I have only run two organized road marathons (October and December, 2009), with my fastest being a 3:30 at the California International Marathon (CIM). Since then I've devoted myself to trail running and focused on going further rather than faster.
Yesterday, I ran a marathon. It wasn't an organized road race. It was just an out and back course from my house. The course is run mostly on an asphalt bike trail with a few rolling hills. My plan was to walk about 1 minute for every mile (also known as Gallowalking). I started with my trusty Nathan HPL 020 Hydration Pack filled to the top (about 70 ounces of water). I also took one serving of Vespa before the run. During the run, I used only one pack of Honey Stinger Chews (which in hindsight, wasn't enough). Even though the Vespa reduces the need for fuel, I probably could have used at least another half of a packet (each packet contains 160 calories/ 10 chews).
I hit the turnaround point (13.1 miles) in 1:58, which felt reasonably easy. And in the next 7 miles, I actually sped up a little, with most of my miles in the 8:50-8:55 range (the Galloway website estimates that a brisk walking break only adds about 15 seconds to your pace/mile). Everything felt really smooth. But then it started to warm up. And then at mile 20, I ran out of water! One of my biggest problems is not drinking enough water so I was trying to drink more in this training run. I guess I executed that plan too well! I had no idea that I would run out of water so soon! And I was not expecting it to get so warm. Luckily, there were two water fountains in the last 6 miles of my marathon route (one 20.5 and another at 23 miles into my run). Even though I had begun to suffer a bit from the heat (I needed more water), I was still on pace to run a sub 4 marathon at mile 23. Shortly after gulping down some water from the water fountain, I felt pretty miserable (I had Saltstick Capsules, but forgot to take one at the fountain). Running became much more difficult. This was just a training run, so I simply abandoned the sub-4 attempt and took more walking breaks.
I finally made it home, at the 26.2 mile mark in 4:02:40. That was tough! If I had more water (maybe an extra handheld), I would probably have been able to run that sub-4 marathon. And a few more long, flat training runs would have helped. If I had started earlier, it would also have been cooler (I started at 6:52AM). And next time, I'll be stopping at the water fountain to refill my hydration pack, even if it means giving up a a couple minutes.
To prepare for the Rocky Raccoon 100 in February 2013, I hope to be doing more training runs like this - long flat runs with walking breaks worked in. Maybe the long flat runs will also help me build up some marathon speed. I'll be tempted to test out the speed (conservatively) at an organized marathon in the fall/ winter (maybe CIM). And in a race, I won't be walking so often!