Boston Training: Pacing and Race Prep

by Carissa

This week has been pretty awesome.  Every time I turn around someone is wishing me well for my race or telling me they will be praying for me.  The support and encouragement from friends and family has been so heartwarming.  I have been blessed with a lot of cheerleaders!

My race prep started on Tuesday.  I finally sat down to do some math.  I love numbers and applying them to running.  The first thing I wanted to do was take a look at my mile splits from my prior marathons.  I have hit “the wall” in every marathon.  In my first marathon I was on track to have a Boston qualifying time at the halfway point, but lost nine minutes in the second half.  In my second and third marathons I had positive splits by five minutes.  (A positive split is when the second half of your race is slower than your first half.  If you run a negative split, then your second half is faster than your first half.)

I know why this occurs.  I have a habit of being overambitious with my goals.  I think "If I go out strong, maybe I can hold on."  It hasn’t worked out for me.  I am ready to try something new in Boston.

I began my training thinking I could run a 3:20.  If I had a bad day and hit the wall maybe a 3:23. If I had a good day maybe a 3:18.  As race day approached I questioned my 3:20 goal.  Was I being too conservative?  I felt myself getting overambitious again and setting myself up for a second half crash.  

Tuesday night I went to the Team Athena track workout and asked Coach Nikki her thoughts on pacing.  I downloaded my times and pacing thoughts and after listening, she said she thinks I could run a 3:15 or 3:16 race!  What!?

Her advice was to start out slow with my pace between 7:30 and 7:35 minute miles in the first half.  At the halfway point, I should take inventory.  If I feel good, then I should pick up the pace for the remainder of the race.  

This plan sounds great to me.  I’m tired of running a weak second half.  I would love to get to the halfway mark and feel like I have been holding back to that point.  I want to feel like I’m still racing after twenty miles instead of using all my strength to...just...keep...running.

Can I pull this off?  It’s a lot easier to sit here and type this game plan than to actually execute it.  Now that I’ve put it all out there I have my Sole Sisters to hold me accountable.

With a pace plan set in place it was time to think about pre-race nutrition.  I will be doing a three day carbo load.  I’m using the plan in this article.  It’s my fourth time using it.  I find carbo loading to be confusing and appreciate that this article gives a sample diet.  Being true to my type-A self, I do follow it to a tee.  Usually my diet is full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, etc.  This is kind of eating is very different for me but I am assuming the carbs will do their trick.  

Everything was falling into place nicely.  I'm happy to be headed into this race injury-free, unlike the Eugene marathon in 2012.  I did get a head cold earlier in the week.  I'll be honest, it kind of freaked me out.  At this point I feel on the mend.  Thank you Jesus!  

Yesterday I hugged my family goodbye, boarded the plane with two fun fellow runners, and headed off on my big adventure.  I'm so excited for my Boston experience!

I’d love to hear from you Sole Sisters.  Do you work for negative splits in your races?  Have you run Boston before?  Any advice for my race?


  1. Go Carissa Go! You're going to do awesome!

  2. I am so proud of you Carissa! Run with all your heart Sole Sister!!

    1. Thanks Tanya! Give Markus a squeeze for me tomorrow!

  3. Good luck Carissa!!! I have loved following your journey to Boston. I also think that you are more than capable of running a 3:15-3:16 marathon. Your training has been perfect, even if at times you might have thought otherwise. :-)I am a huge believer in the negative split. I always start out slow in every single race.

    Sleep tight sweet friend. Enjoy the moment tomorrow. I will be tracking you from Spokane!!!

    1. On the bus now getting taken to the start! Your encouragement is a huge blessing and well timed! Thank you for being a big cheerleader for me throughout this process! Xoxo

  4. I agree with Nikki and with Tasha! I think you are capable too. Play it smart, though. Go easy in the first half. It's so easy to get swept into thinking everyone else around you is going too slow. You might be in a corral with runners who are planning a much slower or faster race than you and might be tempted to whiz past them, but try to keep the tangents in mind when passing so you don't add huge distance to your 26.2.
    After seeing your recent 8k race time, I fully think you are capable of a 3:16 race!!!!. Just don't get swept away early, and KEEP WARM at the start in Hopkington!! :)
    tracking from Oregon! Run for Him and be FREE :)

    1. Thank you Raina! I totally appreciate your advice. I know what a calculated runner you are so I really take your thought to heart. I'm not a very good pacer so I'm praying for someone running my target pace that I can follow for the first half. Here goes nothing! Xoxo