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The Lesson of Rick Clendaniel, Jr.

Posted by Matt Fitzgerald on Apr 13, 2009 11:49:26 AM


Runners blow up in every marathon, but in Boston the carnage is

especially extreme, at least at the front of the pack. I think this is

the case in part because of the race's unique elevation profile and in

part because the race is uniquely competitive. A look through the

results of any recent Boston Marathon tells the whole story. Among the

first 100 finishers, there are four or five whose second-half split is

much slower than their first for every one who ran relatively even

splits. And this despite the fact that all of them were warned, I'm




I am determined not to become one of those sad statistics,

so last weekend I scoured the 2008 results for a Boston pacing role

model. I found him in Rick Clendaniel, Jr. Rick finished 99th overall

last year with a time of 2:35:28. I would be very happy to do the same

this year.  Rick's second-half split was only 57 seconds slower than

his first, which is just about perfect, since the second half contains

all of the uphills. The guy who finished one place and one second ahead

of Rick was 2:55 ahead of him at the halfway mark. That dude had to

have been at least somewhat disappointed in his final result, whereas

Rick undoubtedly achieved something very close to the fastest finish

time he was capable of that day.



Interestingly, judging by the

full breakdown of 5K splits, it appears that Rick did begin to make the

classic mistake of being sucked out too fast on the downhills leading

out of Hopkinton. He ran his first 5K in 17:50, or 5:44 per mile--some

12 seconds faster than his overall pace for the marathon. But unlike so

many others, Rick caught himself before it was too late. His second 5K

split was 18:35 (5:59/mile). His remaining splits were 18:34, 18:36,

18:23, 18:21, 18:50, and 18:11.



Those last two are particularly

noteworthy. The stretch from 30K to 35K is the toughest in the whole

race, with Heartbreak Hill and all that. Yet Rick averaged 6:03.7

through that stretch--only seven seconds per mile off his overall pace.

This means that he increased his effort level during this segment of

the race, which in turn means that he was able to. And not only that,

but after running harder from 30K to 35K than he had in any previous

segment, Rick had enough left to then run his fastest 5K split of the

entire race (with the exception of his crazy opening 5K) between 35K

and 40K. He must have passed a lot of runners there!



All in all,

it's a very impressive run. I doubt there's anything Rick could have

done differently after 5K that would have gotten him to the finish line

faster. I'd like to achieve my 2:35 with a slower opening 5K than

Rick's, but otherwise his performance is a terrific model for my race.

Studying it, I realize that I had better feel fantastic still when I

hit the hills at 16 miles, and this will require that I stick to

running 5:54-5 miles from the start no matter how super-mega-awesomely

fantastic I feel throughout the first half.


It pays to do your research.

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