Matt Hanson just missed out in attempt to clock a 2:18 marathon – the US Olympic qualifying standard – at the California International Marathon on Sunday.
Hanson is one of long-distance triathlon’s fastest runners – he’s never been outside the top eight of the run rankings in his 10 seasons since turning pro.
He ran a 2:34 marathon last month at IRONMAN Florida but was looking to close out his season with a different challenge in what was a standalone 26.2-miles race – and one of the quickest around Stateside.
Setting out his strategy beforehand, he decided to go all in rather than conservatively – hence the ‘2:18 or bust’ title.
And early on, all was on track – if not a little ahead of schedule. He was running at 5:12/mile pace with a 32:13 first 10K and though that drifted slightly to 5:18/mile pace for the next 10K he still notched a 1:08:45 half marathon.
It’s ‘bust’ – but a great attempt
But things became tricky thereafter and he takes up the story in his past-race video, which is embedded below.
He said: “You can see by the title it was a bust. I didn’t hit the Olympic qualifying standard of 2:18, so there will be no Olympic trials for me, which is a bummer, but I guess that’s the way it goes sometimes.
“As I said in the pre-race video, I was pretty confident that I could have gone out with a little bit more conservative pacing at 5:20/mile and been in the 2:20 range at the end of the day. But that wasn’t the approach that I wanted to take. I wanted to give myself a legitimate shot at going 2:18.
“I set out to do that ran with the group – there were about 100 guys at least, who were all there wanting the exact same thing. So it was a bit of fun going out with that many guys, running really hard, and I was able to stay with the group. Then around mile ten, the quads started to get a little bit unhappy with the day. I just didn’t have a lot of really hard miles or a lot of miles at that pace in the legs.
“I’ve been doing so much Ironman prep – that was the focus throughout the entire season and I didn’t really shift that focus until after IRONMAN Florida. And so obviously I knew that was going to play a role but I didn’t expect it to come in that early in the day.
“I was still sitting on a good pace through 13 miles. I think I had about a 40-seconds buffer at that point. And then around mile 15, I was still on pace, but at one of the hills, that’s where I kind of lost the group.
The elastic snapped and I just wasn’t ever able to reel them back in.
“I had a couple of pretty tough miles where the legs really were unhappy with every step. And I was struggling just to hold Ironman pace for a couple of miles, but was able to pull it together a little bit at the end and finish with a couple of decent miles at least and come in at high 2:22.”
‘Don’t be afraid of setting high goals’
His official time was 2:22:57 – and to put that into context, the 2:30:27 set by Patrick Lange at Challenge Roth this year is the men’s world record in a full-distance triathlon event, albeit after a 2.4-mile swim and a 112-mile bike!
And Hanson had no regrets in setting such a lofty goal: “So I am definitely welcoming the off-season. My body is definitely tired. But this also means that I’m entering the off-season on another failure.
“I was talking with some coaches, friends, family, people in my group yesterday after the race, and a lot of them were pushing back on me using the term failure and trying to tell me, oh, it wasn’t a failure. It was still a good run.
But the way that I set it up was it was 2:18 or bust. It was pass or fail, and I didn’t pass, and therefore I failed.
“But that doesn’t necessarily have to be an awful thing. Yeah, failure sucks. I hate it. But it’s also what brings you back to the drawing board and helps you try to figure out what you want to do differently so you don’t experience that again next time.
“And on the flip side, it’s also what makes you appreciate the successes that you have when you reach your goals a whole lot more and not take those experiences for granted.
“I realise that when I set goals that really stretch me, that make me uncomfortable, that accomplishing those goals are a whole lot more enjoyable and the experience is a whole lot better than when you set a goal that’s too easy and you reach it. It’s great, but it’s not the best feeling in the world, and that’s what I’m chasing.
“Maybe I’m addicted to that feeling that you get when you set a really high standard, a really high goal for yourself and you’re somehow able to achieve it. Those feelings are few and far between, but that’s what keeps me coming back and coming back to the grind every day.
As I said in the last video, if you reach all of your goals, you’re afraid of setting high goals.
“So as I process the way that I want 2024 to go, I’m going to do the exact same thing that I always do, because that’s what’s got me to the point where I am now.”
Kudos to Matt for going all-in with the attempt – and for the post-race perspective.