I have been talking to my friends this week who are about to tackle the Portland marathon. This got me to thinking about the race and the lessons I have learned from running this race in 2004 and 2006...where I made several mistakes that lead to less than great times. Hopefully these will help people out to have a great race on Sunday.
It is really hard in any marathon to find the sweet spot where you can put time in the bank in the early part of the course. Portland is no different.
The hardest part about Portland is not going out too fast at the beginning...there are uphills and downhills, lots of people on the course running with you and lots of spectators cheering you on as you run through downtown.
It should feel slow the first couple of miles. Take it easy on the uphills. Enjoy the downhills but do not pound them. Try to base it on your heart rate..not how it feels.
My advice would be to try to stick to nothing faster than about 10 seconds per mile faster than your goal pace until you top out on the bridge. This will be hard to do.
Some of the early downhills can easily lull you into running closer to 30 seconds per mile fast...watch it. Then there will be all those people streaming by if you do stick to your pace. Don't worry...they will easily come back to you after the hill up to and over the St John's bridge (Mile 16 - Mile 17 on the course) :-)
You need to ensure to run your own race. This is a time to be selfish...use people if they help you to make your goal but do not allow anyone to lure you to an incorrect pace.
Speaking of pace, there are pace groups that are lead by experienced runners. There are groups for just about any goal time lead by the Team Red Lizard. See here for all the details.
Again, if sticking with a page group helps you, stay with them. If not, pass them or let them go.
Stay mentally focused in the nasty out and back (miles 7-11) . It is flat, boring and the scenery is, shall we say, lacking in beauty. There usually are lots of spectators so use their energy and the boost of seeing the other runners heading back out. A high five or two may even be in order.
In the miles out to the bridge stick to your pace and try to relax and conserve energy for the work ahead. The miles are mostly flat with little crowd support so again, stay focused.
Once you tackle the hill to the bridge, there is lots of time and opportunity to finish strong.
Look at that really nice long flat and downhill after the peak at mile 17.5. The crowds also really pick up near as you run through the by the campus grounds. Gravity can really help you out IF you have gas left in the tank and the quads can respond with no bad leftovers from running the early miles too fast.
Really aim to do a negative split. I have never seen the strategy of banking time and then attempting to hold on work out for the best time nor for the best experience.
It is soooo much more fun to feel strong and be able to open it up for the last 8 or 9 miles. If you go out fast, even if you are holding close to the correct pace after the bridge hill, it will feel hard and less enjoyable.
Good luck to all the runners and have fun! The weather is looking good.
Feed off of the the energy from the crowd and all those people you pass :-)
Ensure to shout out words of encouragement to any one that passes you...after you make them work just that little bit harder when they do try to pass :-)
Smile as you feel strong racing and using all the hard work you have done in training!
More information on the Portland marathon can be found at the Run Oregon blog.
St John's Bridge picture by Cacophony
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