Chasing the Unicorn…or at least trying

Unicorn

Coming off my recent PR earned (on the second attempt) at this year’s New Jersey Marathon I didn’t really have anything on my race schedule until the Baltimore Marathon in October and the Walt Disney World ‘Goofy Challenge’ next January. Both these races I will be running with my wife and so there are two goals: (1) In Baltimore it is to break 4:30 with Shari in her third marathon (we ran 4:45 together at the 2013 Philadelphia Marathon) and; (2) To successfully complete the Goofy Challenge still upright and smiling.

It was interesting for me that my reaction to achieving my PR at the New Jersey Marathon was a very brief high, but it soon faded. Why? I don’t know. I had prepared for this for over a year (longer if you count the training leading up to the 2013 Marathon). Personally I look back on the race and think I can do better. Yes, I did achieve my goal but it wasn’t pretty in the second half. I was nowhere near a negative split and I didn’t pace myself well in the second half. Am I being too hard on myself? Maybe, but perhaps it’s a reflection on my new focus and desire to do a bit better and achieve greater goals. This is what spurred me into registering for the ‘Chasing the Unicorn‘ Marathon taking place August 17 this year.

Why is it called ‘Chasing the Unicorn’? What is it all about? Why am I running it?

The logo of the Boston Marathon is the Unicorn. The primary objective of this particular race is for runners looking to earn a BQ (Boston qualifying standard) ahead of the registration deadline in September. In order to run the Boston Marathon, runners need to achieve a certain qualifying time goal in relation to their age group. For male runners in my age category (40-44) the qualifying standard is a marathon time of ‘3 hrs 15 min 00 sec’.

This race was first put on last year as a response to the increased demand to qualify for Boston in the wake of the 2013 bombings. Here is an article from Runner’s World Magazine that was published about the inaugural event in 2013.

As you may have read from my New Jersey race recap my marathon PR is 3 hrs 54 min 30 sec, not even close to the qualifying time unless I was in the 60-64 age category. So why is it that I have chosen to participate in this race and why was I allowed as I appear to be well outside the qualifying time?

I was already familiar with the ‘runBucks‘ series of races and the race director Pat McCloskey having participated in a few of his races in the past. My wife has won a couple of awards running in his events and is all too pleased to show me her awards (sore point in our household) 😉 I hadn’t considered running a race like this last year as I didn’t feel there was any way I would be reaching the BQ standards any time soon but two things made me reconsider. Firstly, I do some of my training runs on the canal and I have probably covered most if not all of this course during my long runs and secondly I think I can better my PR.

My wife with one of her awards (2nd place age group - Mother's Day 10K)

My wife with one of her awards (2nd place age group – Mother’s Day 10K)

I had struggled a little after the New Jersey Marathon back in 2013 and was a little demoralized having trained and not earned my PR but throughout the rest of 2013 I just set out to enjoy myself, run races with my wife and took my races with a relaxed attitude. I did attempt a PR in the Benjamin Franklin Bridge 10K which I did achieve but mostly it was about maintaining my fitness going into the inaugural Dopey Challenge back in January of this year. If you look at my recap of those four days down at Walt Disney World you will see how relaxed I was and how I found the marathon such an enjoyable experience (even after the previous three days of running) compared to my previous two years running that event.

I came back from Walt Disney World with a new confidence in my running and throughout all the training for New Jersey I felt comfortable and watched my speed become more consistent and a little quicker. In fact I ran three races in the four weeks leading up to the New Jersey Marathon at or close to my marathon goal pace. I felt confident going into the New Jersey Marathon and did in fact achieve my goal.

Okay, so not a BQ by any means but I do feel like I can do better. This prompted me to reach out to Pat directly and ask him if it was okay to register. I told him upfront that I wasn’t anywhere close to a BQ but I feel that this was the type of event that I could aim to improve my PR. It wasn’t going to be crowded (a very limited field) and I would be running solo so it seemed like a good opportunity to try. I also asked Pat if it was okay based upon the field size if it was okay to enter. I didn’t want to take away a BQ opportunity from a runner who was genuinely in a position to earn a qualifying time. Again, Pat reassured me that this would not be a problem just to keep my awareness up that I was going to be lapped…a lot (this is a double out and back loop of about 6.5 miles).

So here I am. Back at it in marathon training mode. In the past (marathons 2 through 8) I have used Hal Higdon’s Intermediate 1 training plan with Jeff Galloway’s run/walk method. This time I am ‘upping’ to Hal’s Intermediate 2 plan. It calls for a little increase in mileage (I get a third 20 mile training run) and with the summer here I can get up a little earlier and make time to do some speed workouts without fear of slipping on ice!! I know it will be warmer than I am used to training for a marathon but hopefully I will acclimatize enough over the summer to make this work. Here is my training plan for this event, the Baltimore Marathon and through the Goofy Challenge next January.

It’s going to be tough especially with the increased mileage but my goal is to be sub 3:50. Yup, I’ve put this down here in writing.

I’ll keep you posted 🙂

 

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