Today I ran 16 miles in a little over 137 minutes, which... carry the 1... is a little over 8 min 30 second miles. The marathon itself is 26.2(ish) miles, and I've run two now. I am progressively getting faster, which is cool, and easily explainable. The first year I ran the Marine Corps Marathon, I was a little under-trained. I had done a fair amount of long runs, but never longer than 18 miles, but no speedwork and no tempo runs. I think my sheer stubbornness, despite the cramps, got me to the finish. In my experience, stubbornness can be a huge asset or a huge problem. On one hand, I think stubbornness can spring out of self-confidence and persistence, but on the other hand it can spring out of ignorance, i.e. you don't know what you're getting yourself into but keep on going anyway, despite conflicting evidence. I think the first year I ran it, it was more of the latter, and last year, it was the former. It's such a cliché, but experience really is the best teacher. Last year, I was a little better trained, and the stubbornness plus better (or smarter) training got me to the finish on a roughly similar course layout 25 minutes faster.
Realistically, I am looking at at least another 25 minute drop this year, but possibly DOUBLE that. Last year I ran a 4:56, but I am taking the training more seriously this year and also eating much much better. When I ate like crap the first two years, I felt pretty bad the days after my long runs, which was confusing at first. I wondered why I was sore when I wasn't shocking my system with much much longer runs than I had previously done. I had progressively and gradually increased my mileage, but my running economy had not improved much due to the lack of speedwork and tempo runs. During my long runs I had done a good job (I thought) of staying hydrated with water and getting some calories on-the-run, I tried pretzels for the salt at first. Have you ever tried to eat pretzels while you are running? Let me just say that I could easily understand that President Bush pretzel fiasco if he had been doing laps around the Oval Office. They were too dry. I switched to kid's fruit snacks - the theme ones like Scooby Doo, Spider-Man, Batman, etc., and eventually gels. Now I use jelly beans on long runs, and they're awesome.
The long runs I have done getting ready for this year's Marine Corps Marathon, which is on October 25th, have been faster than I have previously run and I feel fine the next day.
I'll let you know how I feel tomorrow!