More marathon advice inspired by The Biggest Loser

This morning at the gym, I watched the first half of the Biggest Loser Finale. I love the finale episodes – it’s always so fun to see exactly how far they’ve come! Though I really wish they’d do away with the contestants first appearing in those awful party outfits – the girls are always stuffed into their satin shiny dresses, while the men are wearing tight Euro-style suits… and I swear they don’t look that different than their before pictures! To me, the big reveal is when they change into their workout attired and I can compare them to the mental pictures I’ve had of them from the whole season (not to mention all the times they flash back to them on the scale).

But I digress – instead of commenting on the poor wardrobe choices, today I want to talk about one of the quotes that the show keeps highlighting. “What if I get in there and I can’t do it?” says Ashley. “But what if you get in there and you CAN?” counters her mom Sherry. Brilliant.

I think you have to take this quote in two ways. First, you have to believe in yourself. As I discussed yesterday, without a goal, you won’t get anywhere. However, I also think the contrasting attitudes of Ashley and Sherry are important to note. In doing a marathon, you have to believe in yourself, yes; but you also have to prepare for every eventuality. If you’ve trained properly, of course you can get to the finish – don’t you dare doubt that for a second! But if you’re trying to go for a specific time goal… ah, here is where the doubt comes in.

While experienced marathoners are often going for “negative splits” (meaning you do the first half at a slower pace than you do the second), I usually aim to run “positive splits” with my pace groups (first half slightly faster than the second). Inevitably, your body starts to get tired in the second half of a race, so the amount of effort it takes to do a certain time in the first half is going to be very different than the effort it takes to hit that same time in the second half. Even on the double loop course of the New Jersey Marathon, where both halves were the same and therefore the same level of difficulty, we naturally slowed down in the second half. Therefore, I like to advise building in that natural fatigue to your pacing goals.

We all know that your body doesn’t suddenly get tired at mile 13 – the fatigue sets in gradually, and if I wanted to get all complex about my pacing, I could come up with a different time for every single mile that gradually gets slower and slower as our bodies get more and mor etired. But for the sake of simplicity, I tell my pace groups this: in the first half of a 4:30 race, we’re going to run a 10:02 pace, which puts us on track to hit the halfway point at 4:12. In the second half, we run a 10:30 pace, meaning we run that half in 4:18.

One of the reasons I like doing this is because at the halfway point, I can encourage those runners who are feeling good to just keep going – that’s the “what if you CAN?” Set yourself up so that if you’re feeling great, you have a chance to really excel. But at the same time, you’re doing a pace that will still get you to your ultimate time goal of 4:30 even if things go wrong. Make sure your goal time is reasonable and has an average pace (in this example, 10:17) that you’ve been doing in practice, but leave some room so if you’re having a really fantastic day, you can shine. You never know what you can do until you put yourself out there and try.

In my personal news, I’m just work-work-working away. Had a dinner on Wednesday that resulted in WAY too many calories eaten (I’m not tracking anymore, but I still have a pretty good idea), so I’ve been extra diligent about making sure I work up a good sweat at the gym. I gave up the idea of the marathon this weekend once I found out it was sold out (oops), but it’s probably for the best since I think I might have a sprained ankle. At least, that’s the diagnosis I gave myself after Googling for a bit! Ever since the Vermont marathon two weeks ago, my ankle has been hurting if I bend it to the side (instead of forward and back in a straight line). I’m fine to be on the elliptical, I’m mostly fine to run (except on uneven ground, which hurts a lot), and I’m even fine to wear heels to work… but it’s sleeping in bed that kills it. The covers make my ankle bend every which way!

For any doctors out there who want to diagnose me via comments, the other relevant detail is that whatever tendon goes over the top of the “bump” part of my ankle kind of pops and shifts slightly when I do bend it – if I put my finger on the bone while I move it, I can feel the tendon move. Bad sign? Probably. Let me know what should be done about this, or if you have a connection to a New York City-based podiatrist or sports doctor who can get me in soon (instead of waiting 3 months as everyone always seems to tell me), let me know.


  1. Great post, that quote from Ashley’s mom is my all time favorite.

  2. great post. i am running a marathon on saturday and reading this totally amp’d me up! thank you. -cw

  3. hope the ankle’s okay.

    pfitz has a similar philosophy about pacing–i found it really helpful.

    hope you’re still enjoying your world record high. any plans to celebrate in nyc?

  4. i think that I think like Ashley when it comes to a marathon. I always think that I can’t do that. A little part of me wants to see if I could but I don’t know.

    hope that ankle feels better – I am not doctor but ice always helps.

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