A Marathoner’s Season in Full – Race Recap

Ogden Pub Runners is made up of various levels of runners.    We have some who come out to walk with others once a week, we have those who run fun 5ks not worried about their time and we also have serious runners who are putting in many miles, training hard with speed work to beat their own Personal Record.

Mark Balboni and his wife, Rachel, have been an avid supporters of OPR since their first weekly run.   Mark is one of the runners who has been training extremely hard, not only to run his best time but also to meet the strict qualifying time of the prestigious Boston Marathon.    Even while Mark has had his personal training to focus on, he has pushed many OPRers to add speed work to their own training or to get out for extra miles on the weekends.  He’s coordinated interval training sessions and long runs for many of us.  Thank you, Mark, for not only supporting OPR as a whole, but also pushing us to achieve our own goals.

Mark recently completed the Chicago Marathon with hopes of qualifying for Boston.   Below is his recap on his training leading up to the marathon, his race recap and plans for the future.

MarkBalboni Chicago Marathon


My training plan for the Chicago Marathon was an adaptation of a plan used by Morgan-local Rosy Lee to win the St. George Marathon 2 years ago. Rosy and I share a common friend: Sariah Long. Sariah is my friend, regular massage therapist and has a degree in Exercise Science from Weber State. She was also an All-American in the steeplechase and went to the Olympic Trials in 2008; and has been a podium finisher in a number of races from 5K to the marathon over the years.

The training plan itself has several components:

  •  Speedwork to include everything from 400-1200m, 1-4mi repeats
  • Medium long runs of 8-9 miles, sometimes also incorporating a tempo portion
  • Long runs at both an easy pace or also incorporating a tempo
  • Recovery runs and regular easy days to get in additional mileage, 6+ miles

Once my training got more consistent early in the summer I was averaging 35-40 miles per week. I ran a total of four runs of 20 miles, plus another five runs that were 15-18 miles long.

A sample for the week of September 7th:

  • Tuesday, 8x400s with warmup/cooldown 5mi total
  • Wednesday, 8mi
  • Friday, 2x4mi @ half marathon pace 7:40. Splits 7:35 and 7:39
  • Saturday, 20mi. BST to No. Ogden, then Harrison to 21st Pond

Ultimately my goal is to qualify for the Boston Marathon and I need a sub 3:30 to do so. That is roughly averaging a 7:58 pace for all 26.2 miles. A good portion of my training and tempos were done with a 7:50-7:55 in mind. I felt that it would be a good idea to build in a slight safety margin, rather than having a possible qualifying race coming down to mere seconds.


I was hoping weather would not be a factor for the Chicago Marathon but as the day got closer I realized it would not be ideal. The temperature at race time was in the mid-50s with humidity about 53% and light winds.

A race the size of Chicago was staggering. 40,000 runners and 1.5 million lining the streets to cheer. Over the 26 miles there were only a couple of spots where there were very few spectators. The cheering, music and noise was so loud that there were times I just turned off my iPod and focused on the crowd.

Fortunately I was starting in the “C” corral based on a previous half marathon time I ran in June. We were probably the first 3,500-4,000 runners to cross the starting line. Even with that it took nearly 7 minutes after the gun went off to do so.

I had the 3:30 pacer in my sights and was maybe 30 feet behind him with a huge gang of people basically doing the same thing – stay with the pacer. I had asked at the expo the day before and was told that the pacers like to get into the finish about 30 seconds below the goal time. Okay fine. I figured I would pick it up near the end and get closer to the 3:27 I wanted.

The pacer theoretically should have been running about a 7:59 pace and it would be typical (and wise) to run the first mile a bit slower. My splits staying with the pacer for the first 4 miles were 8:08, 7:49, 7:17 and 7:42. Going this fast at the beginning of a marathon will absolutely trash your race. The pacer got hung up at a water station (thank goodness) and I linked up with another runner (Lindsay, a local who works in Chicago and had run the Chicago Marathon 4 previous times). I said to her the heck with the

pacer, he is all over the place. We agreed to stick together and I told her my plan was to run about 7:58s and then about the half way point or so, drop it down to 7:50 to run a negative split. She thought that sounded fine to her as she just wanted to break 3:30 too.

Mile 4 was a 7:58, then 8:05, 7:51. 8:07, 7:59, 7:55, 7:49, 7:56, 7:27, 8:38, 8:07, 8:08 and 7:57. Somewhere around mile 14 is where I blew up, the wheels fell off; or whatever you want to call it. I remember the advice my coach (Nate Long) gave me a few years ago about getting to the halfway point in a marathon with as little effort as possible. I was running the splits but the effort seemed anything but easy. It was also starting to get warm and the light winds did not help. The wind was not enough to blow you over, but it did make us work that much harder; and also caused any perspiration ,to evaporate ever quicker, which is not good in that it is an internal cooling mechanism for our bodies.

When I realized about the 25K mark that my Boston Marathon qualifying (BQ) hopes were dashed, I decided I would go for a PB (personal best).

In the end I shaved 4 minutes of my PB and finished with a 3:51. Even though I did not get a BQ like I wanted, I had hoped for a finish time in the low 3:30s; however my pace dropped off significantly from mile 15 to the finish. Some days finishing is just good enough.


MarkBalboni Chicago Marathon2


I usually do not make decisions about running (or not running) another marathon until I have had a chance to sleep on it; but certainly never during a race: until that day.

My firm plans as of now are the LA Marathon, where I am already registered as a charity running raising funds for the Alzheimer’s Association California Southland Chapter. I was a long-time resident of southern California and met the chapter a couple of years ago. My Dad was an Alzheimer’s patient, so the cause is an important one for me.  The link to my fundraising page can be found here: http://act.alz.org/goto/Runner_MarkB

The LA Marathon is run on a very hilly course which never really gets that easy. That is on February 14th. Sariah has encouraged me to try to give it another shot at a race before LA; especially since I built up such a solid base and was both healthy and fit at the time of Chicago.

I am exploring other options before February. We shall see. If not, I see a late fall race for 2016.


Footnote:   Marathon Training Concepts:

Marathon Training Concepts: Sariah’s husband Nate and I had a conversation during a first meeting in 2012. He was the Big Sky Conference Champion in cross country as a senior at Weber State and went on to win the Top of Utah Marathon in 2004. Nate trained me that year and imparted what he learned from his former coach, Chick Hislop, while running for Weber. I scribbled some notes on a piece of paper and it hangs on our fridge as a constant reminder.

  • Long runs
  • Weekly mileage
  • Workouts, speed
  • Little things: stretching, core work, strength training
  • Eating clean
  • Rest
  • Ice baths

Thanks, Mark!  Best of luck at LA and the other races that you decide on.

  • Robert Schmidt - Congrats to Mark! And I love it when he participates in our races in Logan!ReplyCancel

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