The Art of Estimation


Looking at this picture, how far away would you estimate the rain is?

When I snapped the scene yesterday morning I thought the sky would be pouring within minutes.

The actual downpour came a bit later… But only by about 10 minutes.

This process of estimating time is something I’ve been thinking about since I signed up for marathon number 2. How fast can I go?

As I think and re-think my goals for this weekend’s race, I’m torn between running the “safe” option, or going after the illusive time I might be able to hit.

Before I get into the specifics, let’s start with some positive news.

The forecast looks awesome.

Sunday in Minneapolis is supposed to be a low of about 48*, high in the 60’s, and partly cloudy. For June, or any month, this is about the best marathon weather you can ask for. The start is an early 6:30, which helps guarantee the cooler temps of the day.

I feel especially fortunate because as I’ve read past reviews of the Minneapolis Marathon one of the biggest complaints was the heat and lack of shade.

To help runners reach time goals, the marathon offers pace groups. Even though I usually don’t stick with a group the whole time, it’s a nice way to gauge where you’re at when you see those little bobbing signs.

As I blogged about earlier, my first goal is to set a personal best by running faster than 4:29:57. I suppose you could call this my “C goal.” If I make it, I pass. 🙂

My “B goal” is to make it into the teens and beat 4:20.

At this point my most likely marathon plan is to start near the 4:15 group. I’ll try to run even splits the first half, and then see how my body feels during the second half. Ideally I will pick up the pace and run a negative split. But, if things are falling apart or I need an unanticipated stretch or bathroom break, hopefully I can still maintain well enough to PR.

Now, here’s where the estimation part comes in. Do you ever overestimate or underestimate yourself during a race?

I’ve done my share of both.

This spring during a 5K, I thought I should be able to maintain under 7:30/mile pace. I went out fast, and by mile 2 I already couldn’t keep up. I’m still glad I pushed myself, but I probably would have run a better race overall if I’d been more thoughtful about my short distance speed and started slower.

Last October I was running my first 10 mile, and my training had been sketchy and minimal. I had been working crazy days at the farm, and I debated about whether to even run. I told you readers that I would be satisfied to break 1:40.

I started that race chatting with a new friend, ran what felt comfortably hard, and I shocked myself by finishing in 1:27.

Now, 5K or even 10 miles are both different animals than the marathon.

If you go out too slow for 13 miles it is really hard to make up the time. BUT, those last miles of a marathon can get really long and miserable if you overestimate yourself during the early ones.

I don’t really want to write this last goal. It’s easier not to share these pie-in-the-sky goals because then no one knows if you fail.

No one except you. Running is personal, and I know I am my own biggest competitor. I need to own this.

Folks, my “A goal” is to break 4 hours.

Ambitious? Yes.

Possible? On the right day, I think so.

I don’t think I’ll know until Sunday morning whether I’m going out at 4:15 pace or chasing down 4 hours.

It will depend on stuff like how I slept, if my hamstrings are feeling good, and whether it’s sticky humid or truly cool.

It will also be a gut feeling.

Even in the small scheme it doesn’t really matter whether I run 3:59 or 5 hours. Maybe a better goal is to just enjoy the race and run easy. Unfortunately, I know I won’t be satisfied unless I run MY best for the day.

I don’t get to run 26.2 very often, so I’m going to give it all I’ve got.

I’m normally anti-headphones for races, but at the marathon distance I may need the boost. Especially as it thins down to less than 1,000 of us when the half splits off.

I’m still compiling my song list for those tough moments, so if you have a favorite running song please share!

This last picture, which I think I got from “Run the Edge” Facebook page, is probably going to be one of my phrases.


The other one I always like is “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” And finally, I need to remember I can do it.


About Lisa

Hi, I'm Lisa. Dairy farmer's wife and Minnesotan to the core, I write about rural farm life, running down country roads, and the food, faith, and family that bind everything together. Follow along on my journey.
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4 Responses to The Art of Estimation

  1. Best wishes!! I can’t wait to hear how it turns out for you.

  2. Terzah says:

    You CAN do it! I can’t believe it’s so close. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you for the sub-4. That weather sounds ideal for it. Best of luck!

  3. Heidi Nicole says:

    I think you can do it, especially if you are smart about your racing. Just don’t kill yourself in the first half – that sucks. In Fargo my strongest half was the second half and it really felt good!

    Whatever you do, have fun! I’m excited for you!

  4. Good luck tomorrow! Love your ambition. As far as music, my favorite is Lady Gaga.

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