I ran the Okanagan Marathon in Kelowna last weekend… with a time of 2:56:23 which finally puts me under the 3 hour mark. It was an interesting race, in that I was as strong as the the top runners, and actually had a chance of winning. But although I was in second place for most of it, I ended in seventh, and I can chalk that up to a lack of experience rather than a lack of training. In other words, I made a whole bunch of rookie mistakes (even though this was my third marathon!)
First mistake: not having a clear goal. My goal was to run better than 2:50, ideally somewhere around 2:40. While 2:50 was a reasonable goal, 2:40 was not.
Second mistake: starting too fast. I was eager to establish my position, so I grabbed the 2nd position and stayed well ahead of 3rd. It would have made more sense to run beside the 3rd place runner, especially since he had a GPS. Instead, I wore myself out in the first half. In particular I felt a nice little kick of adrenaline at the half and sped up for a bit, but suffered a slow-down soon afterwards.
Fourth mistake: not drinking enough. I missed two water stations that were overcrowded by people coming the other way, but it was a cool, rainy day and I should have had enough water in reserve… if I had been drinking enough before I missed those stations! Gotta grab two cups per station just in case, especially since the cups are often half-full.
In the end, it was the runner who was 6th at the halfway point who won the race. He had a very impressive negative split, running the 2nd half two minutes faster than the first half. The runner in first at the halfway point ended in 5th. So indeed, winning the race is all about having a strong second half.