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speed check: go run 3:40

3:40 speed check – original photo © Jonathan Brazil

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you may have stumbled on my speed check runs from last year. The most adventurous of which was possibly the speed check marathon just for fun. My thoughts surrounding these runs focussed on a lack of taper and rest before trying something reasonably difficult. If I succeeded in the goal then I knew I was in a good place. I knew that there was far more within that I could summon with greater care leading into a race.

For many, the concept of a trial marathon may seem a little crazy. I’ll be honest, I was one of those people not so long ago. However, last year changed many of my thoughts on long distance running. The idea of running 26.2 just for fun doesn’t seem too crazy anymore. It’s about the closest you’ll ever get to testing things properly for race day. Hydration strategy, clothing, food/carb intake, and even pacing strategy if you wish.


Yesterday’s goal was to run a 3:40 marathon. The ambition wasn’t really helped by the threat of our third storm (Storm Jorge) in a month blowing hard into our faces but 3:40 was off-pace so it should still have been achievable. This run served as a test for a couple of things. Firstly and not least of which, was how my body felt after 26.2 miles. It has been 4 months since I ran the distance! The speed check was to run a stable pace and if opportunity provided, try to finish fast on tired legs.

speed check on pace: a little bouncy but a good, solid finish
speed check on pace: a little bouncy but a good, solid finish

As you can see from the splits above, the pace was a little bouncy. Our first turn was just after 5 miles and gave the first exposure to a headwind for the day. That dropped the pace a little until we reached a slightly more sheltered section of the Greenway. From there the pace was steady enough. The landscape opened up again around mile 15 and provided opportunity for the wind to test us once more. The way home was much steadier and the final 3.2 miles were very satisfying indeed.

nice and even throughout but Performance Condition raises a question or two
nice and even throughout but Performance Condition raises a question or two

Looking at the charts confirms most of how I felt during the run. No great fluctuations in pace until the end and a heart rate reflection that I wholly expected and hoped for. I breached 160bpm at the end but I was running 7:04min/mile pace by then, having just covered 26 miles. I think I can give myself a pass there.

The Performance Condition scores are not what I expected. I did not expect to see a negative score so early on here and I can only think it is due to turning back into the wind, dropping the pace and still putting in the same effort. The charts don’t know about wind and it does look like a drop in performance as such. I finished the run at -5; not too bad given the magnitude of the distance and effort.

oh so very happy with those zones, no 5 and very little 4
oh so very happy with those zones, no 5 and very little 4

I’m just going to sit back and smile at this zone data. Absolutely no Zone 5, only shy of 24 minutes in Zone 4 and the rest of the run carried out entirely in the aerobic block. Compare this to last year’s 3:45 trial effort when I spent just shy of an hour in Zone 5 and almost an hour and a quarter in Zone 4. A faster marathon, nearly entirely in the comfortable aerobic zone. This bodes well (view Garmin data).


So, I have my speed check done. I don’t anticipate running another full distance before the Tralee Marathon in April and thus must take my learning from this run. There are a great number of positives here. The time target for one. I hit the mark perfectly and had an opportunity to finish very fast on tired legs. There is certainly a lot more there. It’s 5 minutes faster than last year’s trial and I expended far less effort to achieve it.

Additionally, I tested my fuelling strategy during this run. A total of 500ml of water mixed with SiS Go Energy powder covered my hydration and partial carbohydrate needs. On top of this I tried a SiS Go Energy Bar for the first time also. I have taken the drink many times already this year but this was my first double dose and it sat well. The bar was surprisingly easy to eat while being small enough to carry with little inconvenience. When I finished the run, yes I was a little tired and a tiny bit of cramp in my left calf but I had just run a marathon, all things considered.

Perhaps more water would have aided the cramps? This will be easy to address during the Tralee Marathon at the various water stations. A second Go Energy bar may also be an idea at the 10-mile marker. I only consumed this one at mile 19.

Hydration and fuel checks done, I have to turn to the pace and reflect. Yes, it was a little bouncy in places. Even with the wind as an excuse I have to be honest and say that it could have been steadier if the focus had been there. However, that wasn’t the be all and end all of the exercise. Lots of positives to take away and a confidence-building experience only 6 weeks out from Tralee. Now to apply the plan rigidly for the next few weeks before a slight taper into the race.

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