Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Marathon Mania, Part 1: Crunching the Numbers

I’m having a little bit of the post-triathlon season glums, especially since this is also a Recovery Week on my marathon training plan.  I’m not a big fan of Recovery Week, to be honest.  I understand that it’s necessary, but I don’t like feeling like I’m losing forward momentum.  A week full of “Easy Run”s and “Easy Bike”s on the calendar just doesn’t fill me with excitement.  So, what else would I do today but sit down in front of the computer and obsess about my projected marathon time???

On the one hand, I have three marathons planned in three months to do the whole Marathon Maniacs thing.  But on the other hand, there’s a Big Quality goal that I’m also going after.  (You caught the BQ there, right?)  In order to qualify for Boston, I need to run a 3:50 marathon.  Technically, I have until 3:50:59.  I see your eyes flitting to my sidebar at the 4:44:32 marathon PR and you’re probably thinking, “Dude.  Ain’t gonna happen.”  Trust me, there will be a future post about the awful marathons I have already run, but today I’m thinking about the awesome marathon I might run in the future.

If you’ve ever gone down the obsessive number-crunching path, you already know that there are tons of calculators out there on the interwebs.  You plug in a recent 5K, 10K or half-marathon time and it spits out your projected marathon finish.  For me, there are pros and cons to using each of these distances for a projected time:

5K Pro:  My recent 5K time is a real measure of how much I’m willing to suffer in a race.  I ran my 23:36 at a can’t-breathe-might-puke pace.

5K Con:  Uh, it was only a 5K.  Anyone can suffer for 23 minutes, does that really mean I can suffer for four hours?

10K and Half-Marathon Pro:  At these longer distances, there’s more time to gauge how long and how much I’m willing to suffer.

10K and Half-Marathon Con:  I honestly haven’t pushed myself at either the 10K or half-marathon distance as hard as I know I’m capable.  I routinely beat my PRs for these distances in training.

Bearing these pros and cons in mind, I still punched in the numbers at these websites:              

5K =


5K =


10K =


10K =


Half-Marathon =


Half-Marathon =


5K =


5K =


10K =


10K =


Half-Marathon =


Half-Marathon =


5K =


10K =


Half-Marathon =

3:55:46 takes a recent training run and projects a finish time for you.  Based on this past Sunday’s 16-miler (whose ass I kicked with an 8:26 pace!), they think I can run a 3:53:21.

Hal Higdon says I should multiply my 10K time by 5, resulting in a 4:09 marathon.

An article on suggests that I should add 20 seconds to my mile pace every time I double my distance, meaning I should run a 3:54:39, based on my half-marathon.

So… looking at all these numbers, what’s the verdict?  Well, it looks to me that I either can or cannot qualify for Boston, but if I do it’s gonna be close and I’m gonna have to work HARD.  Which I totally already knew!  If it was easy, everyone would do it, not just Marcia.  The good news that I can see is that almost all of the calculators think I can go sub-four, which is my “A-“ goal.  I will be completely, 100% happy with any time that starts with a 3.  Unless it’s 3:51:00 – that will make me cry.

Now that I’ve shown you exactly how nerdy and OCD I can be, I need to know:  Have you ever wasted an entire afternoon dreaming, hoping, wishing and obsessing (you know, as opposed to actually getting out there and training) for a goal?  Have you ever hit the finish time that one of these calculators thought you could do?


Allie said...

I've never obsessed like this but thanks for giving me something to do tomorrow. :)

The Green Girl said...

Obsessed, no. But looked at these numbers, yes.

Galloway's Magic Mile predicts something like an 06:09 marathon for me. Keep in mind I did something like 07:34 last time.

Laura said...

YES!! I'm a total math geek. One of the reasons I like running is for the constant number crunching, goal setting, re-crunching etc. Sounds like you'll rock out the marathon no matter which calculator gets it right!

Alma F. said...

oh sister - I am the queen of obsessing. I've done the same thing in the past (pre-baby) when I was actually in damn good shape. I know that now, didn't realize it then. So hey - I have another calc for you. My running log includes a page that runs marathon predictions for you throughout your training. It's called the Parrott Predictor. Some guy, Coach George Parrott believes you can run 26.2 miles no faster than you run your fastest 26.2 miles during one week in training. You take a look at each training week and calculate what miles are the fastest then add them up until you get to 26.2. That's your predicted marathon time.

Char said...

I'm trying not to think of numbers when I run mine. It's my first so it'll be a PR regardless. It looks like it should be close for you as long as all the stars and moons align the right way on the day.

Teamarcia said...

Haha I just spit my Clif Bar when I saw my name in the same paragraph as BQ!
You HAVE been crunching numbers! And I think the BQ is well within your reach. Personally I'd go with what McMillan says--he does not lie. And your half marathon time is the best indicator.
Besides training your butt off, know that the planets need to align on race day: course, weather, fuel, everything for it to happen. Super excited for you! Never say never!

Johann said...

I often do the dreaming, scheming number crunching thing. I’m a stats fanatic so love to play with numbers. My best marathon is 3:49 and my worst 05:34. So it is possible for sure. Hard work and commitment will make it possible. I’ve seen over the years only one thing works…train, train, train. Eventually you get to that level where you run the times you’ve been dreaming of. Good luck!

Jon said...

Do your best! If it winds up being a 3:50:00, then you BQ'ed! If it is slower, you still did your best. What more can you ask of your body?

Anne said...

I've checked out one of those calculators...but, not as methodically as you :)

Coming off my knee injury, I'm just hoping I can complete my first marathon...I know how easy it is to get pulled into the numbers game though and to be honest, I'm almost glad that for a first time, I can just focus on getting it done and not really worry about how long it takes.

I really hope the stars align and that you run the marathon of your dreams...because anything is possible and you've got three chances in three months :)

MCM Mama said...

Yeah, I've obsessed for hours over those numbers LOL. And no, I've never done as well at the marathon distance as they say I can do. (I did do better at the half marathon than my 5k and 10k suggest, though.)

Good luck BQing!

Becka said...

Oooh!! I hope you can do a BQ! I know I am way too slow so that is not and probably never will be a goal for me. LOL

Ron said...

I have used the Mcmillan calculator the most as I think it is the most accurate. Put in the time and speed and you will reach your goal. YOU GO GIRL!

Laurie said...

I play the how fast can I run a marathon game all the time and I don't even have one on my schedule...

It does look like it would be close either way, definitely worth the try. :)

Kristin said...

I've used the McMillan calculator a lot and I tried out a couple of the others you listed (the first one plus RW). My PRs (from last fall, also when I ran my best marathon) are pretty close to yours. Of the 3 calculators I checked, only the times predicted based on half marathon are anywhere close to reality. Predicted times 3:57:21, 3:59:01 (that's McMillan), 3:56:18 (RW), and 4:06 for the Higdon method. My marathon PR, from a VERY favorable course (CIM) with a 90 sec bathroom stop, is 3:59:40. (I also do the Yasso 800s, for kicks.) Good luck, it sounds like you've gotten speedy in training!

Kristin said...

P.S. I just saw you're doing CIM -- that will be your BQ, I truly believe it! :)

ajh said...

I like your positive attitude that you can do it.

Aimee (I Tri To Be Me) said...

I've looked at all of those calculators too, but not quite as in depth as you! :)
I agree with some others that your 1/2 marathon time is the best predictor. But, don't stress over it too much. You are going to do great! :)

Heather said...

Yes, I have spent way too much time obsessing over numbers (usually at work when I am procrastinating). Looks to me like no matter who's figuring the numbers you are definitely going sub-4:00. :)

Silly Girl Running said...

OK, you definitely have the same problem with those calculators as I have! I have to do a 3:40:59 (ain't gonna happen this year; maybe in Paris (April 2011)). These calculators give me times that are all over the place...