Pace. Pace. Pace.

Now that marathon season is in full force it is time to take an honest approach to how you are going to pace your marathon. There are going to be many factors that you need to take into account leading up to race day but being honest to yourself is going to set you up for success both in this race and everyone after.

Let us take a few into account without actually mentioning paces…

  • Weather

  • Injuries

  • Travel

  • Work

  • Course - Elevation

  • Life

  • Race Development

  • Nutrition

  • Training Plan

Now all of these factors are important, some more than others; some you can control and others are out of your control and that is okay. What you need to do is be honest (<-- key word here) about how each one may affect your pacing strategy or how maybe it already has.

So now you have made it to race day, how are you planning to run (pace) your race? Most research articles that look at marathon pacing strategies all have the same conclusion, the more even pacing you have throughout the race the faster you run. If you look at most world records they are set with a negative split of the race, this is true from elite runners to recreational runners.

To set the pacing, for example, if you are looking to run a 3:30 min marathon (8:00 min/mile) you should start the first 5k around 8:00-8:10 min/mile pace. This will give you time to get out of the crowds, stay healthy, find your space, get your legs moving and the most important not let the adrenaline ruin your race from the get go and save that energy for when you need it 3hrs later. The next 18-20 miles is just a mental toughness game; get your fluids in, take your nutrition (just like you practiced), and trust your training. The last 5k-10k will all depend on your race experience and how you feel in that moment. 

In this current example, if you have been running the race on pace you will be about 20s behind your goal (behind from your first 5k) and your instinct will be to try and make it up in 2-3 miles. Do not try that, it will zap all your remaining energy and leave you hurting for the last 5k. All you need to do is take 3-5 seconds off each mile for the remaining 6 miles and you will have just ran a sub 3:30. The marathon is a big race but break it down into small goals and you will start checking them off one at a time.

The last thing is to make sure you have an accurate and honest predicted time, use your training to help you gauge and create reachable goals for the race. If you run an 18 miler and were a consistent 8:15 min/mile pace through the first 15 miles then blew up for the last 3 miles you might want to adjust your goal pace to 8:30 min/mile. If during the same 18 mile race your friend started at 7:45 min/mile pace then dropped to a 8:15 min/mile pace and died but hit the 8:00 min/mile pace average they wanted, spend the next few weeks working on locking in the 8:00 min/mile pace from the get go to lock it in.

Andy Wegman

M.S. ATC