We all know the golden rule of Marathon Race Day: pace thyself. Because it’s a marathon (literally) not a sprint. But pace is important long before race day.
So first you must learn golden rule of Marathon Training: know thy pace.
Before you embark on 12 or 16 weeks of training for the big 26.2, know your goal pace and your training paces. It doesn’t matter if you’ve run a marathon or not, you can estimate a reasonable marathon goal pace and optimal workout paces using another race distance PR.
There are a number of online tools that will compute this for you. I suggest McMillan’s Pace Calculator. If you’ve been around the racing world you’ve probably logged plenty of pre-race hours spinning the McMillan wheel. If I could run a 18:05 5k what could my half marathon PR be… what if …
So go to the McMillan's Pace Calculator and enter your 5k pace (or whatever distance you’ve raced and PRed in), click calculate and viola. Every distance PR under the sun is estimated for you and also your optimal training paces.
Using Your Optimal Training Paces to Train for the Marathon
1. Long Run: This is the bread and butter of your marathon training. Find a training plan that works for you, and stick to it. You’ll know how long each week’s long run should be. Runner’s World, Running Times, Cool Running are all great resources.
Most important: Pace. This should be about 2 minutes slower per mile than your goal marathon pace. Don’t race your long runs, save it for when the gun goes off. (Don't believe me, take it from Bart Yasso)
2. Tempo Run: This workout is so important to getting fast and strong. You’ll hover right at the line between anaerobic and aerobic. Being careful not to cross into the zone where lactic acid builds up. It might feel slow if you’re used to always doing ‘puke effort’ workouts. Again McMillan’s will have your tempo pace laid out for you.
Most important: Again, pace. Not going too hard and tipping into that anaerobic zone. Even if you need to break a 6 – 10 mile tempo into 4 x 2mile with 3 minute rest to maintain the right effort.
Pacing Yourself On Race Day
Your legs are going to be rested and jumpy on race day morning. Excitement and anxiety will be shooting through you. Find your calm, and when the gun goes off find your pace. Run your race, not looking left or right. It’s your race and your pace. (Hey that’s a good mantra!) If you go out too fast, calmly recognize and adjust. Settle in. Your race. Your pace.
In the last 6 miles it's time to play with pace! Feeling good? Get after it. Hanging on? Hang on.
Helpful Tools for Marathon Pacing on Race Day
Tattoo your pace on your arm. Seriously.
Temporary pace tattoo takes the math out of pacing.
Print a pace band (bracelet) online:
You might want to tape over the numbers so your sweat doesn’t blot them out.
Print one at Cliff.
Check to see if your marathon will have pacers:
(Pacers from St. Lukes half marathon)
We'd love to hear from you! What are you tips for pacing during training and on race day?