To Run a Faster Marathon, Predict a Faster Marathon

If the race predictor isn’t giving you the times you want, you’ll need to change the inputs.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been working with Amby Burfoot to construct an improved version of the Runner’s World Race Time Predictor based on new research that indicates the old calculators weren’t very accurate.

Somewhere along the way I had a lightbulb moment relating to my (disappointing) recent marathon times: to run a fast marathon, you have to be able to get a fast prediction from the calculator.

No, that doesn’t mean that I just need to tweak the code, swap a few digits out and cheat my way to a fast prediction. It means that, if I want to have a shot at running a good marathon, I have to get myself into shape to run good times at the shorter distances.

That might seem obvious – in fact, it does seem obvious to me now – but for some reason, I had separated my poor performances at the shorter distances from my poor performances at the marathon.

Now that I’ve corrected that flaw in my thinking, I’m able to tackle the marathon goal from a different angle. Rather than just saying I want to get back into sub-3-hour marathon shape – a fairly abstract goal because it’s so far removed from what a typical training run looks like – I can say that I need to get back to an X-minute 10K in order to be in good enough to shape to run sub-3 in the marathon. And, thanks to the Predictor, I now know what X is.

Last month, I ran a local 10K in 40:17. After plugging that time and a weekly mileage of 64km – not what I’d like it to be, but I was being honest – into the calculator, I got a marathon prediction of 3:19:31.

That’s when the lightbulb went off. I’m running slow marathons because I’m running slow 10Ks (and because I’m not running enough weekly mileage).

Playing around with the Predictor a bit, I found that a 37:00 10K and 96 kilometres per week should be enough to get me back under three hours. Those goals seem much more straightforward.

Obviously, it’s a little too late for this fall for my marathon this weekend, but I’m going to use this new way of thinking to get back into shape for a good marathon in a few months’ time.



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