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.