-- Marathon Running Information, Coaching and Advice from Coach Joe English

Will I finish the marathon tomorrow? #running #marathon

running-advice-bugI was speaking to a group of runners a couple of weeks ago and one of them jokingly quipped: “If I asked Siri, will she tell me whether I will finish the marathon tomorrow?” I thought about it for a minute and then thought, ‘I should really try that!’ Well the results weren’t great. Google likewise didn’t come up with much in the way of conclusive answers. So I decided to answer this all important question: “WILL YOU FINISH THE MARATHON TOMORROW?”

DSC_3133-XLI know what you’re thinking: there’s no way that Joe can predict whether any particular person is going to finish a marathon or not. There are just so many factors that come into play. But honestly, I can break this down into a five question test and for the most part say whether you’re going to finish a marathon or not.

First let’s set the playing field for you. The finish rate in most large marathons is about 80-90%. That means that among those that start the race about 8 out of 10 people finish the race. This may seem high to you, but in reality most people that attempt a marathon have done some level of training and get themselves to the finish-line. Finishing here is not measured in speed — we’re talking finishing “at all” and it may not be pretty. But that means that most people finish the race. The question we now jump into is what happens to those last two people and what throws those rates way out of whack.

Question 1: Did you train for the marathon? Most people read that question and say, “duh, of course I trained for the marathon. It would be insane not to train for a marathon, right?” Yeah, that’s true, but it happens. I have walked many a marathon with the last person in the race and they tell me that “I just didn’t train.” For whatever reason — whether they were too busy, too sick, too unmotivated — it just didn’t happen. My favorite all time story was a women in here late-60s that had been on a cruise that stopped in Anchorage on the day of the Mayor’s Marathon and she “just did it” because it was happening that day. SHE FINISHED! ANSWER: if you haven’t training, the odds that you won’t finished skyrocket, but even then it is possible to finish.

Question 2: What is the weather going to be on race day? The number 1 reason beyond all reasons that drop the finish rate in a marathon is if the weather is unseasonably hot. When the temperature is above 75 degrees, the finish rate starts sinking. This is especially true in places where people haven’t been exposed to warm weather — like in Chicago in the Fall. Hot weather can drop the finish rate by 10-20%. ANSWER: if the temperature goes way up, your odds of finishing drop, but so long as you hydrate and slow down, you can still finish.

Question 3: Are you injured? Lots of runners that are injured feel a pressure to run a race even though they have been injured. They “go for it” and unfortunately, this is the second highest reason that they don’t finish. ANSWER: if you’ve been injured (which means you may not have trained) and are still injured when you start a race, odds are much higher that you will not finish.

Question 4: Are you sick? Lots of people get sick before a marathon and, similar to the previous question, still go for it. Depending on the illness this is a very, very bad idea. The body needs to be healthy to make it through a long, intense, physical ordeal like a marathon. ANSWER: if you’re sick, odds, again, are much higher that you will not finish. You’ll likely exit the race early.

Question 5: Have you finished a marathon before? There’s a lot that comes with the experience of having finished a marathon. Most people that have completed a marathon just “know” they can get through it, no matter what level or training, injury, or illness they may be suffering. First timers are much more likely to struggle, ultimately dropping out if the pain is too much. Runners that have completed more than one marathon have a different outlook and tend to walk earlier and concentrate on eating and drinking when things go badly. This gets them through the race. ANSWER: first timers may be slightly more prone to drop out, whereas previous finishers typically stay with it unless things go terribly wrong.

So what’s the answer Siri? The answer is you have a very, very good shot at finishing the marathon if you start to begin with. The factors that push people into the Did Not Finish (DNF) category usually are the ones above.

Coach Joe English, Portland Oregon USA
Running Advice and News


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