the second half.  So starting a bit slower and building into a strong pace will behoove anyone running the Austin Marathon in 2012.

So if you wanted a 5 minute distraction from those papers on your desk, I hope this provided you exactly that. If you want a tip for running Austin this coming year … I hope you got one: start easy and build into it! If you wanted to ponder the gap between setting big goals and healthy self-acceptance, this is just one runner’s way of saying it. Lastly, if you want someone to train with for the 2012 Austin Marathon … then come run with us:


Post By: James Dodds


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