On Saturday April 18, two weeks before he was originally scheduled to run his marathon debut in London, U.K., Ben Preisner ran his first-ever marathon, by himself, in Rockport, Ont. The 24-year-old finished in 2:15:24 according to his Strava file, averaging 3:12 kilometres.
This marathon debut has been a few years in the making. The runner holds a 1:02 personal best in the half-marathon and has backed up that performance with several strong road race results (a 48:18 at the Boxing Day 10-miler and a 30:10 the Under Armour Eastside 10K).
His races and training were pointing to a strong marathon debut, which was supposed to happen in London in an effort to run under the Olympic standard of 2:11:30. Preisner says he was getting comfortable with the pace and becoming increasingly confident about his chances.
“I was in Flagstaff from January through March and things were going really well,” he says. “I was getting comfortable at 2:11:00 pace. We came home when we were told to in mid-March and training slowed down a little. At first it was a little hard to get motivated, but then we [himself and coach Richard Lee] made a plan to finish the build. I wanted to know what a full build and full effort would feel like.” And that’s exactly what Preisner did. He finished his build and ran an incredibly successful debut, especially considering the circumstances.
The benefits of running a marathon on your own
While Preisner acknowledges that it was mentally very difficult, he also says there are some benefits to running your own race. You get to choose the course, you get personal bottles handed to you, you choose the start time, you don’t have to travel very far and you get to run your own pace down to the second. Preisner says his pacing couldn’t have been better.
“It was exactly as planned. I wanted to start at 3:20 per kilometre and work my way down to 3:05 or 3:10. When you’re running solo you can dictate the pace and I hit it right on. It couldn’t have gone too much smoother in terms of split progression.”
The course was an out-and-back 10K stretch of road. Preisner described it as a pancake-flat bike path–pretty ideal for running a marathon. He would run 5K out, button hook and return. He did this just over four times. But mentally he had to prepare himself for a tough day.
“I was originally training to run a race which would’ve had 40,000 people in it. I knew it was going to be a little bit lonely and quiet. It was certainly a learning experience on the mental side. But just having Vanessa, my girlfriend, on a bike next to me made a huge difference. I think this will make me stronger in my next actual race, whenever that may be.”
Preisner remains uncertain about his immediate future, as most of us do. But what he does know is that he wants to run the marathon at the Olympics in 2021. How he gets there remains to be seen, but he believes he can do it.
“This year of waiting is kind of a good thing for me. When I run my next marathon, I’ll know my body better and I’ll know this distance better.” With Trevor Hofbauer already qualified, there remains two spots up for grabs in the event. For now the runner will wait patiently until he gets a shot at toeing the line, in hopes of qualifying for his first Olympic team.