Monday, November 7, 2011

3:01:20 at JoongAng Marathon in Seoul

I honestly had no idea going in how this marathon was going to turn out- I've had the worst hacking cough ever for 2 months now, making just about every training run an ordeal. It's only the last couple of weeks have I been able to ramp up any kind of intensity on 800 meter repeats, and as usual I don't have much in the training log over 13 miles.

On the positive side, I've done some solid work- the Pyeongtaek half marathon under 1:30 coughing all the way, a 1:30 half by myself in a workout, a sub 70 ten mile run, multiple sub 7 pace shorter runs of 5 miles or so, including one week with 40 total sub-7 min miles, and recently a 6 x 800 meter workout starting at 2:55 ending at 2:49 on turf.

JoongAng is a big race- 13,500 plus in the marathon, and according to my race number, I was assigned to section "D"- 4:40 or slower. I was told by American friends that they were starting each section seperately, and if I moved up I would be disqualified. There goes any shot at a sub-3, or so I thought. As soon as I saw the guys with the ropes clear out and the masses converging to the front, I realized that would not the case today.

I was able to move up as far as the 4:20 pacer when I heard the gun, and fortunately by the time I crossed the start I was free to run unimpeded. That's where the controversy begins.

International races, as everybody knows, use kilometers, and I prefer miles on my Garmin. I had a feeling that things weren't quite right with the kilometer splits, but I kept my focus primarily on ave pace with the GPS. Early on, I felt very, very comfortable and gained confidence as the miles clicked away. Why did those kilo splits seem so slow? I recall my 10K split at 43 min (that's 6:55), yet I definitely remember seeing 68 min at 10 miles on my GPS (6:48).

Back in my prime, the third 5 mile split was always the fastest in my best marathons, and that was what I had in mind today. I missed the 15 mile split, but do recall seeing 1:25 or 6 at 20K and even 2:08 at 30K, so at least I was not slowing down (now I realize that is only 6:53 pace).

My GPS told me I was still running a stong 6:47 mile pace at 20 miles, prompting me to believe that I was in good shape for a sub 3, despite mile after mile straight into an annnoying wind. As I pushed though those last few miles, I felt confused because on one hand my GPS was telling me I was on pace yet the kilometer splits were not adding up.

Sure enough, as I reached the stadium I had a hard time believing that the Garmin registered 26.2 miles and I was just approaching the Olympic Stadium entrance.

As good as I felt today, I'm pretty sure that I broke 3 hours, that my GPS was accurate, and this course is long. I stopped the GPS at 26.21 miles outside the stadium, while another American friend of mine stopped hers at the finish on 26.37 miles. Even THAT seemed short to me since my 3:01:20 would only translate to 6:54 pace.

The bottom line is that I am very happy to have run as well as I did, I can't run any better in the shape I am in now, but I am even more happy that I've already run a sub-3 this decade. The lesson here is while the GPS is a valuable tool and in fact may be more precise than the actual marathon kilometer marks, it does not determine your final pace or distance- unfortunately.

Sidenote: James Kwambai of Kenya won the race in 2:08:50. His personal best is 2:04:27. David Kemboi Kiyeng of Kenya finished second in 2:09:21. He won this race last year in 2:08:15 and has a PR of 2:06:30.

James Kwambai

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