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How NOT to set a marathon PR: Tip 2

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 16: Sharon Cherop of Kenya, left, and Jemima Jelaget Sumgong of Kenya fall to their knees at the finish line after Cherop won the women's division of the 116th Boston Marathon on the April 15, 2012 in Boston, Massachusetts.
BOSTON, MA - APRIL 16: Sharon Cherop of Kenya, left, and Jemima Jelaget Sumgong of Kenya fall to their knees at the finish line after Cherop won the women's division of the 116th Boston Marathon on the April 15, 2012 in Boston, Massachusetts.
Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

You've run your first marathon, blowing away your goal and finishing in 3:50. You had a fantastic time, and now you're ready to do another race with your sights set on qualifying for the Boston Marathon. You've found a flat course with a high percentage of Boston qualifiers. You're set, right?

Here's tip 2 for how NOT to run a marathon PR: Set an unrealistic goal based on the time it will take you to qualify for Boston.

Just because the B.A.A. says you need to run a 3:30 to qualify for the Boston Marathon, doesn’t mean your body agrees. Qualifying for Boston is a motivating goal, but letting the goal determine your race pace can doom you to a painful and disappointing marathon.

How do you know if you’re ready? A race time prediction calculator can help you estimate your time at different distances based on the results of a recent race.

For example, if you recently ran a half marathon in 1:40, you know from a prediction calculator that setting a goal of a 3:30 marathon is possible with the right training. But if your best half marathon time is 1:45, you’re probably not quite ready. A rough way to predict how fast you can run a marathon is to double your half marathon time and then add ten minutes.

Another simple way to tell if you're capable of running a certain pace is the sucking wind test. If you are gasping for air when you try to hold an eight-minute pace (the pace you would need to maintain for a 3:30 marathon), you’re not ready. Marathon pace should feel relatively easy for the first fifteen to twenty miles. If you can’t run 10 miles at that pace without sucking wind, you probably aren’t going to be able to maintain that pace for 26.2 miles.

This doesn't mean you shouldn't try to qualify for Boston. It just means that you should get a few more half or full marathons under your belt before you shoot for for your goal. Now start training!