Shortly after graduation I ran a 1:20:25 half marathon. Less than 4 months later, with a goal of sub-3 hours, I ran my first marathon in 3:20:01. Plug 1:20:25 into the www.mcmillanrunning conversion calculator and you don’t get anything close to 3:20. It actually comes out to 2:49:36. That shows you that these calculators are only accurate if you do the proper training. When your long run is only 17 miles, it doesn’t matter what kind of speed you have for 5k, 10k or even halves, you won’t hold up for a marathon. After two more attempts at sub-3, which turned out to be 3:17 and 3:26, I decided to put running on the back burner and attend graduate school.
I did a little racing while in graduate school, including my favorite 8k, where I ran 34:19 or 6:52 pace. Some of you people may recognize that pace. If you hold it for 26.2 miles you’ll break 3 hours – by the skin of your teeth. I thought “How the hell am I ever going to run sub-3 if I can barely run 8k at that pace?”
MBA in-hand, my 31st birthday around the corner and my college PRs a distant memory, I decided to get serious about running again. Actually, the break in competitive running was good for me. It allowed me to put my college PRs behind me and focus on racing based on the shape I was currently in, not what I’d done 5 years ago. In fact, I created a new list of post-30 PRs including, ~18:00* (5k), 23:22 (4M), 29:15 (5M), 37:32 (10k), 1:23:04 (half) and 2:58:10.
*Last year I ran two 5Ks, one in 17:40 that I felt was short and one in 18:15 that I felt was long.
A year later, I decided to try another marathon and actually follow a program in the process. I picked Jack Daniels’ program leading up to the 2001 Grandma’s marathon and was able to drop my time to 3:02:56, a PR by over 14 minutes. I changed to Pete Pfitzinger’s program and 4 months later ran 3:00:55 at Twin Cities and 3:03:15 at Boston in 2002. Finally, lucky #7 produced my first, and so far only, sub-3. That came at the Whistlestop marathon in Ashland, WI, which happens to be where I grew up.