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speed check: unexpected 3:45

A few weeks back myself and a running buddy ran that stunning 50km piece of endurance madness. This week he got revenge by casually dropping it into conversation last Sunday that we might run a marathon distance this weekend. You know, no taper, no preparation, probably still a little stressed from the 50km, just for fun! A little speed check to see how training on ‘The Oregano Project’ was really going.

a trial marathon

I designed my running plan for the year with a trial, off-pace marathon on the calendar. However, it was supposed to be the Waterford Viking Marathon in June. The aim, to serve as a speed check for my new high mileage, low taper thinking. If I could run the Viking Marathon off-pace at 3:45 pace or below, while carrying long miles into it then I would be somewhat validated.

So, when the opportunity to run a sub-3:45 surfaced a little earlier than expected, I of course said, “yes”.

enforced low taper

Since I had a week’s notice to ‘prepare’ myself, my taper was of the enforced low variety. Carrying two 50+ mile weeks leading up to this with a PB posted in the Waterford-Tramore road race last Saturday, there wasn’t much time to take it easy ahead of this run. I squeezed in one gym session, an easy half marathon, one 5-mile, and one 7-mile run during the week.

a somewhat confidence-inspiring rush from running a trial speed check marathon on spec and eclipsing your PB from a few years back
a somewhat confidence-inspiring rush from running a trial ‘speed check’ marathon on spec and eclipsing your PB from a few years back

Maybe it was mileage fever. Perhaps it was temporary insanity. I’m not sure exactly what it was but we set off yesterday morning and ran steady, under no pressure, and nailed the sub-3:45 goal that we had set for ourselves.

What the… 50km for fun, running trial marathons in training as a ‘speed check’. I think I’m starting to veer over the edge of common sense here. You know what though? I’m still enjoying it – it’s the most fun I’ve had in ages with my running and I really have no desire to stop experimenting like this. If you offered me another marathon in 2 weeks, for another off-pace time target, I’d say yes without a second thought.


Running a marathon at the proverbial drop of a hat may have seemed like a crazy idea – it wasn’t. We set off easy and gradually took the pace up after 5 miles to our target zone, letting the hills dictate the positive and negative deviations between splits.

The miles passed easily, especially in the context of my recent weekend long runs whereby I was experimenting with various pace intervals. This was just steady running, off-pace, relaxed and enjoyable. At mile 20, the usual turning point in a marathon for bad thoughts and tired legs, there was no change in mood. We had a few short hills over the next couple of miles that peaked and troughed the pace but nothing serious. By the time mile 23 came around, we had bumped into an old running buddy on his bicycle and were chatting away like any given day. He didn’t realise we were just finishing a marathon distance run and better again, we didn’t feel like we were either. A perfect speed check (view Garmin data).

Morning temperatures were reasonably low, perhaps 9˚or thereabouts. It was a 2-bottle day (2x250ml with electrolyte tablets dissolved in them – the ‘magic mix’). I brought my trusted Nature Valley bar that had fuelled my 50km run too. It was sufficient; nothing more was needed yet again. I’m really starting to rethink my entire fuelling strategy despite what the science says. I understand the calorie burn and the glycogen storage limit, etc but for some reason half a cereal bar and two bottles of ‘magic mix’ are working better than 5/6 gels plus water. The Viking Marathon will be a better test. Warmer weather, higher pace, body under more stress. We’ll see how it goes.

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