In my opinion running a marathon is not something you can do your best at the first time out. Maybe not even the first 3-5 times out. It, more than any other race, is so mentally challenging that without the experience of having done one (or two or three) you really can't know how to prepare for that side of it. I've made mistakes in every one of mine and I'm sure I'll make more in the future but as I go I'll continue to learn and one day (maybe) I'll have the perfect race that'll leave me basking in its glory.
Warning: Mistakes Ahead!
Mt. Rushmore Marathon
This was my first marathon so I cut myself a little slack. I was hoping for a time of 3:30 to 3:40 and training was going at about that pace. I ran a 20 mile race 4 weeks before at a 8:06 per mile pace and that would have put me at 3:32 for the marathon. The mistake was this: in my training and the 20 mile run I had been following Jeff Galloway's 10 minutes running, 1 minute of walking routine. It seemed to work and was okay for workouts but I definitely didn't like it in races. So with just 4 weeks and basically the taper left, I changed strategy and tried to run the full time, all the time. The results are predictable.
In order to secure an entry into Grandma's marathon, you need to apply 6 months before the race. I did so and training started well but somewhere in that time my wife and I decided to make the move to Tokyo. Not a decision I regret at all, in fact I love it here but with the details of moving and getting the house in order etc, I ran a total of 76 miles in the 2 months preceding the marathon. That's not a mistake I'll make again.
I was fairly well trained for this marathon but still not sure what to expect. The lesson I learned here is one that is as old as the marathon itself. I think every runner of every distance has to learn this one and usually the hard way. I started out too fast. I had a goal of 3:10, ran the first half in 3:06 pace (a new half PB at the time) and after 25k started the slow death spiral to the finish line. Yes, I still start races too fast, just not marathons.
I really don't think I was sufficiently trained to run a qualifying time for this marathon. I was training through a hot Tokyo summer and the heat and humidity prohibited me from doing enough long marathon paced runs. Add to that a massive case of jetlag and lack of sleep the 3 nights before and out comes a disappointing time. Also, the hill leading up to St. John's bridge is a killer! Easily the single worst hill I've ever run in any race at any distance. How could they put that thing in a marathon?!?
I was well trained for this marathon. I put in a lot of miles and a lot of long marathon paced runs. I felt good and was running well. And that turned out to be my problem. In the 2 and 1/2 weeks before the marathon I ran PB's in the 5k, 10k and half marathon. The first two weren't a problem because I'm sure I would have still recovered in time. However the hard half marathon seemed to throw me well off. In the two weeks from that half to the marathon I was never able to get back into any rhythm. Marathon pace felt too fast; faster than it had previously. I don't mind so much because I was still able to get a PB and Boston qualifying time at Tokyo, but it is obvious I could have done better.