The Marathon Diaries: Picking Up the Pace

We're eight weeks away from D-Day: the New York City Marathon.  Time to get serious. It was probably time to get serious a month ago, but I got really dialed into the timeline this week.

Sid put it for me in stark terms: "You have to run an 8-minute mile if you want to run a 3:30 race," he said. Now, I can do math on most good days, especially if I've slept and maybe had a few sips of coffee. I also knew I had run a 3:55 for the New York Marathon last year, just under 9-minute-per-mile pace. But to hear him say it -- ugh! It really became REAL.

It became even more real when I actually had to FEEL it.

Of course, this was also one of those weeks where I was once again burning the candle at both ends and averaged maybe five hours of sleep a night. Not good. An 8-minute mile might as well have been a 4-minute mile -- and it sounded like PAIN. But Sid had trained with NYRR the night before and drove into the city specifically to meet me. I couldn't punk out. So I got it together (sort of), and we took off.

The first mile we ran together. This was around the reservoir in Central Park. If you can, I highly recommend running around the reservoir or on the bridle path. Again, dirt is your friend; concrete is knee kryptonite. As Sid would say about the road, "There's no future out there." And since at 72 he's still kicking my butt, I think the man knows what he's talking about.

During the first mile, Sid stayed on me so that we completed exactly an 8-minute mile. It felt pretty good, but I really had to work to stay consistent. I have this weird tendency of running fast and slow in alternate waves, and while it all kind of averages out in the end, I'm not necessarily consistent. I don't know for sure, but my powers of deductive reasoning tell me it could have something to do with the eclectic mix of Jay-Z, Linkin Park and the Crue on my iPod. Great for getting my groove on, not so good for my pace. Hmmm.

Sid made me run the second mile by myself so that I could feel it out. After all, at the end of the day, it's just gonna be me and my sneaks out there running the course. This mile, I felt like I was really trucking -- but alas, I completed an 8:25. Too slow.

We were going to go a third time but my left hamstring was thinking about starting to become a little hinky, and hey, I need all of my little muscles, so we jogged a bit and stretched.

Saturday was my long run. All total, about 12 miles, taking it fairly easy at an 8:45 pace. For the long runs, per Sid's instructions, I'm supposed to run slower than my pace to help my body learn how to better process oxygen. I couldn't entirely wean myself off my tunes (let's not get crazy, I need my music), but I was more aware of my pace and picked some slower songs.

At the beginning and the end of my run I ran into Asteria, Sid's wife and even better half. I told her I had been working on opening up my stride, to which she replied, "You must do drills, drills, drills; repeat, repeat, repeat." Well, that certainly took me back to my adolescent music lesson days. Ever since I was 4, my violin teachers always told me I needed to do more scales and calisthenics, that the passion was good, but I needed more structure and discipline. Marathons and music, so much in common. Who knew?

I guess I'm about to find out just how much in common because I'm supposed to schedule time with Asteria this week too. Now the dynamic duo of Sid and Asteria both have me in their cross hairs. Drills, drills, drills, pace, pace, pace. Stay tuned!

Jennifer Turner is a veteran television executive in New York City. A certified group fitness instructor and self-proclaimed "fitness activator," she believes that everyone has ability, with the right tools, social support, and inspiration to be able to connect to fitness in an emotional way. Her mission is to activate that ability and to inspire communities across the country. Jennifer blogs at

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