Fall and Spring Marathon Plans: What to Do About the Shoe?

I’ve had a few people ask me about my racing plans for the Fall/Spring, so I thought I’d write a post to list my schedule, and discuss a personal dilemma that I’m facing with regard to shoe choice – yes, these are the dilemmas that keep me awake at night!

Right now, I’m planning on running 2 marathons this Fall. The first is the Hampton Smuttynose Rockfest Marathon in Hampton, NH on October 3. This is a brand new marathon this year, and is being billed as the flattest marathon in New England (it’s right on the Seacoast of NH). I’m excited about this one particularly since a large number of runners that I have become friends with via the on-line communities on dailymile and Twitter will be running it, and there’s a good chance that I will run a significant portion of the race with my buddies Matt (@luau) and Brendan (@mainerunnah). Unfortunately, those guys are in the next age bracket up from me, so my BQ time (3:15:59), should I decide to pursue it, will require that I set a faster pace than them at some point. Although I’m running well right now, my mileage is lower than in past marathon cycles due to the difficulties imposed by having an infant in the house, and I know that my best marathon time came after my highest mileage cycle (Disney 2010). For this reason I’m not really sure what to expect or what to shoot for.

My second planned marathon is the Manchester City Marathon in Manchester, NH on November 7. This is a very difficult race due to the hilly course, but it’s as close as a hometown marathon as I can get, and I run significant portions of the course on a regular basis since it winds through the campus where I work (Saint Anselm College). I have also run the half in Manchester twice, and I ran the full marathon there last Fall, so I kind of want to keep the streak alive of running it in some form every year since it’s inception.

My third big planned race is further ahead. I’ve been convinced by another group of on-line running friends to do a 50K Ultra in March of 2011. The 2011 HAT Run 50K is held annually in Susquehanna State Park in Maryland, and is supposedly a great choice for first-time ultramarathoners. My main reason for choosing to do this is that it will allow me to meet up with some people whom I’ve come to know very well over the past year, and I’m sure the experience will be an absolute blast. It’ll also allow me to test the Ultra waters and see how I fare at that. My thinking is that doing the HAT will also help me get a real solid mileage base heading into my Spring marathon, which will likely see my return to the Vermont City Marathon in Burlington, VT in May.

Given the grand plan outlined above, my belief is that my best chance for a BQ will be in Vermont next Spring. Based upon past experience, I’m not convinced that my current mileage is sufficient to manage it this Fall, and that has lead me to reconsider my approach to my Fall races. I may run with an aim to just have fun, spend some time running with friends, and see what happens. My best marathon performance (Disney 2010) came during a race that I stressed and obsessed the least about (I barely even looked at the course map), so this approach has worked before for me. I’m notoriously bad at holding back in races, and my wife would laugh in my face if she read that I’m going to run any race just to “have fun,” but maybe a little mental trickery will do the trick. We’ll see…

My dilemma, for lack of a better description, is what to wear on my feet in the Fall marathons. Currently, my most likely shoe choices for Hampton would include the Saucony Kinvara, Nike Free Run+ (review coming soon!), Brooks Launch (which worked fantastic at Disney, but my pair is wearing down), or Brooks Green Silence (which I used for 20+ miles in the Relay for life earlier this year). I had briefly considered the Vibram Fivefingers Bikila, in which I ran a solid 15 miler a few weeks ago, but I don’t think I’m ready for a marathon distance race in them (maybe Manchester since I have no real expectation of running fast there on the hills?). Of the above, I’d say the Kinvara and Free Run+ might be my finalists right now – both would be forgiving if my form started to break down in the later miles (I like a slight heel raise and some cushion for a marathon since late-race form breakdown often leads to more pronounced heel striking). I had my best run so far of this cycle in the Free Run+ – a 13.1 mile “race pace” run that I did in 1:35, which is well below my BQ pace. I may do my final two long runs in these shoes before I make a decision. Any thoughts would be appreciated!

So that’s it for now – my big races for the next 6-9 months. I may try to fill in the gaps with a few PR attempts at the 5K as the weather cools, and I’d really like to run a 5K in my Vibrams just to see what I can manage. I’ll be sure to report back if I do.

About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a recovering academic who currently works as an exercise physiologist, running coach, and writer. He's also a father of three and a fanatical runner with a bit of a shoe obsession. In addition to writing and editing this site, he is co-author of the book Tread Lightly, and writes a personal blog called The Blogologist. Follow Pete on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and via email.



Comments

  1. I’m running Long Beach in October, Surf City in February and LA in March and plan on wearing the Green Silence for all of them. Either that or the Saucony Fastwitch. I’d love to run a marathon in even less shoe, but, like you, don’t think I’m ready yet.

  2. Pete,

    From reading your blog over the months I have come to understand that you don’t run un-shod as much as just minimalist. One of the things I like about running completely bare is that once it “clicks” form really can’t break down. I used to think it did, but as I progressed it dawned on me that I will stop from exhaustion before my form breaks down. When I’m not wearing shoes it almost seems as if there is simply no other way to generate locomotion that with proper form!

    • Pete Larson says:

      I agree with you. It’s just that running 26.2 at a relatively fast
      clip is very taxing on the body, and I don’t think i have have the
      muscular strength in the right spots at this point in my transition to
      manage good minimalist form for the duration.

      Pete

      On Wednesday, September 1, 2010, Disqus

  3. Pete – Looks like you’ve got some great running plans well into next year! Good for you, since I agree that your likelihood this Fall for setting a BQ time despite your infant-induced low mileage is indeed fairly low. So, having Vermont as a reasonable objective next Spring makes a lot of sense (and I’m sure you’ll indeed have a blast with your first Ultra; they’re in many ways far more enjoyable than the more performance-focused marathon and shorter events).

    With regards you shoe choice, I agree that you need to have a heel to allow for late-race fatigue-induced heel striking. I think either the Nike Free Run+ or the Kinvara’s would work for you (though, as I’ve only minimally run in the store in the Kinvara’s – which I did like though not as much as the Newton’s I bought – vs. more than 200 solid miles in the Nike’s I’d lean that way FWIW).

    • Pete Larson says:

      Mark,

      Thanks – I’m really looking forward to doing the Ultra, should be fun.
      I am likely leaning toward the Nike’s at this point, but still have a
      few more long runs to help me decide.

      Pete

      On Wednesday, September 1, 2010, Disqus

  4. I have a quick question about the Nike Free Runs. I know you have a big review coming up but I just want to know what the heel-toe drop is on these shoes. Thanks great Blog and good luck with t he runs.

    • Pete Larson says:

      Kevin,

      It’s a tough one to measure accurately since the upper is one unit (no slots
      on the sides of the tongue to access the forefoot. My best attempt puts it
      around 6-7mm. Less than the Free 5.0, a bit more than the 3.0.

      Pete

  5. Good luck whatever your shoe decision is. I ran a half in May wearing Brooks Green Silence, and was happy with how it went. I’m considerably less-well-trained than you, and I’m assuming quite a bit heavier, so I was concerned about form breakdown as you are. However, I’ve never been a heel-striker, so that may have helped.

  6. jason (fl) says:

    Pete,
    Take a look at Furman University’s marathon training schedule (FIRST). Less emphasis on mileage, more on quality. May be a way to get you your BQ even with your busy schedule. Runners World did a review of this program a few years back.

  7. Greg Strosaker says:

    Looking forward to your race results Pete as well as following the shoe decision process. I struggled more than I’d like to settle on a shoe for my upcoming Akron Marathon since the Brooks Ghosts I was counting on didn’t work out. I haven’t had the chance to experiment with other alternatives, so, despite some minor doubts, I’m going with the Mizuno Wave Riders. Now I just need to get a new pair – Running Warehouse had the best price but they were out of stock on my size for now. They should come in this weekend which will give me enough time to break them in during the taper (I hope). Good luck in your training!

  8. Ben Phillips says:

    I used to be a good runner in college, mid distance but sometimes grueling 90+ mile weeks in the windy plains of Oklahoma… Running was life then. Ten yrs later, I woke up (a couple years ago) and realized that the dude in the mirror was fat & out-of-shape, 50 lbs heavier than senior year of college running 4:10 miles… I was winning at something else but not the big picture of life- I decided to sign up for a marathon 7 weeks ago and have since then ran a 21, 20, 17, & a couple 15′s. I’m still 30 lbs over, mainly b/c of diet and am experiencing some very strong runs but some long tough recoveries…. How do I regain that mental toughness I once had when dealing with the new stresses of life I had no idea about then, when speghetti was all I could afford and, yea, life was running? One admition though… Life still is running b/c it gives so much back… I am so hooked again and can’t wait till tomorrow…

    Ps. Today’s run- 14m highlight, Mile 9-13 –> 7:22 – 7:51 splits- it was a gorgeous TN day.

    • Pete Larson says:

      I find that the stresses of life make you tougher. I became a runner inn
      part to help manage those stresses, and the mental toughness came with time.
      There are still times when I falter mentally, but I suppose that’s to be
      expected.

      Pete

  9. Pete,

    I look forward to hearing how the fall season goes for you and what shoe or shoes you choose. This post was fun for me to read, because I am in an almost identical situation going into this fall. I am running the Chicago marathon on October 10th. I haven’t been able to knock down the mileage I usually would; however, I have been running strong and have gotten in enough quality training to have a shot at a BQ, which is 3:15:59 for me as well. I, too, will be starting the race with an older friend who needs a 3:20 to BQ, and presumably picking up the pace if I decide to go for it, which I’m not sure I’ve decided to do give my lower mileage. However, I may just decided to stick with him and try to have more fun with it, a comment that would get my wife laughing as well. Since my race is the weekend after yours, I will be looking forward to hearing about how it went for you and what strategy you used.

    On the shoe front, I have been running in Kinvaras for runs up to the half marathon distance and Asics DS Trainers for longer runs. I love the Kinvara but am a little anxious about using it for the marathon distance for the first time in a race in which I will conceivably be on the BQ bubble. So I, too, consider myself to have a shoe dilemma. That said, I have raced in the Kinvara already once this year, and I can confirm that it is a good shoe to have on late in a race when you start to get tired and bust out the heel strike more!

    • Pete Larson says:

      Aaron,

      Sounds like we are in the same boat! I’ll probably start by running with my
      friends, see how I feel, and kick it in after a bit if things are going
      well. You can expect that I’ll share my evolving plans as we go forward, and
      I’ll have a report on the race shortly after I run it.

      I think the Kinvara has enough cushion to handle late race sloppiness for
      me, my only fear is that it is too cushy.

      Pete

      • It definitely does. I look forward to hearing how your race goes and I may even tweak my strategy based on your experience!

        Yeah, just to clarify, it’s really the cushiness of the Kinavra that gives me pause when choosing my shoe for the marathon. Although I really like the 4 mm heel-to-toe drop and what it does for my footstrike, I do wish they where a little firmer. Though I don’t have evidence of this, I feel they offer me less energy return than, say, my DS’s, and that the squishiness ends up being a bit dampening. I worry some that over 26.2 that may cost me some energy and lead to greater fatigue. That said, they are lighter than my other shoes, which presumably will save me some energy, so maybe it’s a wash.

        • Pete Larson says:

          Aaron,

          You hit the nail on the head about the Kinvara – my only hesitation as well
          is the sponginess and how it might cost energy. I may be leaning to the Nike
          Free Run since it’s a bit firmer.

          Pete

  10. I’m running Philly RNR Half in two weeks and am struggling with the same question, Kinvara or Green Silence (I don’t have the selection you do ;)). I’m pretty sure I’m leaning towards GS, as the Kinvara’s are lovely, but just a little too cushy for the race. I’ll let you know how it turns out! Good luck, you will do great (BQ), I hear the Vermont race is fantastic!

    • Pete Larson says:

      Yes, the GS is a bit firmer. I may also add the Mizuno Wave Universe to my
      list of possibles. Hard to turn down a return trip to VT!

      Pete

  11. Dan (Milan, NH) says:

    Pete – Just enjoy the new baby and don’t worry about setting a BQ. My girls are already 2-1/2 and 4-1/2. They simply grow up too darn fast. I know, easy for me to say.

    This fall I’ll be running the Dixville (9/25) and North Conway, NH (11/31) half marathons in my VFF Bikilas. Then again I just about have to! I’m doing all of my runs in them (up to 12 miles with no calf soreness or blisters). My only other option is to dig my overstuffed ASICS neutral trainers out of their box. THAT’s not going to happen any time soon. In some ways I wish I had your shoe problem! :)

    I’m thinking I might make VT my first full marathon. Mt Desert Island next October is just too long of a wait!

    Dan

    It’ll be interesting to see what you end up running in.

    • Pete Larson says:

      Dan,

      I have a 6 and 4 yo in addition to the baby, so I know what you mean! It’s
      amazing how fast they grow.

      Vermont is an awesome race, and a great place to bring the family if you
      haven’t been. There’s a children’s museum right on Lake Champlain near the
      finish line, and some great places to visit nearby. My kids love chasing the
      chickens at Shelburne Farms.

      Pete

    • Dan (Milan, NH) says:

      I thought about doing Manchester instead of Conway, but I’ll be cycling the Porky Gulch Classic on 11/6 and 11/7: Saturday AM we do stage 1 where we bike the first 2 miles up the Mount Washington Auto Road. Saturday afternoon is Stage 2: we do a criterium through Story Land! What a hoot that is. Stage 3 is Sunday with a classic cyclocross race at Great Glen. Hard to fit a marathon in! Have fun.

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