As most people get older, they realize the story isn't always true. Slow and Steady might get the job done...but so does Fast and Steady, and sometimes even Fast and Sloppy. Even when it comes to shorter runs like a 5K or 10K, there's usually an advantage to shooting out in front quickly, getting the fast miles "out of the way" and then hard-legging it to the finish. Often times this means running beyond your current ability level, which is possible under such quick conditions. Anyone can feel good after a mile or two, though it's a question on how long that can be maintained.
The marathon is a little different. If there's one thing I learned it's that a well-paced race is everything. Starting off with a few quick miles, and a slightly-faster-than-I-really-should-be-going in training might give you a great two hours of running, but eventually you'll find yourself like the hare...completely burned out and miserable in the second half. My best races have been the ones where I took it easy and comfortable for the first half, cautiously for the next quarter, and then had plenty left for a final six mile run. In fact, my fastest race times are the ones where I intentionally held myself back a bit during the early miles and stuck with a pace group. The trick is finding that perfect comfortable pace. You don't want to arrive at the finish line with energy to spare...but you don't want to spend it all by mile 18 either.
As we approach this race in three days, I'm still debating my pace. I know I take it easy and run an 8:55 min/mile pace (just under 4 hours total) and finish relatively comfortably. I've done it a half dozen times before and it would ensure a fun morning. Of course, my personal best was an 8:37 min/mile (3:46 total). Do I dare attempt to run 8:30 min/miles and see what happens? Which option is the tortoise...and which one is the hare?